Date: August 24, 2008

Return of the world-beaters

As the northern hemisphere summer draws to an end, so to do the trips of many of our elite amateur players who have been in the US & UK playing some of the world s most prestigious amateur tournaments. It has been a very successful trip for the contingent of Australian players, highlighted by four victories by Rohan Blizard, Matthew Griffin, Kristie Smith and Stacey Keating. It began way back in April for Tim Stewart and Rohan Blizard who were selected to represent the Rest of the World at the Bonallack Trophy in Spain. The result wasn t what they were after but it was certainly an honour to be selected in this team. After a disappointing Lytham Trophy, Rohan and Tim met up with fellow AIS Squad member Scott Arnold to play a number of events in the UK. At the Brabazon Trophy Scott Arnold shot even par over 3 rounds to finish 42nd with Tim a few shots further back on +3. From there the trio went to the Scottish Stroke Play with Rohan shooting 5 over in tough conditions to finish 8th. Scott and Rohan had a solid tournament at the St Andrew s Links finishing tied 20th whilst at the British Amateur Scott and Tim qualified for the Match Play but both were knocked out by the 2nd round. Scott and Tim departed for the US after the British Amateur but Rohan remained behind and this proved to be a great decision. He won the East of Scotland Amateur and then qualified for The Open Championship at final qualifying. He had rounds of 78 and 77 meaning he missed the cut but it was an amazing experience and a great achievement to be in the field. While Rohan, Scott and Tim were playing in the UK, across the Atlantic a number of other Australians were competing against the best US based amateurs, as well as a number from around the world. It started at the Sunnehanna Amateur in Pennsylvania where four Australian teed it up. Michael Foster lead the field after the first round with a great 66 and continued his good form to finish 11th. From Sunnehanna it was off to New York State for the Monroe Invitational where Ray Beaufils put four good rounds together to finish in 11th with Michael Foster again having a good week in 14th with Grant Scott. Their travelling companions, Brett Rankin and Justin Roach finished a little further down the leaderboard. The Dogwood Invitational in Atlanta was the first event for a number of other Australians meaning the field contained ten in total. Tim Stewart came to grips with the US quickly with a 63 to lead after the first day. Matthew Giles, from NSW who is currently studying at USC was the best finished Australian in 12th, with Matt Griffin, Matt Jager and Josh Younger all finishing inside the top 25. A group of our younger players decided to play the Sahalee Players Championship in Washington State, with Matthew Giles, Matt Jager, Daniel Nisbet and Jason Scrivener, who all played the 2007 Toyota World Junior together, in the field. It was a great tournament for them with Giles finishing 2nd at 4 under and Jager 4th at 2 under. The Rice Planters Amateur, played at Snee Farm GC in South Carolina was the next port of call and has been a happy hunting ground for Australians with Michael Foster defeated Josh Younger in a play off in 2007. Matt Griffin made it two years in a row for the Aussies with a fantastic winning score of 17 under to win by 1 shot. Josh Younger finished a shot further back and was left ruing a slow start as he shot 13 under for the 3rd and 4th rounds. The victory was great reward for Matt who left for the US full of confidence after wins at Mandurah and Keperra. Ray Beaufils and Michael Foster also finished the event under par. The players remained in South Carolina for the prestigious Players Amateur with 13 Australians in the field. Low scoring was predicted and was certainly prevalent with 38 players finishing under par. Matt Jager shot rounds of 67, 66, 64 & 66 to finish in 2nd position. A final round 60 by American Mark Anderson thwarted Matt s hopes of victory. Josh Younger and Matt Griffin continued their US form finishing in a tie for 3rd at 14 under with Jason Scrivener a few shots back in 8th. In all 11 of the 13 Australians made the cut. The Southern Amateur, played at the famous Lake Nona Course in Florida was the next port of call for our players. Seven Aussies were part of the field of 156 with Tim Stewart and Matt Jager continuing their solid form both finishing in the top 10. The Porter Cup in Niagara Falls was played by some of the Australians with Matt Griffin the best of them in 13th position. Scott Arnold and Tim Stewart were the next best Australians at a tournament played in rain for the entire week. The Western Amateur was the final event of a long tour for our male players. It is an event consisting of 72 holes Stroke Play followed by Match Play for the top 16 qualifiers. Matt Griffin and Jason Scrivener played all 72 holes, but both missed out on the Match Play. The event was won by New Zealand s Danny Lee, a regular in our local events and winner of this year s Lake Macquarie Amateur. While the Australian men were battling it out in the US, so to were a few young Australian women. Kristie Smith travelled to the UK to play the British Amateur and qualified for the Match Play in 14th spot. Despite being under par in atrocious conditions at the end of her match she lost on the 18th hole. Kristie headed to the US after the British Amateur where she joined up with fellow AIS Squad members Stephanie Na and Stacey Keating. Stephanie and Stacey began their trip at the Western Amateur in Atlanta where they both qualified for the Match Play component of the event. Unfortunately Steph was knocked out in the first round but Stacey managed to make it through to the second round where she was beaten by the top seed. The 3 girls then went their separate ways and attempted to qualify for the US Amateur. Stacey and Stephanie made it through qualifying (Stacey won her sectional), but Kristie missed out. Whitney Hillier, another AIS Squad member joined them in attempting to qualify but unfortunately missed as well. Whitney was coming off the US Girls Amateur where she won her sectional qualifying but unfortunately missed the Match Play rounds by 1 stroke. Whitney also played in the World Junior in San Diego where she finished in the top 30. Joining Whitney in San Diego in the Boy s World Junior were Daniel Nisbet and Bryden MacPherson. Both players finished in the top 20 with Daniel one of only two players under par for the event. He finished 2nd by a single shot. Bryden made his way to the US Boy s Amateur but unfortunately didn t make the Match Play rounds. This international experience is invaluable for our young players and will hold them in good stead as they return to Australia for the resumption of the domestic events. Stacey played the Colorado Strokeplay where she had rounds of 74, 67 & 74 to finish in 3rd place and give her a nice confidence boost for the Canadian and US Amateurs. Stephanie, Kristie and Stacey came together again in Minnesota for the chance of a lifetime. They were guests of Karrie Webb at the Women’s US Open. They were given VIP treatment, spent time with Karrie throughout the event and met numerous LPGA Tour players. The opportunity to speak with players experiencing what they hope to in the future was not lost on them and the experience they had will remain with them forever. The three girls headed to the famed Pinehurst in North Carolina for the North and South Amateur played on Pinehurst #2 and #8. Kristie qualified in 3rd position after the qualifying rounds, while Stacey and Steph finished in a tie for 15th and safely made it to the Match Play rounds. All three girls made it through the first round of Match Play, but Stephanie unfortunately bowed out in the 2nd round. Stacey and Kristie continued on to the 3rd round where Stacey was beaten in a match that went to the 20th hole. Kristie was left to fly the flag and that she did. She made it through the quarters and semis with 3&2 victories followed by an 8&7 win in the final. She celebrated her victory by announcing she was turning Professional. This was certainly a great way to cap a great amateur career. Stacey and Stephanie made the trek to Winnipeg for the Canadian Amateur. Played over four rounds in testing conditions Stacey made her way towards the top f the leaderboard as each round passed. In a tie for the lead at -1 through three rounds she shot a closing round 70 to win the event. She was the only player under par outlining her dominance. The win gave her an exemption into the Canadian Open, an LPGA event, where she would again meet up with Karrie Webb. Stephanie had in indifferent tournament but had the opportunity to rectify that result immediately at the US Women’s Amateur. In a reversal of form Stacey missed the Match Play rounds whilst Steph was the equal medallist with US sensation Amanda Blumenhurst. Steph also won the medal at the Australian Stroke Play in 2008 an enviable record. As the number 1 seed Steph had all the pressure on her but made it through some tough early matches. She was eventually beaten in the quarter finals by runner up Azahara Munoz of Spain who has been selected for Spain at the World Amateur Teams Championship. Stacey travelled to Ottawa to play her first LPGA event courtesy of her win in the Canadian Amateur. She was joined by her coach and played a practice round with Karrie Webb who she spent a week with at the US Open. Unfortunately the event didn t go to plan with her missing the cut with rounds of 80 & 78, but the experience will undoubtedly be a highlight of her trip and something she will take a lot from. All the Australians have now returned home from what was a very successful overseas summer. International experience is invaluable for our players as it gives them an idea of where they sit in the wider scheme of things.