By Dane Heverin
PGA professional Grace Lennon has come from behind to claim victory in the final of The Athena against Sarah Yamaki Branch at Sandy Golf Links in Melbourne.
Lennon pocketed $30,000 after she stormed home in the four-hole match play final with a pin-seeking tee shot to make birdie at the par 3 third before a solid par sealed the deal.
The innovative tournament in its third year involved three rounds of four-hole match play following Saturday’s nine skills challenges known as The Combine where the top eight out of 12 players advanced.
At age 31 Lennon was the oldest player in the field, and her vast experience of sandbelt golf as a member of Kingston Heath proved to be crucial in the event named for the Greek goddess of battle strategy and wisdom.
She put on a putting masterclass and her long-range efforts with the flat stick were a highlight throughout the final as well as her quarter-final win against amateur Keeley Marx and her semi-final defeat of amateur and The Combine winner Caitlin Peirce.
“Before I re-joined Kingston Heath, I would come out here to practise and play nine holes here and there. I definitely think having played some of the shots around here before today helped me,” Lennon said.
Her composure was also vital as she rallied against Yamaki Branch – who danced to the music playing at the tees all day showcasing the event’s fun-nature – after making consecutive bogeys at the opening two holes.
Lennon is coached by Karrie Webb’s former mentor Ian Triggs and Brendan Green, and she instructs the game herself as a teaching professional at Albert Park Driving Range.
Early in her professional career Lennon learned that touring life was not for her after she compiled an impressive amateur career that included winning a Queen Sirikit Cup for Australia alongside Minjee Lee and Su Oh in 2013 and reaching the top 20 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
There is no doubting her talent and she has featured during the Webex Players Series this summer, but she has enjoyed the stability of working as a teaching professional.
Although, her win has opened the door to pursuing further playing opportunities.
“It definitely gives me some more options. I’ll have the option to go and play, and even entertain the idea of going away and playing because before I was probably a little more selective with what I could and couldn’t do,” Lennon said.
Australian Golf Foundation Junior Girls Scholarship recipients caddying for the players was a feature of the day with the players forging relationships with the junior golfers and providing words of encouragement to further pursue the game.
Lennon revealed that she will be donating ten percent of her winnings to her caddie Emily to help her follow her golfing dreams.