Mental toughness crucial in Patston’s victory

Ben Patston tees off the 17th during the closing stages of the Dunedin strokeplay at the St Clair...
Ben Patston tees off the 17th during the closing stages of the Dunedin strokeplay at the St Clair club on Sunday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Ben Patston used to fight himself on the golf course.

Things are a little different these days.

Patston, the loquacious left-hander from the Otago club by way of a rugby career in North Otago and his native England, again showed a coolness under pressure in hot conditions to win the Dunedin strokeplay at St Clair on Sunday.

He fired a 1-under 70 on Saturday and followed with a 1-over 72 on Sunday to finish at even-par for the 36-hole tournament and win by a stroke from Otago interprovincial representative Jacob Bellamy.

Callum Judkins, William McLauchlan and Parker Aluesi tied for third at 4-over.

It continued a nice stretch for Patston, who won the Otago strokeplay a year ago to really mark his transformation from (occasionally) hot-headed former rugby player to a golfer who can be icy-veined when required.

"I think, mentally, I’m a lot stronger than what I was two or three years ago," he told the Otago Daily Times.

"The old Patso would probably have crumbled coming down the stretch.

"I’ve worked on that side of things and just put a lot of time in, practising what needs to be practised, so it was quite nice to put it all together and get some confidence up."

Patston was tied for the lead with Judkins after the first 18 holes.

On Sunday, he made a fine start with his driver — breaking the first green at St Clair — but could not immediately get the putter to heat up.

He made birdies on the ninth and 10th holes but got run down by Bellamy, who had a flurry of birdies around the turn.

Bellamy (St Clair) led by a shot after 15 holes before going long over the par-3 16th, while Patston made a nice up-and-down on 16.

Patston missed an eight-foot (2.4m) birdie putt on the 17th and that meant a shootout on 18.

Both hit into the right-hand fairway bunker, but Patston had a more favourable gap to the lip and was able to hit his second shot to about 20 feet from the hole.

Bellamy hit short of the green and sent his third shot about 18 feet past the hole.

He missed the par putt, and Patston made a "wee bum-tingler from about four feet" to seal victory.

"There’s a lot of tournaments at this time of year, so you do get tournament-ready," Patston said.

"It’s good to get those nerves back coming down the stretch.

"Your heart rate gets up, you feel a little bit anxious, and you have to kind of stay in the present, because if you look too far ahead, you stumble.

"I just tried to do my breathing, and get in the zone. I knew what Jacob was capable of, and that was a positive."

Individual wins are nice but Patston is now pumped for the local pennant series and a chance to be part of the Otago club’s Bombers lineup.

"The Bombers is at the heart and soul of golf for me, and the boys are really fired up."

Hannah West won the women’s title at the Dunedin strokeplay with a handicap-adjusted score of 146, pipping St Clair clubmates Sharon Keith (147) and Chris Chambers (148).

St Clair golfer Steve Whitehead won the open title with a score of 134, two shots ahead of former Highlanders rugby player Marty Banks, while Sam Smith sen ran away with a five-shot win in the over-65 division.