British Amateur returns to Royal Birkdale

BY | European Amateur Tour | 2005 British Amateur Championship | Preview | 24 May 2005
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Royal Birkdale and Southport & Ainsdale will play host to 288 competitors who tee-off on Monday 30 May with the aim of winning the Amateur Championship.

Surprisingly, for a course that has seen eight Open Championships played over its expansive links, this will be only the third Amateur Championship to have been played at Birkdale. The first, in 1946 was won by Irishman James Bruen whom Longhurst described as ’a hugely powerful player’ and the most recent, in 1989, by Steven Dodd of Wales who went on to be a member of the first GB&I Walker Cup team to win on American soil.

Walker Cup selection is again a target for many of the competitors for, with only Nigel Edwards, Michael Skelton, Stuart Wilson and Gary Wolstenholme remaining of the 2003 side, there are at least six places to be filled.

Wolstenholme already has two Amateur titles under his belt and Wilson, the winner last year at St Andrews, must have a second Championship win as his target. If he were to win, he would join the exclusive list of champions who have successfully defended the title and the first since 1978 when Peter McEvoy, now the Chairman of The R&A Selection Committee, won the Championship in successive years.

Blocking the way to that second title are players from 27 countries including many who have already won tournaments this year.

Gary Lockerbie of England won on home soil when he lifted the Lytham Trophy and Scots Richie Ramsay and Lloyd Saltman won the Irish Amateur Stroke Play and the Brabazon Trophy respectively. Two months earlier, Eric Ramsay won the highly rated Australian Amateur title at Royal Melbourne in a field that included many talented young local players, several of whom are playing at Birkdale.

Two of these are Marc Leishman, the Lake Macquarie titleholder and Ashley Hall, the winner of the Tasmanian Open. South Africa has also entered a strong squad of 16 players and in that list are Charl Coetzee, the South African National Champion and winner of the Gauteng North Amateur plus Josh Cunliffe, the winner of the Northern Amateur.

Other recent winners in the field are Netherlands player Joost Luiten, who won the Spanish Amateur at El Saler and Francois Calmels of France, the winner in February of the Portuguese Amateur.

The United States has 13 players in the Championship, led by Trip Kuehne, a Walker Cup player in 1995 and 2003. The last American player to win the Amateur Championship was Jay Sigel in 1979.

Competitors play one round each on Royal Birkdale and Southport & Ainsdale and the top 64 and ties qualify for the match play stage starting on Wednesday 1 June. The 36-hole final will be played on Saturday 4 June.

Australasians in the field include Jamie Arnold, John Ayoub, Nicholas Fry (NZL), Ashley Hall, Tristan Lambert, Marc Leishmann, David Lutterus, Richard Pegg (NZL) and Michael Sim.

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