18 Jan 2024 | Amateur golf |

#AusAm: Schoolgirl Harris on the edge of triumph

by Martin Blake

Amelia Harris Aus Am r3 image
Amelia Harris on her way to a brilliant 68 today.

Teen sensation Amelia Harris could be a day away from becoming national amateur champion – the youngest since Lydia Ko more than decade ago.

The 15-year-old Melburnian accelerated away from the field in the adidas Australian Amateur today in bleak, blustery and wet conditions at Yarra Yarra, her home course in Melbourne.

A third-round 5-under par 68 after she started the day in a share of the lead with Japan’s Aina Fujimoto put Harris six shots ahead with a round to play.

Two eagles – one from close range at the par-5 ninth hole and another from longer range at the par-5 16th were the highlight of a day when almost everyone else in the women’s field went backwards.

In the blustery conditions – gusting up to 50 km/h – it was a masterclass from Harris.

She began with three solid pars and after Fujimoto three-putted the second, she was already in front. At the fourth, she hit a peerless wedge up close and holed out for birdie to put a gap between herself and the field that never closed.

There were mistakes – she went long at the par-3 11th and into sand and made bogey, and three-putted the 12th for another – but she never appeared flustered.

By day’s end she was at 9-under for 54 holes, her nearest-challenger being Japan’s Mamika Shinchi at 3-under with New Zealand’s Euenseo Choi a further shot back at 2-under.

“I was hoping for 2-over (today) or better, that would have been good,” she said. “Starting off there was a bit of rain, and I just tried hard to make pars.”

Realistically the championship is hers to win or lose on Friday.

Incredibly, she is a couple of weeks away from picking up the books and going back to school for year 11 at McKinnon Secondary College, not far from Yarra.

She has been on the radar of Australia’s High Performance fraternity for several years now, winning numerous junior tournaments, and earning a spot in the national squad.

But this is a national championship in open company with more than 80 overseas players competing.

Australian Amateurs have not been all that easy for natives to win. Of the last eight for women, Grace Kim (2021) is the only Aussie to triumph. Then there is her age.

Kiwi Lydia Ko, now established as an all-time great of the sport, was 14 when she won the Australian Amateur in 2012, the youngest ever.

Minjee Lee, another potential hall-of-famer and now Australia’s top-ranked woman, was 16 when she won the first of her two Australian Amateurs in 2013.

That is the company that Harris could be sitting in if she holds her nerve on Friday.

She feels very much at home at Yarra, the club she joined a few years ago after her family moved to Melbourne from north Queensland.

She is a MyGolf graduate, having turned up to one of Golf Australia’s junior clinics up at Half Moon Bay some years ago picking up the game quickly.

What a story she has become. She is potentially Australia’s brightest prospect since Minjee Lee came out of Perth a decade ago.

How will she handle the final round? “I’m going to try and play how I did today, fairways and greens and anything can happen tomorrow.

“I would feel pretty good (if I won). It would be my biggest win other than Riversdale (Cup), I’d be pretty proud.”

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