Australians earn dream trip to Royal Portrush
Over 135,000 golfers from Australia entered qualifying events across the country and the Play 9 series attracted 615 golf clubs with over 11,500 nine hole competitions being held.
The pair are the first golfers to reach the Final of the 9 Hole Challenge and they will tee it up at the famous Dunluce links on the eve of The Open alongside qualifiers from Great Britain and Ireland.
Lawson, who hails from Tasmania and is a member of Ulverston Golf Club and Lodge, was delighted to make it through the field of 24 finalists.
“I’m ecstatic, I can’t believe it,” said Lawson. “It has been a wonderful day. I was so nervous that I didn’t sleep much the night before, but I’ve come out today and been pleasantly surprised with how I’ve played.
“I’ve never been to Northern Ireland before so I’m looking forward to it.”
Lawson qualified for the Play 9 finale, which was played during the Emirates Australian Open, at her local club and is a regular participant in nine hole golf.
“I’ve got lots of friends who still work and they can fit in nine holes easily compared to 18 holes, so I think nine holes is a brilliant idea," Lawson said. "We have a competition called the 'Sunday Smash' at our club, so in the month of October apparently I shot some good scores that got me through!”
Darwin-based Lodge will taste his first ever experience of links golf when he arrives at Royal Portrush next year and is looking forward to the occasion.
“It’s fantastic, I’m very excited to be going to Royal Portrush,” said Lodge. "A links course, that will be something different. We don't have any of those up in Darwin so I’m looking forward to it!"
The R&A introduced the nine hole competition as part of its drive to promote shorter and alternative formats of the game, whether recreationally or competitively.
This is the first year that the participants from Golf Australia’s nine hole event have had the opportunity to qualify for the Final of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge.
"We want to encourage people from all around the world to play quicker and to enjoy themselves," said Dominic Wall, Director - Asia Pacific at The R&A.
"We started it in the UK and it was very successful, but we’re growing on from it and we want to take it globally."
Wall says the two Aussies will be "blown away" by the opportunity to tee it up at The Open.
"They are going to see something that they’ve never experienced. How great it is to have someone from the top end of Australia and someone from way down south to represent the country!"