The ever-closing gap between elite open-age golf and junior ranks will be demonstrated again in April.
Entries are now open for the Australian Junior Championships in Adelaide, capping a summer that has again showcased just how small the leap from our top youngsters to the world’s best has become.
And ramming home the proximity to greatness, there’s a place in the Australian Open field up for grabs for winners of both boys’ and girls’ divisions.
Defending boys’ champ Ryan Ruffels is the prime example, taking his prize of entry into the Emirates
Australian Open all the way to practice rounds with world No.1 Rory McIlroy at The Australian Golf Club.
Ruffels, at 16, still has two years of eligibility at the junior level.
But as a member of the increasingly high-profile Golf Australia national squad, has watched his young teammates thrive at all levels of competition and knows how important the junior championship can be.
“This is where I really started to get my (world amateur) ranking going into the top 100,” the 2014 Riversdale Cup champion said.
“Not only does it give you entry to the Open, but that ranking is important and it also gives you exposure to great competition and a lot of good players.”
The pathway from the national junior titles to golf stardom is also well trodden with past winners including Adam Scott, Jason Day, Wendy Doolan and Jan Stephenson.
“Obviously there’s a step up to pro tournaments, but you realise that if you can avoid being starstruck that the difference between the levels isn’t as big as you think,” Ruffels said.
The Melbourne teen will defend his boys’ title, while Sydney’s Shelly Shin will be a favourite along with Perth’s Hannah Green and the host city’s great hope, Jenny Lee, in the girls’ division.
The events will be played simultaneously from April 8-10, with boys at Kooyonga and girls at Tea Tree Gully.
The handicap limit for boys is 4.0 and for girls is 15.0.