25 Sep 2019 | Amateur golf |
Trio's #TeamAus debuts years in the making
by Golf Australia
- By Justin Falconer
This week in China is more than just a chance at winning a place at the 2020 Masters and The 149th Open for Jack Thompson, Kyle Michel and Nathan Barbieri.
The 2019 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is where the Aussie trio will represent their country for the first time after earning automatic selection as three of our top six-ranked players in the world.
Teammates Dave Micheluzzi, the current World No.4, and Blake Windred, sitting at No.11, teed it up at the AAC in Singapore 12 months ago.
Meanwhile, rising star Karl Vilips took home the gold medal wearing representing the Aussie flag at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Rio.
But for Thompson, Michel and Barbieri, the 11th gathering of Asia’s top male talents marks a significant point in their amateur careers and young lives.
World No.94 Thompson admits to barely playing golf in 2016 and ’17, but a change in attitude and a regained passion for the game has seen him turn his amateur career around in the last 18 months.
“I had a good 2018 and I really wanted to make it something that I could represent Australia,” South Australian Thompson said.
“I’m really proud to represent the colours.”
It was a nervous wait for Victorian Michel, the current World No.108 playing in the United States when the good news came through.
“I was pretty excited, I was watching the world rankings for a little while not knowing at what stage they were going to pick [the team],” Michel said.
“When the news came through… I was pretty happy.”
World No.110 Barbieri put his name up in lights back home last summer, on the back of a blistering run at the Australian Amateur Championship which culminated in a 37th hole defeat in the final.
But the Monash GC member backed it up the very next week by again finishing runner-up at the NSW Amateur, that fortnight of golf leading him to his first start in the green and gold.
“It was really good, pretty surreal to be honest,” Barbieri said of his hot run in January.
“It was a great couple of weeks. I couldn’t get the job done but all we can is try go one better this week hopefully.
“I actually didnt know the team got picked this early, so I was actually worried a bit. Me and Blakey [Collyer] were going back and forth there.
“It’s an absolute honour to represent my country so I can’t wait to get the week going.”
Thompson is the first Australian on course on Thursday morning, the 21-year-old teeing off at 6:45am local time (8:45am AEST) off the 10th tee.
Micheluzzi is in the group behind alongside 2017 AAC champion Lin Yuxin and Indian star Rayhan Thomas.
WA’s Karl Vilips follows Micheluzzi at 7:05 local time, joined by Japanese sensation Keita Nakajima.
Barbieri’s AAC campaign also starts off the 10th, 15 minutes after Vilips.
Newcastle’s World No.11 Windred is in the day’s must-see group, off the 1st at 11:10am local time alongside World No.2 Takumi Kanaya and No.9 Chun An You of Taiwan.
Michel is the last of the six Australians on course on Thursday, teeing off at 11:30am local time off the 1st.
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