Duncan and Saso storm to Junior Masters wins

Tyler Duncan & Yuka Saso
The 2018 Sportscover Vic Junior Masters champions.

Filipino Yuka Saso and Queenslander Tyler Duncan have endured hot conditions and strong fields to claim the 2018 Sportscover Victorian Junior Masters at Churchill-Waverley Golf Club.

Saso entered the week as one of the favourites and the 16-year-old showed why on Thursday, stealing the show with a new course record in the final round to win by 12 shots.

Saso’s closing 7-under 66 eclipsed the course record of 68 set by Haley Moore (2015) and Yu-Chiang Hou (2016), the stunning display taking her to 10-under for the week.

“It’s my second course record,” said Saso, “I had another one at Barwon Heads in the Junior Vic Open so it’s pretty cool.”

Saso’s scores of 70-75-71-66 saw her break par in three of her four rounds, the remainder of the girls’ field combining for just six sub-par scores across the week.

Her five-shot overnight lead was a substantial buffer heading into Sunday’s final round but she didn’t let up, storming home to finish as the only player in red numbers over the four days.

“I was pretty calm and focussed,” said Saso.

“I was trying to keep calm because I was really nervous so I wasn’t really thinking about scores.”

Yuka Saso
Yuka Saso set a new course record 66 on her way to winning the 2018 Sportscover Vic Junior Masters

In the Boys’ event, all the action was in the final four-ball of the day, Victorian James Walker surrendering his 54-hole advantage with a disappointing front nine.

South Australian duo Jackson Kalz – last year’s winner and the reigning Vic Junior Open champ – and Frank Vukic stormed out of the blocks with three birdies between them in the first two holes.

“Overnight I tried to not worry about the scores too much,” said Duncan.

“When you get on the first tee box it all comes to you, reality hits you. I just tried to hang in there and play my own game, my shots, just trying to play smart.”

“There was a few nerves, I missed a few fairways here and there. I made a few really good up-and-downs and a few stupid decisions but got it back together on the back nine.”

Kalz edged ahead once the final group made the turn and was staring down his third title on Victorian soil in 12 months before disaster struck.

A double-bogey at the par-5 14th saw him drop back to 3-over for the week, while playing partner Duncan rattled home his fourth birdie of the day to surge to the lead.

“I made a really good up-and-down out of the front bunker to make birdie,” said Duncan.

“After a par at the next hole, it all came together after that and I just hung in there.”

Four bogies in a five-hole stretch to start the back nine left Vukic four shots adrift of the outright leader, Duncan cruising home over the final four holes to win in style with a birdie at the 72nd hole.

“To be honest I had no idea clue what the score was, I thought I was one behind or tied for the lead,” said Duncan.

“I guess that helped, not knowing. This is my first win in a really big event.

Vucic (74) locked down second place on the standings two strokes back at 2-over for the week, fellow South Australian Kalz’s (73) defence of his 2017 crown resulting in an outright third finish at 3-over.

Tyler Duncan
Tyler Duncan wins the 2018 Sportscover Vic Junior Masters.

Arguably the biggest reward for Saso and Duncan comes in the form of a spot in next week’s Oates Vic Open at Barwon Heads.

“It’s awesome,” said Duncan.

“I’ve played in the Queensland Open before, so I guess it will just be another good experience, another learning curve.”

“I’m really excited,” said Saso.

“I’ve played a couple of pro events in Japan, the Philippines and Korea. I’m looking forward to it.”

For final scores and the live stream of the final round, click here.

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