Australian junior champs under way

Celina Yuan
Celina Yuan in action earlier this year.

Live scores:
Australian Girls' Amateur
Australian Boys' Amateur

Hilton Head, the idyllic American golfing island, won’t be on the minds of many teeing it up at this week’s Australian junior championships in Tasmania.

But if ever there was a point to illustrate just how close the grand stages of world golf can be, the reigning Australian boys’ champion will be in the American getaway this week testing his game against the world’s best on the US PGA Tour.

Ryan Ruffels, who would still be eligible to play this week had he not turned professional in December, won the boys’ title in fine style last year with two record rounds to close his successful title defence.

Conversely, the reigning girls’ champion is back and Celina Yuan will start among the favourites to become just the third player since 1990 to defend her crown.

Victorian Mi Sun Cho achieved the feat in 2004 and 2005, following New South Wales star Gloria Park, who won three consecutive titles from 1996-98.

Sydneysider Yuan, 17, who represents The Australian Golf Club, was a semi-finalist in the Australian Amateur Championship at Metropolitan in January and has continued to churn out good results since.

But on the well-kept surrounds of the Devonport Golf Club this week, she will likely renew a rivalry that reached its zenith at this time last year when she beat Queenslander Karis Davidson on the third hole of a playoff at Tea Tree Gully in South Australia.

Davidson, 17, who represents Sanctuary Cove Golf Club, has taken her game to a new level recently and currently tops the Australian junior girls’ rankings after beating Australian No.1 Hannah Green in the West Australian Amateur title last month.

The power-packed New South Wales contingent features four players in the top 20 of the national rankings, including Doey Choi (12) and the emerging Hannah Park (14).

Other top contenders for the girls’ title include Queensland’s Becky Kay (13), a member of the Golf Australia national squad, West Australian Kathryn Norris (9) and Victorian duo Alizza Hetherington (11) and Gabriela Ruffels (28), who is eager to continue her rapid improvement.

The boys’ competition, at nearby Ulverstone Golf Club, promises to be fiercely contested with Queenslander Charlie Pillon the top-ranked contender.

Pillon, 17, was the medallist at the Australian Amateur Championship in January and packs a game that’s being steadily honed by the QAS and at his Hills International School base.

But he will face a battle royale to live up to the billing with a strong West Australian attack sure to come from Freddy Lee and Ben Ferguson, second and fourth in the rankings, respectively.

Another West Australian Min Woo Lee (7) and his GA national squadmate, Victorian Cameron John (3) are also primed for the event, while Sydney’s Jason Hong (5), Melbourne’s Matias Sanchez (6) and exciting Canberra prospect Joshua Armstrong (10) each have designs on following Ruffels’ footsteps.

Both events are played over 72 holes – 18 on Wednesday and Thursday before a cut to the top 60 and ties, then 36 holes to determine the champion on Friday.

The Boys’ and Girls’ Interstate Championships are then played separately for three days from Sunday, with Victoria defending both titles.

Live scores:
Australian Girls' Amateur
Australian Boys' Amateur

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