1. ZACH MURRAY
THE year just kept getting better for this rising star of golf.
The Catholic College student went to Tasmania in January and won a tournament, came back to Wodonga to set a course record and then won the 27-hole championship at Howlong.
Then came the big stuff.
Murray was nominated by Golf Australia as our sole representative at the junior Players at the iconic TPC Sawgrass in Florida and won the Australian qualifier for the Aaron Baddeley international.
He went to China for the Baddeley final, set a course record in the opening round on his way to a four-shot victory.
He flew back to Australia and on four hours sleep and took on the best of Australia’s amateurs in the Dunes Medal, only to be beaten a shot.
And after scraping into the matchplay of the prestigious Victorian Amateur, Murray ended the year by knocking over one rising star after another to claim the title that has been won by Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Marcus Fraser — all when they were three and four years older than the Wodonga teen.
2. FRAZER DROOP
In any other year the Yarrawonga young gun would be an automatic No.1.
As a 16-year-old he finished runner-up in the Northern Territory Open amateur and romped to a stunning 14-shot victory in the Victorian Junior Golf Championships in Melbourne.
The Sacred Heart College student then carded a five-under 67 on Royal Melbourne’s west course — the No. 1 ranked layout in the nation — to take top spot in the qualifying round for the Australian Master of the Amateurs Championship.
It was four shots clear of the field and five shots better than the winner of this year’s Australian junior amateur title, Anthony Murdaca.
Droop then finished third in the Aaron Baddeley event behind Zach Murray to also qualify for the final in China where he finished T13.
He finished the year the fifth ranked junior in the nation.
The Albury pennant team threw down the gauntlet to defending champion Thurgoona in the Murray District Golf Association scratch pennant.
The clubs had victories at home against each other for their only losses for the year.
The final at Corowa was always going to be a nail biter.
Albury took the title with a 4-3 win, captain Lachlan Stewart winning his match at an extra hole to decide the contest.
Forty-plus veteran Anthony Toogood was scratch pennant player of the year and the subject of more than a few jibes when The Border Mail labelled him a “young gun” in a headline.
4. MARCUS FRASER
MARCUS Fraser may not have registered an international win for the year but again showed his world class.
A play-off loss in the Ballantines was his best finish in a year that saw him play in three of the four majors, peak at about 52 in the world and also lead the Italian open going into the final round.
It was another million-dollar season.
The former Corowa lad also launched his fund-raiser for the club in early January.
It was sold out then and is again this week when he returns to the Border.
5. ODGERS AND WILD
Wodonga girls Catherine Odgers and Casey Wild ended the year as Victorian champions.
Wild, won the Victorian Secondary College title in May and a month later the North East Women’s title, defying a crazy cart driver who careered across in front of the 12th tee as she was hitting off in the final round.
Odgers, who was an All American through her golfing exploits at Oaklahoma Christian University in the US College system, made it four wins in the Victorian Par-3 tournament, while the pair also won the Victorian Women’s Country Championships foursomes together and tied for the win in the 36-hole stroke play.
6. SEAN WITTING
THREE and a half years ago Sean Witting was a hacker.
He played golf with his mates twice, maybe three times, a year, lucky to break 100.
Now he holds national and international tournaments titles after this year winning in Japan.
The difference is Witting is now blind, not totally but as close as it gets — a rare hereditary gene passed from mother to son robbing him of his sight in less than six weeks.
Witting, 45, plays off 17 at his testing home course of Jubilee at Wangaratta.
JUBILEE broke a 15-year drought in pennant golf with a narrow win at Wangaratta.
Three of the seven division 1 scratch pairings went to the 19th hole on Sunday, all decided in favour of the winners in the 4-3 result over Yarrawonga.
Jubilee captain Michael Baillie was undefeated through the play-off rounds but was beaten by Yarrawonga No. 1 Jay R. Martin 2 and 1 and still voted as the player of the year.
8. BETTY GIBSON
IN a moment she’d waited 50 years for, 89-year-old Betty Gibson hit her first hole-in-one in late November.
Mrs Gibson, who still plays with the Howlong Ladies Golf Club three times a week, aced the par three eighth hole at 121 metres.
Mrs Gibson said she could see the ball go in from where she hit it.
“There was some yelling and shrieking and jumping up and down,” she said.
“I was pretty excited, I can tell you.”
9. DANIEL LEE
DANIEL Lee became the youngest golfer to win the Australian long drive title last year.
A year later and he was the first to go back to back.
The 26-year-old took the title at Logan golf course, near Brisbane, In August.
The Thurgoona five-handicapper’s best was a 348.3-metre monster — remarkable, given it was the first time he had swung a club in four months since injury.
Lee headed to Mesquite, Nevada in September for his second tilt at the world title but a 351-metre drive and several others around that mark couldn’t get him beyond the seventh round.
HOWLONG was named junior golf club of the year beating some 400 other courses for the title.
Now the club’s junior program will be progressively rolled out across the Murray District Golf Association.
The program started a little over two years ago and now has more than 100 juniors from across the region.
The first 10 of those players are now playing in regular competitions.
In June the club also announced the appointment of Paul Irvine, pictured, as its head greenkeeper — after having spent five years fine-tuning the classic sandbelt layout at Royal Melbourne.