NSW Golf

Why this Victorian kid might join the Shark

Brett Coletta
Brett Coletta during the first round of the NSW Open

You don’t want to be making huge calls after the first day of a professional golf tournament, but there is certainly no reason not to believe Victorian 20-year-old Brett Coletta can’t become the first man since Greg Norman to score a unique double in Australian golf.

Not since the Shark in both 1983 and 1986 has a golfer completed the double of Queensland Open and NSW Open in the same year.

Come Sunday, one suspects Coletta might be the next to do so.

Firstly, he has the maturity. His post-match interview this afternoon - having equalled the course record of 10-under 62 - was the display of a young man, who although not yet a professional, certainly has the awareness and responsibility to be a great one. When he decides to turn pro is a question he will be asked until he hands in the paperwork. As tour veteran Michael Long noted after his own four-under round “I suppose if Brett’s done it all at the amateur level, then why not (turn pro)? It just seems the guys are younger and younger turning pro, but they are a lot better prepared than we were back then".

Secondly, Coletta has suffered adversity. It was a month ago he had a guaranteed spot at next year’s Masters in Augusta slip through his fingers with a missed birdie opportunity at the Asia Pacific Amateur event in Korea. Yes, it still hurts, he said after his blistering round today at Stonecutters Ridge.

"It’s the ultimate goal to play in a major,” he said. "It’s definitely going to sting, but hopefully I get there one day in the near future.”

Coletta, playing in sublime conditions, was the standout performance on the opening day of the 2016 NSW Open, played at one of Sydney’s best public access golf courses, right in the heart of Western Sydney. He did most of the damage was done on the back nine, with five birdies and an eagle on 15 for a first nine (he started on the 10th) of just 29 strokes. His back nine included three more birdies, and a lip-out on his 18th that would have broken the course record, something he wasn’t even aware of until told later.

He won’t have it his own way though. In striking distance and definitely a threat if their putters behave is tour veteran David Bransdon (-9) and Victorian Rory Bourke (-9), with the benign layout at Stonecutters yielding to the conditions in the morning with 82 players tied at -1 or better. Yes, the conditions became more challenging in the afternoon, as the wind grew, but plenty of birdies were still on offer.

Best of the afternoon rounds came from Queenslander Adam Blyth who had a flawless five-under 31 on his front nine (from the 10th), and only one bogey with three birdies to sit at -7. He’s likely to feature prominently at the weekend. Other strong performances came from Jake Higginbottom (-7), Ryan Haller - who had five birdies in a row from the first - to finish also at -7. In fact 10 players finished the first round at -7 (tied for sixth), and another eight tied for 16th on -6.

Also close and benefactors of the easier morning conditions were Victorian Anthony Houston (-8), Rhein Gibson (-7) and Matthew Millar, who played in Coletta’s group along with veteran Robert Allenby, to finish on -8.

But back to Coletta. Perhaps the most important third element he brings is the energy around him. Although he looks nothing like the Shark, who tweeted a photo of his Hulk Hogan-like guns on the internet today, it’s undeniable the presence and charisma the young Victorian brings to the game.

Granted, there’s a long way to go, but the question remains as to whether Coletta is the best young amateur golfer in Australia right now and if he is capable of completing the historic double. Only on Sunday, laden with another trophy but no winner’s cheque will that question be answered.

If the veterans have their way, including Peter Senior, Nick O’Hern, Robert Allenby and the dozens of golfers who’ll sleep soundly tonight, it will be earned, not given.

22 February 2019
AVONDALE: Men: Stableford White: A: M Rotsey (12) 44. B: H Liu (15) 37. C: C Heazlewood (31) 38. A Scr: R Wallace 39. more
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