A trio of Victoria’s brightest young stars are set to debut in the Victorian women’s side at the 2017 Interstate Series with Wodonga’s Zach Murray to captain the men’s team for the first time in Perth.
Seventeen-year-old Kono Matsumoto is one of three players to earn their first start in the women’s team, the Japanese-born teen finally eligible to appear in Victorian colours after recently being granted citizenship in Australia.
Fellow teenager Linley Ooi and 20-year-old Montana Strauss will also tee it up in the women’s team for the first time at Fremantle Golf Club from May 9th.
Victoria Golf Club members Gabi Ruffels and Stephanie Bunque have again been selected after debuting last year, while 19-year-old Olivia Kline will act as the side’s veteran with her third appearance in WA.
At just 16-years-old Ruffels and Ooi are the youngest members of either of Victoria’s senior teams, that duo also earning selection for April’s Junior Interstate Series along with Matsumoto.
Unfortunately young gun Alizza Hetherington, the captain of the junior team, won’t be in WA after she was this week chosen to represent Australia at the Queen Sirikit Cup in China which clashes with the Interstate Series.
Nineteen-year-old Murray will play his third men’s Interstate Series at Melville Glades Golf Club and in 2017 he will have the honour of leading the eight-man team.
Also returning for a third appearance on the men’s team is Dave Micheluzzi, while Kyle Michel, Cameron John, Will Heffernan and Lukas Michel will all return for a second start in the senior team.
Reigning Australian Amateur champion Matias Sanchez and Metropolitan Golf Club’s Blake Collyer are the only two debutants in the men’s outfit after both representing Victoria as juniors.
Murray led the Victorian junior team on his debut in 2014 to a resounding win and is elated to get the nod as captain for his state side once again.
“It’s definitely a massive privilege to be the captain of your state team, so I’m pretty stoked,” says Murray.
“When I was captain of the junior team I went through undefeated and I think the team only lost three games.
“I’ve always played footy as a kid so I love being in that team environment. I find that I can just get the team up and about and just make everyone enjoy the week and feel comfortable.
“We’ve got some great lads in there so I think we’ll give it a red hot crack. I’ll definitely be there if we need a bit of a spark or some motivation.”
Murray claimed the Victorian Amateur Championship in 2013 and won the Australian Master of the Amateurs two years later, but feels like the match play format and accountability of playing team golf brings the best out in him.
“I felt a little bit more responsibility as captain but I think it’s good for me because I play my best golf when I’m under a little bit of pressure and there’s something to play for,” says Murray.
“Being captain, I have to show some leadership and really grind it out.
“If the younger boys see me and I’m really focussed, they’re probably going to do the same.
“If I can give it everything I’m sure the boys will follow.”
Australia’s current golden crop of amateurs means the 2017 Interstate Series will be as tight as ever, Murray confident the Victorians can match it with the nation’s best.
“I think we’re a great chance. David, Cameron and Kyle are all playing really well at the moment,” says Murray.
“I think it’s a big asset to our team to have those younger lads who have won good match play titles.
“Cam won the Victorian Amateur in 2015 and Matias Sanchez is obviously the Australian Amateur champion, he could play anywhere in the order and he’s a big threat in match play.
“Obviously we’ve got the experienced players of Will Heffernan and Lukas Michel and Dave is just that little pitbull dog that will fight all day!”
VIS head coach Marty Joyce will coach the men’s team in Perth, while the experienced Brian Lasky returns as manager.
Former Victorian representative Lisa Jean will take on the dual role of the women’s team captain and manager, with the VIS’s Darren Cole to coach.
For more information, please visit our State Teams page.