Australian Open champion Rex Hedrick has won the Bega Tarra Kia Squash Open PSA tournament on Sunday.
Canberra-based local favourite Josh Larkin was the sole player to take a game off the top seed, forcing Hedrick to a fourth-game finish in the grand final in front of a packed gallery at the Bega squash courts.
Officials praised the grand final showdown that took 72 minutes with fans experiencing some epic rallies and stunning shots on the court.
Hedrick sank the first game 11-5, but was shutdown by Larkin in the second game to lose 7-11 before taking the third and fourth rounds 11-4 and 11-8 to secure the top prize of the $10,000 tournament.
Bega Squash Club president John Stylianou said it was a dramatic final with some rallies taking 70-shots to find a scoring point as the players darted across the court.
Despite going down to his fellow Aussie in the final, Larkin is now a four-time grand finalist and two-time winner of the Bega Tarra Kia Open.
Earlier the 2017 defending champion Dimitri Steinmann of Switzerland was knocked out of contention by Hedrick in the semi-finals.
After respective quarter-finals wins the number one and two seeds faced off in the semi-finals, but Hedrick repeated his Australian Open success, knocking Steinmann from the competition 3-0.
Mr Stylianou said there had been a number of “surprises and delights” for the club this year that bodes well moving forward.
Successful planning meetings during the tournament with Kay Kendall of Squash Australia has seen a move to use the Bega Tarra Kia Open as a prelude to the Australian Open next year.
“The feedback has been incredible and now we can take it to the next level,” Mr Stylianou said.
“Squash Australia’s strategy now is because we’re at the same level as the Aus Open, the field will assemble in Bega the week before.”
The governing body will also be helping promote next year’s tournament as well as live-streaming matches and providing software and coaching support for the Bega club.
Ms Kendall said the Bega competition welcomed more spectators than the Australian Open itself and said she was blown away by the support of the town.
Ms Kendall told organisers she found the people of Bega to be friendly and inquisitive, while the facilities were “old, but well maintained.”
Mr Stylianou said Squash Australia had heard much of the praise about the Bega event from players.
“They’ve taken interest because they heard so much about it from the players; we’ve built a reputation now and that will help us take it to the next level.”
Officials thanked everyone who took part and also thanked Bega Valley mayor Kristy McBain who presented prizes to the winners.
Players from across Victoria and NSW also competed in the regular open.