Australia’s best amateur players are in Scotland honing their games as the prestigious British amateur championship looms up.
After Lucas Herbert’s fourth place in the Scottish strokeplay title last weekend, a cluster of national and state squad members are competing in the St Andrews Links Trophy at the fabled St Andrews this week. The amateur championship is to be played at Carnoustie and Panmure links later this month.
Australia’s squad has swelled to 13 players, more than usual, and according to Golf Australia’s high performance director Brad James, it is exciting and invaluable for the players.
“It (the European swing) is becoming more popular,’’ said James, who joins the group later this week. “It’s something we are certainly encouraging our players to go to. We actually prefer that they go there to Europe or to Asia first. We want them to spend more time in those continents because it’s harder.
“The golf’s different, the food’s different, the hotels aren’t as plush as they might be in America, everything’s that little bit harder. It’s good for them to emotionally develop in that situation where it’s harder. It develops a certain resilience and they need that, because travel is hard as a professional golfer.’’
The Australians will be on the road for at least four weeks, with many of them travelling to America after the British amateur to compete in the US amateur and other tournaments, as well as the annual Golf Australia camp in Houston, Texas.
But for now, their focus is on European events. Only two Australians, Bryden Macpherson in 2011 and Doug Bachli in 1954, have won the amateur title, although Jin Jeong won it the previous year to Macpherson while living in Australia but playing under the South Korean flag.
According to James, this is no mere coincidence. He says Australian players often struggle to adapt to the nuances of links golf. “Europe is always a great one emotionally in terms of how they develop,’’ he said. “Today they went from the Scottish strokeplay and they had to catch a bus and a train down to St Andrews. We want them to do it themselves.
“In the past our kids have struggled there. Our golf courses are not as quirky here, our guys are more mature now. They’re more aware of that course management aspect, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do. The kids are more educated, that’s what I’m anticipating. Their golf IQ is a lot better because the education is a lot better. So I’m hoping to see some good things.’’
For Ryan Ruffels, the reigning Australian junior champion, he has a place in the French Open on the European Tour and is hopeful of an invitation to play in the Scottish Open. Ruffels also is into the final qualifying for the Open Championship, with three spots on offer.
According to James, it is an essential part of the amateur golfer’s education. “They’re playing famous golf courses under extreme conditions, and off the course, life is generally a bit tougher than it is when they travel in the US. You have to deal with those aspects and these are the traits they have to develop.’’
Lucas Herbert (Vic), Brett Coletta (Vic), Ben Eccles (Vic), DJ Loypur (Vic), Andrew Schoneville (Vic), Kiran Day (WA), Daniel Gale (NSW), Antonio Murdaca (SA), Zac Murray (Vic), Cameron Davis (NSW), Harrison Endycott (NSW), Ryan Ruffels (Vic), Taylor MacDonald (Queensland).
St Andrews Links Trophy 5-7 June, Old Course and Jubilee course, St Andrews.
British Amateur Championship, 15-20 June, Carnoustie and Panmure links.