Date: January 08, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Aussie Am talent hits new heights

The Australian Amateur Championship has always been coveted – but its reach is expanding rapidly.

The national titles go on the line again next week in Melbourne, but never before has the tournament held such depth or global appeal.

Extraordinarily, the men’s field will have a handicap limit of 0.9 among its 234 starters, while the 78 women will be capped by a 1.9 limit after a deluge of entries were balloted.

And those 312 players have come from all corners of the globe.

The women’s field will feature the national teams of both Japan and powerhouse Korea, while the men’s will showcase four members from each of the national squads of England and Scotland, including world No.22 and 2015 Amateur Championship runner-up Grant Forrest.

Host courses, The Metropolitan and the Kingswood Course of the Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club, have both been turned out in impeccable condition, with the former to host the matchplay phase from Thursday to Sunday next week after the clubs share the strokeplay on Tuesday and Wednesday.

One of the great lures in both men’s and women’s competition is the direct entry to the Emirates Australian Open and ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open fields for the respective winners.

And that, combined with the increased worldwide reputation of the tournament, has Golf Australia championships manager Emily Miller excited about the future of our most prestigious amateur event.

“It has really grown in the past few years and we’d love to see it become the (northern) winter alternative to the Amateur Championship and US Amateur in the future,” Miller said.

“The starts in the Australian Open fields have definitely helped, but it’s just genuinely become a great tournament for players from around the world to come and try to win.

“It’s big enough to attract a lot of great players and teams from around the world now and that also really helps us give top-quality tournament exposure to our rising Australian players, too.

“If you look at how the handicaps (limits) have come down in recent years, you’ll see just how dramatically the quality of the field has improved and this year those figures are the lowest on record, easily.

“We definitely see it as a viable winter alternative for the world’s top amateurs and we’re really confident it will continue to go from strength to strength.”

The top 64 men and top 32 women after two rounds of strokeplay will advance to the knockout matchplay phase from Thursday next week.

A full round of 32 men’s matches and 16 women’s matches will be held on Thursday at Metro, with the men’s field to be cut to 16 with a second round on Friday morning.

From Friday afternoon, the events run concurrently with the round of 16 matches.

The quarter-finals will be played on Saturday morning, the semis on Saturday afternoon and the 36-hole finals will be held on Sunday.