Over 36,000 golfers from Australia entered qualifying events across the country and the Play 9 series involved 903 golf clubs with over 190,000 nine-hole qualifying rounds being played.
The pair are the first golfers to reach the Final of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge and they will tee it up as a team on the eve of The Open alongside qualifiers from Great Britain and Ireland and, for the first time, New Zealand.
New golfer headed to The Open
Murkins, who qualified for the Play 9 final, which was held during the Emirates Australian Open, at her local club Windaroo Lakes, only started playing golf three years ago.
“I had so much fun but it hasn’t sunk in quite yet,” said Murkins. “Tomorrow when I wake-up I am sure it will feel more real.
“I started playing three years ago in a golf for women clinic. I never thought golf was for me but now I love it and three years on I am going to The Open.
“I am always excited to play with new people; you never really get that opportunity at your home club. It will be a different experience.”
A glimpse into the pressure of professional golf
Armer, who hails from New South Wales and is the president of the Finley Golf Club, was delighted to make it through the field of 24 finalists.
“It’s unbelievable, I am just wrapped,” said Armer. “I wanted to come here and play decent golf so to win the competition is just unreal.
“We are only a very small club with 80 playing members, so to be able to come to a national competition and now an international competition and represent my club is really fantastic.”
Armer relished the experience of competing on the championship course and gaining a glimpse into the life of a tour professional.
“To have the experience of playing the same course as the pros, with the same pin positions and green set-up gave us the feeling of what they go through,” added Armer.
“We also had pressure on us, the guys in my group were very nervous, we all spoke about that.”
9 hole golf on the rise in Australia and New Zealand
The R&A has introduced the 9 Hole Challenge as part of its drive to promote shorter and alternative formats of the game.
This is the second year that the participants from Golf Australia’s nine hole event have had the opportunity to qualify with New Zealand Golf also joining the competition this year.
42 competitors will play in the Final at Royal St George’s before the world’s greatest golfers compete for the famous Claret Jug where Greg Norman engraved his name in 1993.
“This is the second time Australia has participated in the 9 Hole Challenge and it’s fantastic that New Zealand Golf is also coming on board,” said Dominic Wall, Director – Asia-Pacific at The R&A.
“To have people from Australia and New Zealand vying for a position to play in The R&A 9 Hole Challenge the week before The Open is just wonderful and really enhances what we are trying to do with this initiative; faster, quicker golf.
“The Open will be played at Royal St George’s for the 15th time. It’s a course that has great memories for lots of Australians with Greg Norman winning there in 1993, so now for our qualifiers to play there will be a wonderful experience.”