13 Jan 2023 | Amateur golf |

Indigenous champs eager for more #AusAm appearances

by Dane Heverin

Michael Bell and Skye Lampton in action at the Australian Amateur.
Michael Bell and Skye Lampton in action at the Australian Amateur.

“I’m definitely coming back next year.”

Skye Lampton is hungry for more after her first taste of the Australian Amateur at New South Wales and St Michael’s golf clubs on Dharawal land in Sydney this week.

“It was great. I couldn’t have asked for a better group. The girls were lovely and the golf courses at New South Wales and St Michael’s were great,” she said. 

“It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

The 27-year-old Dagoman, Wardaman and Gurindji woman earned her debut alongside the nation’s, and some of the world’s, best amateur golfers by claiming victory at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Championship in November.

Her men’s counterpart from that week at The Vines Resort on Whadjuk land in Perth’s Swan Valley, Michael Bell, also gained a shot at national glory courtesy of his win.

For the 34-year-old Wiradjuri man, it was a welcome return to both elite level competition and his former club. 

“The week was good. I didn’t play as well as I’d hoped but it’s been a little while since I played at New South Wales,” he said. 

“I played there (in the Australian Amateur) when I was a member there back in 2007. Back when most of the competitors were probably four or five years old.”

Bell missed the cut in shooting rounds of 80 and 76, but competing once again gave the Aboriginal social worker the itch to try to find some more time for golf amongst a busy home and work schedule.

“If I can try and get myself back into the groove of playing more bigger events, that’d be something I’d love to do again,” he said.

“I just play Saturday comp really. I work full time and I’m married with three kids so I don’t have much time to practice or play too often.

“The main reason I competed was because it’s close to home. It’s an hour drive and I used to play at New South Wales so I thought it would be good to go back to the old stomping ground and see how I go. It’s beautiful. It doesn’t matter how many times you play there, you get on that fifth hole and go ‘wow’.”

The breathtaking scenery of the host venue was also a standout for Lampton, who grew up in Katherine but now calls Darwin home, but she quickly had to learn about dealing with the elements that come with those remarkable views.

“It was howling on the holes at New South Wales that are right on the coast and I didn’t know what to do during the practice round,” she said. 

“I saw the girls pull out a 6-iron and we were only like 130m out and I was like ‘why would they pick that?’. Then they ended up short of the green and I thought ‘this is crazy, I better go up a few clubs’.”

The week was full of lessons on the course for Lampton as she shot rounds of 95 and 84 to miss the cut, but she also had to figure out how to best navigate the very different atmosphere of a highly-acclaimed golf club.

“The Darwin Golf Club, and any golf club in the NT, is very laid back, low maintenance,” she said. 

“There are golf clubs in Darwin where you could just rock up in thongs, a singlet and shorts. Here it’s all fancy and prestigious. It’s a bit intimidating.”

Lampton became so conscious of how she was conducting herself in that environment that she even ensured that she was keeping her infectious laugh in check.

“I have a really obnoxious laugh so I tried to contain that. It’s loud and interrupts everybody,” she said with a laugh. 

“I looked around first (to make sure no one was putting or playing their shot) and then I laughed.”

Her concerns about fitting in at a reputable golf club were also felt at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Championships last year.

“That was an eye opener as well. It was a huge resort. Two courses, a hair salon out the back, pools. I felt out of place,” she said.

“You’re going into the unknown but as soon as you start talking to somebody they’re always so helpful.”

Despite facing those challenges, Lampton is not letting them curb her enthusiasm for the game or dull her ambitions for her career in the amateur ranks.

“I’m already planning on trying to get so much better this year," she said.

"I have a couple of cousins in Sydney so I’m going to try and travel a little more so I can play different courses. Darwin is very forgiving. There are hardly any trees. There are no steep inclines you have to climb up and there are hardly any bunkers. It’s just flat and straight. It gets windy but it’s not like here.

“I’m planning to get down to scratch by June and I’ll see if I can get to plus by the end of the year."

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