Date: August 26, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Our six-pack of Masters aspirants

Meet the young men who are one successful week from teeing up at The Masters.

Golf Australia high performance director Brad James today announced a six-strong Australian contingent to compete in October’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

Our top six in the world amateur rankings – Ryan Ruffels (No.9), Lucas Herbert (38), Cameron Davis (55), Antonio Murdaca (62), Jarryd Felton (58) and Travis Smyth (107) – are automatically selected to head to Hong Kong knowing a victory at the region’s chief amateur event will guarantee them a start at Augusta National next April.

Murdaca, of Adelaide, whose victory in this event at Royal Melbourne last year opened up myriad doors, said he could barely wait to try to emulate Hideki Matsuyama as the tournament’s only back-to-back winners.

“Obviously to get a start at the Masters was enormous, but it enabled me to get starts at several other professional events – the Qatar Masters, Thailand Championship, the Australian Open and Australian Masters,” Murdaca said.

“The experience you get around those events is huge and … the most important thing is that it exposes you to how the pros play and you realise that their games aren’t too far away from ours as amateurs.

“But until you get to see that, you don’t fully realise it.
“And I’ll never forget the opportunity I had at The Masters – a real eye-opener to see that and to get to meet a few major winners at Augusta was incredible.”

James said he was confident the Australian squad would acquit itself well at the Clearwater Bay Golf and Country Club.

He also spoke of the magnitude of the prizes on offer, particularly The Masters’ start, but also that the winner and runner-up gain entry into an event that is part of the Open Qualifying Series to compete in The Open at Royal Troon in 2016.

“The Asia Pacific Amateur offers an incredible opportunity to compete in a major championship,” James said.

“Aside from the prestige of just heading to Augusta National, to test your game against the best athletes on the No.1 course in the world is such a privileged opportunity – especially as an amateur.

“Antonio has had a year he will never forget with a number of competition doors opening outside of the Masters at the professional level.

“This experience is second to none and a development priority we look at every year as a major goal.”

The Australian team will be led during the October 1-4 tournament by Golf Australia national coaches Marty Joyce and Paul Skinner.