05 Feb 2021 | National Championships |

#AusAm defies odds, gets to the start line

by Mark Hayes

Kirsten Rudgeley has taken her game to a new level in the past year.
Kirsten Rudgeley has taken her game to a new level in the past year.

It has been quite the process, but the curtain is about to rise on the 2021 Australian Amateur Championships.

The Kooyonga Golf Club will play host next week as both men’s and women’s crowns will be contested over 72-hole stroke-play events for the first time.

The stunningly prepared Adelaide club, host of many storied events in Australian tournament golf, was not the originally slated venue.

But with the grand opening of its redesigned clubhouse this week for what was originally intended to be the now cancelled Women’s Australian Open, club officials graciously took on board the national amateur championship in its stead.

Naturally, Covid-19 has played a big part in many of the changes, not least of which has been the constant and ongoing challenge around state border restrictions.

Not until Friday could many in the field from Western Australia say with any certainty that they would be there.

But when Golf Australia events and operations general manager Therese Magdulski announced a larger field recently to give some certainty to those who might otherwise have been reserves, she has been thrilled that support from all quarters has just continued to roll.

“Firstly we are incredibly lucky to have the great support of all at Kooyonga – we would not be in this position without them,” she said.

“But the players, coaches, families and officials have all been exceedingly patient and have treated us and the tournament with enormous respect, which we’re thrilled about.

“Things can always change, sometimes quickly as we’ve all learnt, but for now we’ve got 167 players who are as keen as we’ve ever had to get things going next week.”

As it stands, players from WA, Victoria and New South Wales will each have to get a Covid test when they arrive in SA and isolate until they get a negative result.

“Yet even with that rule, everyone has been upbeat and polite about the challenges we’re all facing, so it’s very encouraging,” Magdulski said.

“It’s been literally a year since we last hosted a major event – the Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide – so we just want to get out there and get going.”

With entries from around the country, there are a host of potential winners on both sides of the draw.

Many eyes will fall on rising WA star Kirsten Rudgeley and brilliant Sydneysider Grace Kim, who deserve to start favourites in the women’s draw.

But Doey Choi, Jeneath Wong, Hye Park and Kathryn Norris are among a host of others with claims.

The men’s field is a cracker, even after the withdrawal of nominal favourite Elvis Smylie.

Reigning champ Jed Morgan and a rejuvenated Louis Dobbelaar head a strong Queensland contingent, while Hayden Hopewell is among up to six potential winners from WA, including the in-form Josh Greer.

Pro in the making Jack Thompson on home soil will be among those to contend with, while Andree Lautee and Jordy Garner will head a strong list of hopefuls from Victoria and New South Wales, respectively.

Magdulski said the DRAW would remain in draft form for as long as possible to ensure any last-minute quarantine dramas could be handled as smoothly as possible.

The practice day is on Monday, with the first tee time at 7.20 ACDT on Tuesday morning.

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