They had never played in a team golf competition, but that did not stop David Pick, Phil McBain, Jon Clayton and Justin Ploenges winning the VW Scramble qualifying round at the Mount Gambier Golf Club on Sunday.
Playing off a combined handicap of 6 1/2, the quartet shot an eight-under par round of 64 to finish with a net 57 1/2. That was just 1/4 of a shot clear of father-and-son Matt and Joel Bryant who combined with Matt Dennings and Jack Nunn to also shoot 64, but had a handicap of just 6 1/4.
The good news was with 27 teams taking part, both teams earned the right to play in the SA state qualifying round in Adelaide in April. While Pick, McBain and Clayton, who only joined the MGGC in November, had no expectations ahead of the event, Ploenges had been a regular Scramble contestant in recent years, but without success.
“I said to my wife I just wanted to get to the Adelaide round once,” he said. “I could not believe it … “I thought we were probably five shots short of winning.” Club professional John Martin also said he expected a much lower winning score, putting it down to the tough course set-up.
The winning group started their round on the second hole, but did not make their first birdie until the par-three 6th. They added more on holes seven, 11 and 12, but the defining moment came on the par-five 15th. A solid drive left 229m to the hole, but McBain hit a fabulous three iron to just 12 feet which Ploenges calmly sunk for an eagle.
More birdies on the 18th and first were just enough for top spot on the leaderboard. The unlucky team was made up of two father-son combinations – Andrew and Jordan Stark and Sam and Bailey Letizia. Playing off a handicap of 4 3/4, they shot 63 for a net 58 1/4, ruing a missed birdie opportunity on the easy par-four 18th hole to finish third.