A big and powerful contingent of 12 Australians will step out in the British Amateur Championships at Carnoustie and Panmure golf clubs in Scotland beginning tonight.
World amateur No. 14 Ryan Ruffels, the Australian junior champion, heads the group of Australians trying to win the prestigious title that dates to 1885.
Ruffels and Lucas Herbert (ranked 20th), both members of Golf Australia’s elite amateur squad, are the top two ranked Australians, but the group also includes the Australian amateur champion Cameron Davis and Antonio Murdaca, winner of last year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Melbourne.
The field is almost two-thirds foreign players, with five of the world’s top 20: Ruffels, two-time European Amateur champion Ashley Chesters of England, 2015 Lytham Trophy winner Marcus Kinhult of Sweden, Austin Connelly of Canada and Mario Galiano of Spain.
They will compete over 36 holes of strokeplay – one round at each of the two courses – with the top 64 then progressing to the matchplay section.
Bryden Macpherson is the most recent Australian to win the British Amateur in 2011.
The winner is given a start in the Open Championship of the same year, as well as the following year’s Masters tournament and United States Open.
Brad James, head of high performance at Golf Australia, is optimistic. “You have to be with the squad we’ve got,’’ he said today. “But at the same time there are so many variables with links golf. There’s luck involved with tee times, there’s the draw and that kind of thing. But you want them to experience those things for their long-term development.’’
James believes that while Australians can practise a form of links golf on some of their home course, particularly in the Melbourne sandbelt, the golf that is played on the Scottish links remains much different.
That is why the Australian squad played in the St Andrew Links Trophy at St Andrew recently, as well as the Scottish amateur championships.
“You hope that they begin to understand how to play this kind of golf, but even if they understand it, this is about putting in play under pressure,’’ said James. “You tend to fall back on your default, and maybe that’s a high shot at the pin which is not necessarily the right play. It’s just so different to anything they’ve ever played.’’