Sandra Hutchison - Hot streak Down Under
2019 had already been a successful Pitch and Putt campaign for Sandra Hutchison but matters ascended to much higher plane over the weekend of November 16/17. This year's New South Wales and Victorian State champion captured her long-awaited national open title in an exciting finish at Canberra International.
"I was delighted to get over the line this time because it had been a long time since I had been Australian Ladies Champion," said Sandra following her first win in the Australian showpiece since it came under FIPPA jurisdiction. "I did win in 2004 and 2005 and some state titles as well, but this was before the creation of the Australian Pitch & Putt Association."
2011 winner Marie Hutchison led this year's Australian Open by two on 110 from Sandra after day one. Drawn ahead of Sandra for rounds 3 and 4, Marie posted her 72 hole aggregate of 227 well in advance of Sandra finishing. Did Sandra know what she “had to do” over the closing holes? "I was aware that Marie was two shots up after the first day, but as she was not in my group I didn’t know how she was going. I was more concerned with the two other lady players who were closing the gap."
Those two ladies were playing partners Helen Angel (who actually jumped up into second spot with a round to go) and Beryl Morgan. "I had a fairly frustrating game as I didn’t get one birdie on the final day, except in the playoff, and those ladies were putting really well. I was not confident that I was in the running." But "in the running" Sandra most definitely was. Many carefully executed pars in a closing round of 56 saw her ultimately finish two clear of Helen and four ahead of Beryl.
Australia has been experiencing some meteorological extremes of late. "I did find the course pretty tough as the greens are drying out rapidly with the current climate – winds and hot weather," said Sandra, whose final tally of 227 saw her tie for the championship.
A familiar opponent awaited in the sudden death showdown. It didn't faze Sandra to joust with her sister in law. "It wasn’t difficult to contest a play-off against Marie as we had been in that situation many times – sometimes I won, sometimes she won. I think we were both feeling quite relaxed."
Sandra's Pitch and Putt game plan is simple, direct and effective. "I don’t have any particular strategy for play-offs. A lot of it comes down to luck. You just try to focus on what you have to do. If I have any advice to give, it would be to emphasise the importance of the second shot. I find that getting the ball near the hole to putt in, whether for par or a birdie, is vital." And a safe two-putt par from distance on the third extra hole saw Sandra claim the laurels.
2019 Australian Open success comes to a long-time devotee of our sport. "I have been playing Pitch and Putt for over 20 years and it has been a big part of my life since retirement. I love hitting a golf ball and being out on the course is a pleasurable time for me."
The 2007 Australian Night championship winner clearly derives enjoyment from another key element of Pitch and Putt. "The other equally important part of the game is the social aspect – sharing our experiences about the game, because we all love it. It has brought me many important friendships which extend outside the game."
Sandra is satisfied that her local club is thriving and with the efforts of Warren Gray and his colleagues to publicize Pitch and Putt. "I don’t know what the current (overall) state of Ladies Pitch and Putt in Australia is, but I know that our club has a very vibrant and successful Ladies Day competition held every week and the ladies enjoy it very much. I think Warren is doing an outstanding job of publicizing what is happening in Canberra International Pitch & Putt and increasing the public’s awareness of the game."