World tunes in for #AusAm

Scott Gregory
World No.6 amateur Scott Gregory will be a key contender at the Australian Amateur Championship next month. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

The burgeoning reputation of the Australian Amateur Championship, presented by Swinging Skirts, will be enhanced again next month with a host of world-class players to converge on Melbourne.

Players representing 19 countries – Australia, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, USA and Wales – had entered the January 17-22 championship when entries closed.

A total of 354 entries were received despite tight handicap limits of 1.0 for the men and 3.4 for the women, meaning 42 players were balloted out of the event, to be co-hosted by Yarra Yarra and Peninsula Kingswood (Kingswood) golf clubs.

With Perth’s world No.2 Curtis Luck and Melbourne’s world No.7 Brett Coletta non-starters as they plan their schedules for the year, the spotlight will fall on rising English star Scott Gregory, the world No.6 amateur.

Gregory, the reigning British Amateur champ and member of England’s team that was runner-up to Australia at the Eisenhower Trophy in September, spearheads a deep men’s field.

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, the world No.11, will attempt to emulate countryman Connor Syme’s success last year in this event, while Welshman David Boote, the world No.28, should also feature prominently.

Italian world No.39 Luca Cianchetti and Marco Penge, the English world No.81, will also be part of a bold European contingent hoping to beat a strong local brigade.

The Aussie flag will be flown by world No.20 Harrison Endycott and his fellow New South Welshman Travis Smyth (No.50) who’ll be looking to go one better than his runner-up finish in 2016.

Others tipped to be prominent are Zach Murray, fellow Victorian David Micheluzzi, Perth’s  US Junior Amateur champ Min Woo Lee and the in-form Dylan Perry, of New South Wales, the newly crowned Victorian Amateur champion.

And the women’s field is also packed with talent.

A supremely strong Korean contingent should again be a feature, with world No.6 Hye-jin Choi, a member of the dominant Espirito Santo Trophy team, the nominal favourite.

Her compatriot Eun-Jeong Seong, the world No.11, has already recorded a top-20 finish at the LPGA Tour’s KEB Hana Bank Championship and will be tough to beat.

And that challenge will be taken up by a strong Aussie group headed by Karis Davidson and Becky Kay, both in form and members of the dominant Queensland Interstate Series winning team.

Expect, too, a strong showing from the Swinging Skirts-backed Taiwanese team with rapid improvements coming from the national squad in recent events.

Swinging Skirts is a presenting partner of the Australian Amateur Championship with its support designed to give young Taiwanese players the opportunity to train and compete at the highest international levels.

It is the first time in the club’s history the championship will be held at Yarra Yarra Golf Club on Melbourne’s sandbelt, while the Kingswood Course at the newly formed Peninsula-Kingswood Country Golf Club plays co-host for the second consecutive year.

The stroke play component of the event will be held on January 17 and 18 at both courses, with the top 64 men and 32 women advancing to the match play phase from January 19-22 at Yarra Yarra.

With the respective champions receiving exemptions into the Emirates Australian Open and the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open later in 2017, the events are always keenly contested.

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Golf Victoria