03 Mar 2020 | Amateur golf |

Riversdale contenders on a mission

by Mark Hayes

Doey Choi (right) says she's been spurred on by the achievements of her mates such as Steph Kyriacou (left).
Doey Choi (right) says she's been spurred on by the achievements of her mates such as Steph Kyriacou (left).

Great tournaments can often be measured in terms of the storylines they offer – and this week’s Riversdale Cup is no different.

As always, the Riversdale Cup is highly sought as the second oldest 72-hole amateur tournament having first been contested in 1896. It is also the nation’s oldest 72-hole women’s stroke play event having first been played in 1959.

It’s a National Rankings Series event, a Karrie Webb Series event and the progressively concurrent tournament boasts two of the great honour rolls in Australian golf.

But more than that, after a hectic first few weeks of amateur events in 2020, this year’s Riversdale Cup marks the first time in more than a month that the cream of the crop have all been in the one spot.

From various state-based events to some trying their hands in professional events around the country, there hasn’t been a chance to face off properly in that time.

And with selection looming for such key matters as the Karrie Webb Scholarship, Asia Pacific Amateur titles and the biennial World Amateur Teams Championship, the stories are myriad. Arguably, none of that applies to anyone more so than delightful Sydneysider Doey Choi, making her return to Riversdale for the first time in two years.

In the interim, Choi has represented Australia with distinction, won a handful of events including the 2019 New Zealand Amateur, fared particularly well in a couple of key American amateur tournaments and domestic professional events to boot.

But in the past few months, as she dealt with a couple of personal issues that have hampered her “ability to grind like I used to”, Choi has watched on as a couple of her great mates have risen to prominence.

So as Choi takes returns to “one of my favourite events”, it’s with an extra spring in her step, not begrudging anything Grace Kim or Steph Kyriacou have achieved.

“It’s so awesome to see the girls have their success, especially seeing they’re from NSW and we’ve pretty much been a team as much as you can be … for so long,” she said.

“And it’s really good to see our (Golf NSW high performance) program is working and producing some really great golfers, too.

“But it definitely doesn’t put any extra pressure on me … they put in a lot of hard work, and now I’ve got to do my hard work. It just motivates me to go better.

“I just haven’t been able to practise and play as much as I’d like to for personal reasons at home.

“So considering those things, I’m happy with how I’ve played the past couple of weeks … and the results are not really reflecting how I’m actually playing.”

Another factor confronting Choi, and several others in this week’s crack field, is that the World Amateur Golf Ranking system change this year has sent their global standing tumbling down.

“When they had the cut-off, I was around 60th and just missed (an) Augusta National (invitation), but then the new system pushed me back out to around 120,” Choi said.

“I’ve just got to grind and get back into it all and take it from there … I haven’t really thought too much about World Amateur, just playing better to have a chance.”

Choi will be one of 48 elite women in action at Riversdale when action begins on Thursday. Among those she must combat to contend are Kim, WA trio Maddy Hinson-Tolchard, Kirsten Rudgeley and Kathryn Norris and local hopes Steph Bunque and Jeneath Wong.

The men’s side features 121 quality players with New South Welshman Nathan Barbieri, the recently crowned Avondale champion, arguably the favourite.

But with Adelaide’s Jack Thompson, Brisbane’s Jed Morgan and Canberra’s Josh Armstrong all in good form, he’ll have his work cut out in a stellar field.

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