Louis at ease under Kiwi heat

Louis Dobbelaar
Louis Dobbelaar and fellow 2016 champ Rose Zheng are back to defend their titles, this time in Christchurch.

There’s a little extra pressure on Louis Dobbelaar at this week’s New Zealand Amateur Championship.

Having gone to Royal Wellington last year as a relative unknown across the Tasman, the young Queenslander will defend his title this week at Russley Golf Club with a distinct target on his back.

Competed for since 1893, the men’s title is one of the oldest sporting trophies in New Zealand and has lured an extremely strong field to Christchurch, including 16 Australians. 

Dobbelaar, 16, last year defeated top-ranked Kiwi Luke Toomey in the semi-final after three playoff holes, before defeating Peter Spearman-Burn 2&1 in the final.

If Dobbelaar can repeat his 2016 heroics, he would become only the ninth male to accomplish the feat, most recently achieved by another Australian, Matt Jager, in 2009 and 2010.

“It’s awesome to be back it’s going to be a fun week and the course is looking great, but you will have to drive well, it’s bloody tight!” Dobbelaar said with a smile.

After winning this event at such a young age he was thrilled with the opportunities it created.

“This event definitely opened a few doors which was unbelievable, so it’s definitely helped my confidence and I enjoy playing here.”

Dobbelaar competed in the Queensland Open last week and just missed the cut in a strong professional field, a great experience and preparation for tomorrow.

Off the back of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Wellington last week, there are six returning players who add huge strength to this week’s field.

Daniel Hillier finished the week as the leading New Zealander in a tie for sixth, while Kerry Mountcastle, Ryan Chisnall, James Anstiss, Luke Brown and New Zealand Stroke Play champion Mark Hutson add depth to the field.

Russley last hosted the championship in 2011 when Mat Perry won the men’s and a 14-year-old Lydia Ko claimed the women’s title.

There is no shortage of talent in the women’s field this week with two past champions in Rose Zheng and Chantelle Cassidy alongside rising Victorian Jade Shellback.

Zheng rose to stardom last year after claiming two victories in a row (Harewood Open, NZ Amateur), but will have to work hard to repeat the dose with Amelia Garvey also in the field. There will be huge local interest as she looks to hold both major titles after winning the New Zealand Amateur Stroke Play in March.

The five-day tournament starts with two rounds of stroke play, after which the top 32 golfers in both fields advance. From there it is do or die as we look for finalists to play 36 holes of match play on Sunday to decide NZ’s best amateur.

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