24 Oct 2023 | Amateur golf |

AAC: Devil in the detail at Royal Melbourne

by Martin Blake

Quinn Croker AAC image
Quinn Croker at Royal Melbourne on Tuesday. Photo: AAC

Quinn Croker had only played Royal Melbourne once – a month ago – before today’s practice round for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

His naivete to the conditions showed up.

The wind howled across Dr Alister MacKenzie’s masterpiece in Melbourne and the famously firm greens were like slabs of concrete.

Croker, who comes from Toowoomba via Royal Queensland, can play. He’s had three top-10s in professional events this season in Australia on an affiliate membership, and he is one of the form players in the field.

But when his coach and caddie for this week, Chris Gibson, told his man to land his wedge shot into the par-4 18th hole at least 10 to 15 metres short of the putting surface and let it feed on, Croker was incredulous.

Then he tried it, with a good result.

By then, he was working it all out.

“So I thought it wasn't going to be too bad, and I got a rude shock when I rocked up here today,” said Croker. “It's extremely hard, like, conditions, and the wind was just, it definitely got the better of me today, so got to fix it up the next couple days.”

It’s one of the reasons why many people expect the 12-man Australian team to have an advantage this week as the Asia-Pacific’s premier amateur tournament comes back to the sandbelt.

Although many of the Australians are from outside Victoria, most of them have had plenty of experience of this kind of golf.

Royal Melbourne’s composite course – the compilation of 12 holes on MacKenzie’s West course and six holes from Alex Russell’s East course – is not generally penal or overly difficult for good players.

But in certain conditions like today, with 35 km/h winds throughout, gusting up closer to 90km/h at one point, with tee signage blowing down and balls moving on the greens, it can be brutal.

The Australian players were loathe to even nominate a potential winning score. It’s almost entirely dependent upon conditions.

The good news for the likes of Croker is that they have another day of practice to work on it.

Jack Buchanan, who has played a lot on the sandbelt, thinks familiarity will help. “For us, I think it's definitely a huge advantage this week. Especially if you've played the course before, like knowing where to miss it. There's definitely some spots this week where you can miss it, and par is not even an option.”

Buchanan, who has only this week returned from the World Amateur Teams Championship in Abu Dhabi, is not even pretending that the outcome at the end of this week’s AAC with its glittering prize of spots in the 2024 majors, is not on his mind.

“Definitely thinking about it but I don't think I'm going to putt in the back of the head,” said SA’s Buchanan. “I'm going to use it as motivation for the week. It's going to be in my head most of the week that this is what I'm playing for, so I'm just going to kind of September it and use it as fuel to play better.” AUSTRALIAN TEAM

Jeffrey Guan (NSW) Jack Buchanan (SA) Lukas Michel (Vic) Connor Fewkes (WA) Quinnton Croker (Qld) Max Charles (Vic) Harry Bolton (ACT) Jye Pickin (NSW) Jasper Stubbs (Vic) Harry Takis (Qld) Billy Dowling (Qld) Jake Riley (NSW) 2023 ASIA PACIFIC AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP

-72 holes Thursday-Sunday at Royal Melbourne Composite course -Par 71, 7055 yards (6451 metres) -120 players from 40 countries -Winning player receives an invitation to 2024 Masters, Open Championship and The Amateur Championship Information

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