05 Jul 2021 | Professional golf | Amateur golf |

A golden era for golf

by Martin Blake

A golden era for Aussies
Cam Davis (Image: Getty), Steph Kyriacou, Luca Herbert, Kirsten Rudgeley (Am) and Louis Dobbelaar (Am) all claimed titles over the weekend.

The phone started ringing at 7am and barely stopped all day. How long – if ever, they wanted to know – since three Australian professionals won on big tours in the one weekend?

I couldn’t recall it happening and I’ve covered golf since 2002 and followed it even longer. Nor could a handful of others with some of what we might politely call experience. Two wins? We’ve seen that as recently as Marc Leishman (in California on the US Tour) and Lucas Herbert (in Dubai on the European Tour) on Australia Day in 2020.

But three wins? Unheard of, until Herbert won the Irish Open on Sunday, Cam Davis secured his long-awaited first win on the US Tour in Detroit, and Steph Kyriacou took out a Ladies European Tour event in the Netherlands, all within 48 hours.

Throw in Louis Dobbelaar’s triumph in the prestigious North And South Amateur at Pinehurst resort in North Carolina, in one of the biggest and most prestigious amateur events in the US, plus Perth amateur Kirsten Rudgeley’s victory last Friday in the Helen Holm Women’s Open in Scotland, and you have a quintet of victories and an unequivocal truth.

It was a weekend like no other for Australian golf. The goldenera hashtag was running hard and strong on social media today and rightly so.

There are no shortage of positives around Australian golf at the moment but if you want further evidence of how significant the weekend was, look at the ages of the victors. Davis is just 26, a pup in golfing terms. Herbert is a year younger at 25 but has already won twice on the European Tour, Kyriacou is only 20 and only a year into her professional career and Dobbelaar and Rudgeley are teenagers.

Davis may have the most upside of all, having graduated from Monash Country Club to the Golf NSW programs, to an Australian Amateur in 2015 to an Eisenhower Trophy in 2016 and an Australian Open triumph in 2017 before he moved the US Tour and shifted his life to Seattle. He is an astonishing talent but while he has comfortably held his place on the US Tour, it has taken him time to get that win. It was his 71st start. Hopefully, the barricades have been smashed aside because there is no limit to what he could do.

Ditto for Herbert, who came from Bendigo in central Victoria to the Golf Victoria elite programs, represented Australia and established himself as a real character. He fears no one and plays with an aggression and power that is uncommon. Ironically at the time he has chosen to move to America after a couple of years in Europe, it’s on the European Tour that he’s thriving. But watch this space with that one. He’s in the Open Championship later this month now, his world ranking is approaching the top-50 status that is so important and he is growing in maturity with every day.

Steph Kyriacou came out of St Michael’s and through the Golf NSW and Golf Australia elite programs and everyone knew that she was good; we just didn’t know exactly how good. Last year she won the Bonville tournament as an amateur, took up her rights to play on the LET, and was immediately rookie of the year. She just keeps getting better, capped off with the weekend’s win in the Netherlands. The sky is the limit for her, too.

Louis Dobbelaar’s victory in the US came at the famous Pinehurst in a storied event, and against a local favourite and a partisan crowd. It is his second in the USA in the past month to go with the Australian Amateur he won at Kooyonga earlier this year and clearly, golf has another precocious talent on its hands. As for Kirsten Rudgeley, it had the same feel about it. A foreign player in conditions that were not meant to be her wheelhouse, and a gritty, hard-fought win.

Both Dobbelaar and Rudgeley have been on the amateur radar for quite some time now and won multiple titles. They are enormously promising at just 19.

If you step back and survey top-level golf in Australia, it feels like there has been a changing of the guard occurring, which had to happen, of course. But Adam Scott has hit 40, Jason Day has had injury issues, Geoff Ogilvy has returned home, Karrie Webb is semi-retired. New stars needed to step up, and they are.

The wheels keep turning.

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