Jager, Campbell in Aussie Amateur Final
BY Anthony Powter | Australian Mens Amateur Tour | 2010 Australian Amateur Championship | Semi-Finals | 23 Mar 2010
Matt Jager and New Zealand’s Ben Campbell are set to contest tomorrow’s final of the Australian Amateur Championship in Perth.
Campbell, 18, produced stellar golf to eliminate a number of named Australian players to reach the final. Having qualified last Sunday as the 30th seed after a six-man play-off to make the top-32, Campbell accounted for Luke Bleumink, 3&2, in the 1st round, then Brody Ninyette, 5&4, Kieran Pratt on the 19th in their quarter-final, and fought a titanic battle against Bryden Macpherson late this afternoon to their semi-final to eventually set up his final berth with a 2&1 win.
“My match against Bryden was probably the best match-play encounter that I’ve ever played,” said a relieved Campbell this evening, where between them fifteen birdies were carded for the match.
“I only just go through to the match play at these championships and kind of feel that I’ve had nothing to lose going forward. I’ve played this week really solid and managed to get a bit of a free kick earlier on and progressed from there.”
Campbell has featured strongly in the main Australian amateur events this season with top-10 finishes at The Master of the Amateurs and at the Lake Macquarie Amateur. He was also the top amateur at the Australian Open last December at NSW Golf Club.
“I’ve come off a period of injury and now feel like my game is solid,” he says.
“I’m looking forward for tomorrow’s final with Matt and go into the match knowing that I’m both putting and striking the ball well.”
The two have never been paired against each other in match play, despite competing in main Australasian events over the last two years.
“It promises to be a tough match,” says Jager, who’s moved from 11th to be ranked 6th in the world following his efforts this week in Perth.
“This has been an amazing week for me and I’ve managed to get a lot accomplished. I’m feeling really good and I’m still mentally strong for the final despite all the golf that I’ve played.”
The pathway to the final was anything but easy for Australia’s highest ranked player.
A 3&2 win in the first round over John Yim was to be followed by a tussle with Lincoln Tighe in the second round.
“I was five up at one stage in match and Lincoln then just came back,” said Jager.
Jager would eventually win the match 1-up after having to dig fully into his reserves.
“I’ve been playing the middle of the back nine at Lake Karrinyup really well this week and that’s got me across the line on a number of occasions, particularly in the match against Lincoln.”
A quick 7&5 disposal of one of the up-coming talents in Australian golf, Michael Williams, in his quarter-final match gave Jager the desired breathing space to tackle his semi-final encounter against Taipei’s, Chien-Yao Hung.
“I was fortunate to get my quarter final over relatively quickly and that kept me kind of fresh for this afternoon,” remarked Jager, who played a total of forty holes of golf today after having to finish his second round when play was suspended due to the fierce storm that hit Perth late on Monday.
In his afternoon semi-final Jager found himself behind as Hung jumped out of the blocks quickly and to be 2-up through 9 holes.
“I had to dig deep in the match against Hung, as he was up early. Again it was the middle of the back nine that made the difference when I sunk a late 20 footer for a nice birdie on 15 which got me across the line. That was a tough match and one I was glad to get finished.”
Jager would go onto claim victory with a 1-up win over Hung to set his first appearance in an Australian Amateur Championship final.
Few will argue that the two best players this week have reached the final. Both are worthy finalist.
Jager following winning the Australian Amateur Stroke Championship last Sunday has held his nerve to play brilliantly and passionately.
Campbell quietly went about his business and collected along the way some serious Aussie scalps with Bleumink, Pratt and Macpherson. You simply don’t account for eliminating that talent unless your game is on song. At just 18, we will be reading more about Campbell in the years to come and the US beckons with a possible collegiate move there later in the year.
Jager, as I’ve said before, has no limitations. The progression to the paid ranks is the obvious next step and this could be his last chance to win and Australian Amateur and he’s aware of this.
It sets the stage for a riveting finale in one of the world’s toughest amateur events. Either way, both finalist deserve the title and it’s a shame only one can be crowned the Australian Amateur Champion after tomorrow’s 36-hole match.