27 Apr 2022 | Professional golf |
Hayden hopes to prove a point with WA Open defence
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
Rising amateur Hayden Hopewell hopes to remove the asterisk from his 2020 WA Open triumph by staging a successful defence this week at Royal Fremantle Golf Club.
Twelve of the top 20 on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit will tee it up in Thursday’s opening round of the 2021 Nexus Advisernet WA Open, a far cry from the fields that have contested the two most recent state opens in Western Australia.
Not since Zach Murray’s victory as an amateur in 2018 has the WA Open featured as an Order of Merit event on the PGA Tour of Australasia schedule but one of Australian golf’s most celebrated state opens comes out of COVID-19 with a stellar collection of players.
It has been 18 months since Hopewell edged Haydn Barron by a shot at his home course of Royal Fremantle, a championship played with only WA-based players due to COVID border restrictions.
Runner-up to Michael Sim in 2019 at Cottesloe, Hopewell knows a Freo repeat would erase any doubt about his victory in 2020.
“Obviously the field wasn’t as strong as it’s going to be this week,” Hopewell concedes.
“I’ll give it a good crack. Winning in 2020, because of COVID and stuff, obviously a win this week would topple that.
“It would be great to make a few people proud by winning again.”
It would also provide food for thought for a 20-year-old eyeing off a progression to the pro ranks.
Currently third in the Future Tour Affiliation standings for amateurs participating in PGA Tour of Australasia events, Hopewell remains in contention to earn a Tournament Exemption Category for the 2022/2023 season.
But he is adamant there is more he wants to achieve as an amateur before making the move, starting with a month in unfamiliar territory.
“There are a few goals I have in mind and one of them is to play as many pro events as I can and compete like I have been,” said Hopewell, who was tied for second behind Hannah Green at TPS Murray River and tied for ninth at TPS Sydney.
“I’ve actually been scaring a few titles which is nice but there are a few places I haven’t travelled to yet which I will be travelling to this year to get a feel for a few other different countries.
“I’ve only really been to the US a couple of times, Japan and Dubai but heading to the UK this year to play the St Andrews Links Trophy, British Amateur and European Amateur.
“I wanted to give myself two or three cracks at the Asia-Pacific (Amateur Championship) and US Amateur and a chance of getting a win because obviously if you win those a few doors open for you.”
First invited to join Royal Fremantle by Min Woo Lee almost a decade ago, Hopewell has the added advantage this week of staying in the family home just five minutes from the course.
With older sister Ariel once again on the bag and a Royal Fremantle membership at his back, the latest from the Ritchie Smith stable is ready to make full use of home course advantage.
“I know this course like the back of my hand. Always feel comfortable around here and with the home crowd it should be even better,” added Hopewell, a member at Royal Fremantle since 2013.
“From what I’ve heard, people think it’s pretty tight but I play here a lot and I don’t really feel like it’s tight.
“Around the greens if you can keep your up-and-down game pretty strong you’ll be in a good position come Sunday.
“If my name gets up the leaderboard there’ll be even more people watching me play which always spurs me on.
“With my sister on the bag I think we’ll make a good, strong team out here.”
The Nexus Advisernet WA Open starts on Thursday at 7.10am AWST at Royal Fremantle Golf Club. Entry is free for spectators all four days.
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