Lake Macquarie Amateur: Rich in History
BY Anthony Powter | Australian Mens Amateur Tour | 2009 Lake Macquarie Amateur | Preview | 19 Jan 2009
Local members of Belmont Golf Club remain proud of running the Lake Macquaire Amateur, an event the Club has hosted since 1958. A perusal of the winners honour roll is a time trip in Australian amateur history in itself, revealing the early successes and the launching pad for many of our best professionals.
The list of former winners is impressive and many are currently playing on the Japanese, European or USPGA Tours. It includes the likes of Peter O’Malley (1986), Stephen Leaney (1992), Geoff Ogilvy (1997), Brett Rumford (1998), Nick Dougherty (2001), Chris Campbell (2002), Jarrod Lyle (2003-4), Marc Leishman (2005) and more recently, Danny Lee (2008).
Lee, the current world number one amateur is not returning to Belmont to defend his title, having accepted numerous sponsors invitations on the European and Asian Tours, a schedule that will probably see Lee playing professional events right up The US Masters in April. In another blow to tournament organisers a number of top ranked Victorian amateurs, including the last winner of a National Selection Trial event at the Dunes Medal, Bryden Macpherson, and Victorian state team member, Ashely Umbers are not attending. Both have elected to prepare for the Victorian Open instead of playing Belmont.
The absence of Lee and others, in particular the lack of a strong American contingent like world number two Rickie Fowler who played in last week’s NEC Masters of the Amateurs, will have a sobering impact on this year’s Lake Macquarie Amateur and unfortunately the tournament continues to slide to currently sit 47th on the R&A tournament ranking.
It’s an issue that has to be worrying tournament organisers as they figure out a way to resurrect an event that ifs so rich in history.
There are no players inside the world’s top 10 competing this year and Western Australia’s Matt Jager is the only player from inside the world’s top 20. Scott Arnold ranked 22nd, is scheduled to play but is yet to return from the recent Asian Q-School Finals.
One positive for the event is that this year’s line up includes a number of emerging Australian young guns, all capable of winning the title and who represent the “next wave” of Australian amateur golfing talent after the recent departure of Tim Stewart, Matt Griffin, Rohan Blizard and others to the professional ranks.
Daniel Nisbet, the 2008 Australian Amateur Junior and dual Queensland Junior champion, will be worth following. Nisbet recently moved from Queensland to be based at the Victoria Golf Club in Melbourne after gaining and AIS scholarship. A tied 7th finish last week at the NEC Master of the Amateurs against one of the strongest amateur fields for some time in Australia, has the 19-year-old ready for the first National Trial event for the season.
Daniel Beckmann was another who had a strong showing at last week’s NEC Master of the Amateurs and will be looking to add another National Selection Trial title to his list of achievements after winning the 2007 Federal Amateur. Beckmann played superb golf around his home course at Yarra Yarra and starts this week with plenty of confidence and a game to serious challenge the field.
Jason Scrivener is coming off an extended break and competes like many others at Belmont in his first main amateur event for 2008. Last season Scrivener recorded five top-five finishes in National Trial Events and has the game and experience to burst the bubble and collect his first major title at this level.
Ryan McCarthy is another emerging player who only last week came within a stroke of making a three-way play-off at the Asia-Pacific Open Amateur Golf Championship in Mission Hills, China. The 19-year-old was recently elevated to the National Squad last November and the Tasmanian Amateur Champion goes into his first Lake Macquaire Amateur with his confidence also on a high.
The internationals attending include players from Wales, Scotland, England, France and Switzerland with the New Zealanders sending an exceptionally strong team headed by +3 marker, Nick Gillespie, who made the match-play segment at last year’s Australian Amateur at Royal Adelaide.
The New Zealanders will be seeking back to back victories after Danny Lee’s 20-under-par ten stroke walk away win over Matt Griffin in last year’s event. Gillespie is supported by Daniel Pearce, Jason Mann, Aaron Leech, and James Hamilton, all plus or better markers.
Scotland’s Gordan Yates is a name to follow this week after narrowly missing in a play-off at the Asia-Pacific Open Amateur Golf Championship last week. The Scottish have sent a relatively young yet talented team, including Fraser Fotheringham, who was runner-up in the 2007 British Boys Amateur.
At Belmont the scores are either low or blown out when the conditions deteriorate. A course of this nature should favour the Scottish particularly if the wind blows.
Past results indicate the winner will need to shoot anything between 16-20 under par with the open and by modern standards relatively short layout at Belmont falling victim to easy scoring when conditions are benign. Last year Danny Lee simply pulverised the 6087 metre course by using driver on most holes and leaving nothing more than a wedge in. In some respect the course under those conditions offers little challenge to these elite players.
Classic tournament finishes are common at Belmont, no more so than in 2006 in a year when fifteen of the top thirty world amateurs came to Belmont. That year Jason Day shot a course record 63 in the final round to force extra holes, followed by a sudden death playoff against Englishman Adam Gee after both Day and Gee finished the tournament at 15 under-par. The Englishman eventually won, whilst Day went onto turn professional and play the US PGA Tour.