Date: February 05, 2019
Author: Martin Blake

The amateur: Micheluzzi aims high at #VicOpen

David Micheluzzi had a break at the end of 2018, a year in which he exploded to prominence as the Victorian No.1 at an interstate amateur series where he went unbeaten, won the Victorian Amateur and the Master of the Amateurs and was runner-up in the Australian Amateur.

Then there was the Emirates Australian Open at The Lakes where he finished in the top five, followed by January’s Australian Amateur strokeplay, where he broke the scoring record with 16-under par in two rounds.

He is No. 5 in the world on the amateur rankings and it was plain that a long professional career awaits him. But back at home in Melbourne’s southern suburbs, he took his clubs out with his mates and just played some golf for fun, heading back to his original club, Cranbourne.

He needed to catch his breath. “It’s been awesome, just to chill out and play golf instead of worrying about numbers and score,’’ he said today.

But Micheluzzi, one of the best young talents to come out of the elite amateur systems in some time, is back on the horse and riding hard as he prepares for his fourth start in an ISPS Handa Vic Open. Last year he finished 33rd, the first time he had made the cut. This year at 22, he is a more-rounded player on the border of turning professional.

Micheluzzi, who plays out of the Victorian Institute of Sport, has switched from a draw to a fade as his preferred tee shot in the search for better control, a decision he took late last year. He’s more than aware that some of the game’s greatest (namely Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods) preferred a fade.

“I’m hitting it shorter,’’ he said. “I’ve given up maybe 10 or 15 metres. don’t swing as hard, I hit little fades off the tee. On my day I might feel good enough to hit draws, but it’s mostly fades.’’

The reasons are simple. He wants to be more competitive over four rounds. “These guys are so good, no matter what tour you’re on, that you’ve got to put good numbers on the board and all of them hit it so solid off the tee. That was the down part of my game. I need to get it more in play and give myself good birdie opportunities.”

Micheluzzi is planning to turn professional later this year, after he goes overseas to compete in the British Amateur and United States Amateur. He’s taken his time with the switch, quite intentionally. “After school when I first got into the VIS I looked at it as an apprenticeship,” he said. “You’re basically an apprentice for four or five years, and I’ve kind of treated it like that.

“As an amateur I’m not worrying about making cuts, paying the bills, although you’ve still got to play good as an amateur to get the starts in these events. I’ve felt like I did it the best way I could. It’s probably not what the other boys would think was best for them, but I just thought ‘it’s better later than earlier’.’’

Micheluzzi is one of a string of top amateurs in the men’s field this week, including Conor Purcell, the Irishman who won the Australian Amateur last month at Woodlands, and Andre Lautee, who won the Victorian amateur at Huntingdale.

“It’s just another four rounds of golf,” said Micheluzzi. “Whether it’s at Cranbourne or the Vic Open, that’s what it is. I know it’s different, but that’s how I want to treat it.”