02 Nov 2022 | Amateur golf |

Bennett hell-bent on going one better at Women's Amateur Asia-Pacific

by Dane Heverin

Jiyoo Lim of Korea, Kelsey Bennett of Australia, Saki Baba of Japan, Natthakritta Vongtaveelap of Thailand, Hsin-Yu Lu of Chinese Taipei and Fiona Xu of New Zealand pose outside the Phornprapha Nimit Temple.
Jiyoo Lim of Korea, Kelsey Bennett of Australia, Saki Baba of Japan, Natthakritta Vongtaveelap of Thailand, Hsin-Yu Lu of Chinese Taipei and Fiona Xu of New Zealand pose outside the Phornprapha Nimit Temple.

A major debut was so close that Kelsey Bennett could nearly taste it at last year’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific and that feeling has not escaped her mind since.

Bennett, runner-up in Abu Dhabi in 2021, is one of six Australians chasing a shot at regional glory at Siam Country Club in Thailand this week, and the lucrative starts in the AIG Women’s Open and the Amundi Evian Championship. 

“I played really well last year,” Bennett said of finishing one shot behind Japanese champion Mizuki Hashimoto. 

“Even though I didn’t quite get a win across the line. I can’t complain, it was an awesome experience. All year I’ve been thinking about the WAAP and getting a second crack at it. I’m excited to be back this year and hopefully I can go one better.”

Bennett enters the week buoyed by a northern hemisphere summer where she stepped up against the top amateurs in the world.

Quarter-final and Round of 16 exits at The Women’s Amateur Championship and The US Women’s Amateur boosted the Mollymook product’s confidence and she has carried it with her to Thailand.

“I’ve been playing quite well recently,” Bennett said. “Played this morning (at Siam Country Club). I really like the set-up of the course and how it's laid out. So, yeah, I'm feeling confident.

“I love the greens. They're really good. They're tricky, but they're really true to the way they're running. So I'm looking forward to hopefully holing some putts.”

In addition to mixing it with the game’s elite in major championships, this week’s winner will also earn exemptions for the Korean LPGA’s Hana Financial Group Championship and the Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship.

A Bennett victory would therefore create a unique double for St Michael’s Golf Club with two members of the club in Sydney’s eastern suburbs off to Augusta National after Harrison Crowe won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship on Sunday and earned invitations to The Masters and The 151st Open.

“Getting a start in a major as an amateur is one of the biggest goals ever,” Bennett said.

“It would be fantastic, especially to play at Augusta. It would be unbelievable.”

One Australian who has already driven down Magnolia Lane and graced the hallowed turf is Kirsten Rudgeley, who will be making her first appearance in the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific after quarantine requirements prevented her from travelling to last year’s edition.

The West Australian finished in a tie for eighth at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April and she has already tasted the game’s biggest stage at the 2021 AIG Women’s Open where she came through Final Qualifying.

Nevertheless, the incentives on offer this week remain highly sought after by Rudgeley.

“I have heard so many good things about the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship and how the girls have enjoyed their previous experiences,” she said. “I am excited to finally become a part of it this year.

“I know what is on offer to the WAAP champion. It was incredible to play and be in the mix at the ANWA this year and playing at the AIG Women’s Open last year was just a whole other level. Having had a taste of major championship golf, I know that is where I want to be. Winning WAAP would be a huge boost to getting back there.”

Rudgeley and Bennett’s international travels this year also included representing Australia at the World Amateur Teams Championship in Paris in August, and their teammate from that trip Maddison Hinson-Tolchard will again be joining them this week.

Hinson-Tolchard is based at Oklahoma State University and boasts a victory this year at collegiate level. The West Australian is a consistent performer and she impressed at the US Women’s Amateur by making the Round of 16.

Caitlin Peirce will also don Australian colours as she continues her stellar 12 months.

The South Australian earned a Karrie Webb scholarship, alongside Rudgeley, for her three-win season last summer and she added another victory at her home state’s amateur championship in September.

Peirce has already taken her game overseas this year too with a trip to the United States, to spend time with Webb at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship as part of the scholarship program, and her first time representing Australia internationally at the Queen Sirikit Cup in Singapore.

Golf Australia Women’s Order of Merit winner Justice Bosio has only recently graduated from the junior ranks but has proven herself both home and away.

Bosio won the Keperra Bowl in her home state of Queensland last month to capture Order of Merit honours, while earlier in the year the 18-year-old made the quarter-finals of the US Girls’ Junior Championship.

The youngest member of the Australian contingent is 15-year-old Queensland sensation Sarah Hammett.

Hammett won Golf Australia’s Girls’ Order of Merit title for her dominant four-win junior season, as well as winning the NSW Amateur, and she announced herself against the professionals with top-ten finishes at the Australian Women’s Classic Bonville and the Women’s NSW Open during the Ladies European Tour’s Australian swing.

TV schedule

Live 4pm-8pm AEDT on Fox Sports 507 on Thursday and Friday. Live 5.30pm-7pm AEDT on Fox Sports 505 on Saturday. Live 5pm-7pm AEDT on Fox Sports 505 on Sunday.

Round 1 tee times AEDT

11.00am Maddison Hinson-Tolchard, Pimpisa Rubrong (Thailand), Ayaka Tezua (Japan)

11.11am Caitlin Peirce, Minsol Kim (Republic of Korea), Rianne Mikhaela Malixi (Philippines)

11.16am* Kelsey Bennett, Jiyoo Lim (Republic of Korea), Mizuki Hashimoto (Japan)

11.22am Justice Bosio, Jeong Hyun Lee (Republic of Korea), Lei Ye (China)

11.38am* Sarah Hammett, Liyanna Durisic (Malaysia), Zixin Ni (China)

3.11pm Kirsten Rudgeley, Saki Baba (Japan), Natthakritta Vongtaveelap (Thailand)

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