09 Feb 2021 | National Championships |
#AusAm faves ready to rumble
by Mark Hayes
The COVID-19 pandemic offers precious few positives for anyone.
But for fans of amateur golf, this week should be a rare treat.
Adelaide’s superb Kooyonga layout is the setting for the venerable Australian Amateur Championship which might just provide double the drama of what is always an eventful tournament.
This is because the pandemic made it nigh on impossible for many of what would have been the annual “crop” of elite youngsters to take the step into professional ranks.
And the shootout this will generate at Kooyonga stands to be epic.
Each with outstanding performances in the WPGA Tour ranks to their credit, the trio of Grace Kim, Kirsten Rudgeley and Doey Choi loom as likely rivals for the women’s crown.
All three have been outstanding for the best part of two years, with West Australian Rudgeley even mixing it for a long time with the star-studded PGA of Australasia field at The Players Series in Victoria two weekends ago.
Choi, echoing the sentiments of many in their practice round today, said she was thrilled to return to competitive golf after the dramas of 2020.
And having played so well in previous visits to Adelaide, at both The Grange and Glenelg, Sydneysider Choi is hopeful of another successful SA raid.
“I haven’t played at Kooyonga before, but after practice today I can see why everyone raves about it,” she said.
“I really like it here and seem to have played well in Adelaide before, so I hope it continues.“
Choi said the weight of expectation was not a factor.
“It doesn’t put pressure on me, I always just do my best.
“I know Grace and Kirsten are both playing really well, and a few others, so it’s going to be fun.”
You’ll need an even wider net to be sure of netting the men’s winner, with previews such as this inevitably glossing over many worthy of note.
Jed Morgan needs to be high in the mix, defending his crown after success at one of his home clubs, Royal Queensland, last year.
But while he’s justifiably hopeful, he doesn’t think his 2020 success holds any additional benefits this week.
“I don’t think anyone here would think of it that way,” Morgan said.
“I’m in a better shape with my game, though. Obviously in COVID you don’t get to measure that up in competition, to figure out what you’re doing.
“But it’s going to be an awesome week – the course is soooo nice, not a blade of grass out of place.
“I feel very good actually. I had other things in mind when I first won it, but it’s a blessing in disguise to be able to come back and defend it, so I’m taking it like that.”
Morgan was coy about his main rivals, but cited good friend and Queensland teammate Louis Dobbelaar as a legitimate contender, alongside yesterday’s birthday boy, Haydn Barron, of Western Australia.
Jack Thompson, a regular Australian representative in recent seasons and playing near his home course at The Grange, is sure to have a lot of fan support as the week unfolds.
While another WA trio – Josh Greer, Connor Fewkes and WA Open champion Hayden Hopewell – should feature prominently.
Hopewell, 18, of Royal Fremantle, loved what he saw in practice yesterday and is eager, like all his mates, to get going and welcomes the tag of favouritism.
“It sits well with me. The WA Open was my last tournament, so hopefully that shows what I’m capable of,” he said.
“I see some familiar faces around, but it’s just a normal field and I just stick to my own game plan. I know if I play well, I will be up there in most tournaments so I’ll just stick to my guns.”
Hopewell simply loved the way the greens were rolling in practice and is keen for it to get even faster and firmer as the week progresses.
He recalled his last visit to Kooyonga in 2015 when Ryan Ruffels won the second of his back-to-back Australian Junior crowns.
“I remember Ruffels shooting 15 under to win, so I’d expect that you’ll need that to be close this week. The course is in such good nick.”
Join our newsletter
Get weekly updates on news, golf tips and access to partner promotions.