Date: August 27, 2019
Author: Justin Falconer

Aussie six earn major chance in China

Four rising stars will don the Golf Australia colours for the first time alongside two of our most experienced amateurs at next month’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

This year’s Australian Amateur runner-up Nathan Barbieri, South Australian Jack Thompson, 2018 Youth Olympian Karl Vilips and Shepparton’s Kyle Michel have all earned selection for the trip to Sheshan International Golf Club from September 26.

The six-strong team will be led by experienced duo Dave Micheluzzi and Blake Windred who both made their AAC debuts last year.

Victorian Micheluzzi currently sits at No.4 in the world rankings, just two places shy of defending champion Takumi Kanaya of Japan.

Windred has soared to a career-best world ranking of No.10, meaning Australia will enter one of the most important amateur events on the calendar with two of the top three hopes.

The spoils of victory are priceless for the champion, with spots in the 2020 Masters and The 149th Open at Royal St George’s up for grabs.

Micheluzzi held the first round lead in Singapore in 2018 following an opening 64 and came within three shots of Kanumi early in the final round before fading late.

The 23-year-old was brilliant in reaching the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship in June before going down to the eventual champion.

Windred’s form since Singapore last year is also proof of his rapid rise in the amateur game, having notched eight top 15s in the last 12 months, three of those coming in professional tournaments.

World No.50 Vilips has also turned heads in recent months, the US-based 18-year-old racking up back-to-back top 10s at the Pacific Coast Amateur and Western Amateur before reaching the quarter finals at the US Amateur at Pinehurst.

At No.90, Thompson is Australia’s fourth player in the top 100 on the world rankings but has previously peaked at a high of 31st. The 21-year-old will be the first South Australian to tee it up at the AAC since Antonio Murdaca in 2015.

Now at No.113 in the world, Michel has been a key figure on the Victorian men’s state team that has claimed the Interstate Series three years running.

And World No.131 Barbieri put his name up in lights at Woodlands in January, narrowly going down in an epic 37-hole final at the Australian Amateur.

He backed that up with another runner-up finish at the NSW Amateur the following week.

All six Australians will be desperate to become our third winner of this event on the back of Murdaca’s 2014 triumph and Curtis Luck’s win in 2016.

Japan and China have each won three AAC crowns, with Australia and South Korea splitting the remaining four.

The hosts will field an imposing team of 10 in 2019, led by 2017 champion Lin Yuxin.

For Japan, Kanaya will be hoping to replicate countryman Hideki Matsuyama’s back-to-back wins in 2010 & 2011.

Last year’s runner-up and the 2018 Australian Amateur champion Keita Nakajima also returns in 2019 as one of Japan's hot favourites.