COREY Lamb watched, listened and took in everything he could as the Branxton teenager walked the fairways at the Australian Open.
For a large part, Lamb followed rookie Newcastle professional Blake Windred and also checked in on amateurs Louis Dobbelaar and Elvis Smylie - all players he has competed against in the past 12 months.
"I feel like I am close to being at that level, but getting there is another thing, I guess," Lamb said. "It makes me motivated to work harder."
On Friday, Lamb signed off on a remarkable junior career by running away with the Jack Newton Champions Trophy at Bonville.
The 18-year-old carved out rounds of 69,70,71,70 on the challenging layout to be at eight under and win by six strokes from Toronto's Jacob Dundas (72,70,70,74). Joshuaa Robards (72,71,75,69) was third at one under and The Vintage's Josh Fuller (68,74,72,75) rounded out an all-Hunter top four at one-over.
The win at Bonville completed a hectic fortnight for Lamb which started with the NSW Open - his first start in a professional tournament - and included winning the WE Alexander Open at Waratah and playing in a qualifier for the Australian Open.
"The Champions Trophy was my last junior event so it was good to win," he said. "I had played pretty much for two weeks straight. At Bonville I decided to relax and enjoy it. I thought whatever happens, happens."
The win wasn't without a hiccup. Lamb entered the final round with a two-stroke buffer from Dundas only to hit his opening tee shot into the water.
"When I found the water, I thought this might not be my day. I managed to hit my third on to the green and then sunk a 30-footer downhill for par. I thought, OK maybe it is my day."
Lamb played his first Jack Newton Junior Golf (JNJG) event at age 11. The Champions Trophy followed victory in the NSW Junior Open.
"I'm very grateful to the foundation," he said. "It has been great to come up through the system."
JNJG northern territory manager Mark Ingrey said Lamb has the ability and the smarts to kick on.
"He is a great kid and his course management is impressive," Ingrey said. "When he gets himself into trouble he knows - whether it is that hole or another hole - that he will get it back. He knows how to get it done when it really counts. That's a quality that you can't teach."
Lamb, who gave up a part-time job in the pro-shop at The Vintage because he didn't have enough time to practice, will "freshen up" this week before working hard on his game ahead of the Australian Amateur, NSW Amateur and Avondale Medal in January.
"At Bonville, my driver was the worst club in the bag," he said.
"I didn't even really want to hit it. Thankfully my irons were really good.
"Last month I went to Melbourne for the Port Phillip Amateur and Victorian Amateur. It was all irons off the tee so I haven't been hitting the driver much."
Lamb finished 10th at Port Phillip and went down to eventual winner Andrew Lautee in the round of 16 of the Vic Amateur.
He made the second round of the match play at the Australian Amateur last year where he lost to Windred.
** Mark Ingrey couldn't mask his satisfaction at Hunter players filling the top four places in Bonville and believed the success was in part due to the ground work done by previous JNJG graduates.
"We are pretty lucky to have guys like Jake Higginbottom, Blake Windred and Jye Pickin who have really nurtured the likes of Corey, Josh Robards and Josh Fuller," Ingrey said.
"In turn, they have nurtured the next crop of 13 to 15 year olds. It is fantastic. I just hope we have another crop under that who have seen where the kids have gone and do the same."
* Foundation graduates Josh Fuller, Ethan Chambers (The Australian), Monica Johnson (The Australian) and Kara Williams (Avondale) will join the stars of stage and screen and some of Australian best professionals at the Jack Newton Celebrity Classic next week.
Musicians Shannon Noll and Wilbur Wilde, actors Peter Phelps and Lincoln Lewis, comedian Vince Sorrenti and sports stars Wally Lewis, Wendell Sailor and Michael O'Connor head the list of 45 celebrities at the 36 hole championship and charity fundraiser at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley next Tuesday and Wednesday. The Jack is in its 41st year and has raised nearly $6.5 million for junior golf and diabetes.
* Josh Robards has become the youngest player to take out the Newcastle District order of merit title.
Robards wrapped up the win with his third place in the year-ending WE Alexander Open at Waratah. The 17-year-old Kotara High Student finished on 1650 points to win by 50 from district champion Jake Riley. Dave Alexander was third on 1260. The trio also filled the top three places in the nett section.
* Jake Higginbottom has moved a step closer to retaining his card on the Asian Tour for next season. The Charlestown right-hander finished 54th at the $2m Mauritius Open and is 50th on the money list with two events remaining.