The Amateur Championship – 2018 Preview, Reports & Results

Saturday 23rd June 2018

Jovan REBULA (RSA) is the 2018 Amateur champion.

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Jovan Rebula (Photo: The R&A / Mark Runnacles / Getty Images)

He is the first South African winner since Bobby Cole in 1966 and can now look forward to playing in the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie Links, the 2019 Masters at Augusta National and the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

He beat Robin DAWSON, 22, (IRE) 3&2 in today’s 36 hole Final at Royal Aberdeen G.C.

Following his win 20 year old Jovan spoke to The R&A: “It’s unreal. It’s really something that is hard to describe. I feel like many have been in this position before but its an unreal feeling. It hasn’t sunk in quite yet but hopefully tomorrow morning I can wake up and I will feel a little different.

“I’m shattered. It’s been a long week and especially today. I should have finished maybe a couple of holes earlier, but it’s been awesome. A very tiring week. I’m standing here right now and there’s so much adrenaline pumping through me.

“I had my friend Matt (Saulez) on the bag and he has been unbelievable for me this week. He’s been the foundation to me, keeping me calm, and we just have an awesome time out there. It’s just so much fun.”

It was cloudy with a modest north westerly breeze blowing when the morning round started at 8.30am; conditions which remained throughout the day, save for a slight increase in the wind speed later in the day.

Here’s The R&A film of the opening tee shots.

Both players made a steady start halving the first five holes. The South African then birdied 6 before being gifted 7 and 8 when Dawson bogeyed. The remainder of the morning round was up and down with Rebula eventually taking a 1-Up lead into lunch.

A poor front nine in the afternoon round by Dawson allowed Rebula to extend his lead to 5-Up by the turn. Both players settled and halved the opening three holes of the back nine in par. Then the nerves seemed to kick in particularly for the South African whose mind may have started to wander given his strong position. Double bogeys on the 13th and 15th gave Dawson some encouragement.

However, hopes of a big turnaround over the last few holes like last year were quickly extinguished on 16 when Rebula got up and down from a green side bunker to close out the match 3&2.

Here are the full hole by hole scores from today’s Final.

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Jovan Rebula v. Robin Dawson Final Scoreboard (Photo: R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship Final Scores

With Wilco NIENABER also winning the Stroke Play Qualifying the Championship proved to be a very successful one for the South African’s.

It was the fifth time a South African had made the Final but just the second time they had claimed the Gold Medal: –
2014 – Zander Lombard Lost 2&1
1997 – Trevor Immelman Lost 3&2
1988 – Ben Fouchee Lost 1 Hole
1980 – David Suddards Lost 4&3
1966 – Bobby Cole Won 3&2

It wasn’t long before his Uncle Ernie passed on his congratulations to Jovan too.

ME.

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Friday 22nd June 2018

Playing conditions proved to be far more amenable today. Whilst cloudy, with temperatures struggling to rise above 13°C, the north westerly wind was much more manageable at 15mph.

Semi Finals

Jovan REBULA (RSA) beat Mitch WAITE (ENG) 6&4. Waite has enjoyed a very good year and Championship but like compatriot Tom Sloman this morning was unable to find his game in this afternoon’s semi final. Rebula was again not made to work very hard for his victory.

Rebula, the 20 year old nephew of Ernie Els, plays for Auburn University in Alabama and finished tied 21st in the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship in late May. He joined up with the South African touring party for the recent St. Andrews Links Trophy but missed the cut by 1-shot.

Speaking to The R&A afterwards Jovan said: “My game was really solid and I kept the ball in play all day. I took advantage on the holes you need to attack, played it clever out there and I’ve got a good feel of the golf course at this stage. I’m honestly having so much fun. I’m not even looking at my opponents beforehand. I just take it easy and spend time with my mates. They’ve been a great support structure. Also, they keep me motivated and it’s awesome having one of my good friends (Matt Saulez) on the bag too. I’ve been working hard towards this so being able to reach the final is such a big thing and hopefully I can take it a step further tomorrow.”

Tomorrow he will play Robin DAWSON in the 36 hole Final over the Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen G.C., their match starting at 8.30am.

Dawson was too good for Conor PURCELL this afternoon winning 3&2. Purcell handed Dawson the initiative with bogeys on the 1st and 3rd and despite fighting all the way to the end couldn’t get close to his fellow Irishman.

Speaking to The R&A afterwards Robin said:“It feels good. I’m somewhat relieved to make it this far and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m a bit tired now so it’ll be good to get a good sleep tonight and get set for tomorrow. Today was great but it wasn’t easy (playing against fellow countrymen). They are both good friends of mine from being in Ireland teams in the past but we had a couple of good friendly matches out there today. It was nice. I had a good strategy in place and was just hitting decent shots. My swing was good and I was in my own little world at times out there, which was great. To get the chance to play in one major, never mind three, is great. I would love that opportunity but there is still a lot of golf to play tomorrow.”

Dropping very few shots in his two matches today Robin should go in to the Final with great confidence. The winner of the Irish Amateur in May is seemingly in complete control of his game.

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship Semi Final Results

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Quarter Finals

The Quarter Finals started at 8.15am with Tom SLOMAN (ENG) taking on Jovan REBULA (RSA) in Match 1. Unfortunately it proved to be a game too far for Sloman who will be disappointed that he didn’t make the South African work harder for his 2&1 victory. Neither player was at their best this morning in a poor quality affair.

England’s other quarter finalist Mitch WAITE faired better beating Christoffer PÅLSSON (SWE) 3&2. As is becoming the norm for Waite it was far from straight forward. He was 3-Up after 7, before slipping to AS after 12 and then recovering to win comfortably on the 16th.

Conor PURCELL recorded an eagle and 4 birdies in a great 3&2 win over David MICHELUZZI (AUS). Micheluzzi, the highest ranked player left in the field, was simply unable to live with the Irishman’s superb play in the middle of their match.

In perhaps the highest quality Quarter Final Robin DAWSON overcame fellow Irishman John MURPHY 2&1. The Waterford man had the upper hand throughout but was certainly made to work hard for the win.

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship Quarter Final Results

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Thursday 21st June 2018

It was a dry but cool day in Aberdeen, temperatures not rising much above 13°C. The wind was the big story. Like yesterday it was primarily from the north west but today it consistently blew at 25mph with occasional gusts reported of up to 45mph.

This made playing conditions particularly challenging. With hole-by-hole scoring now available (click the score or result in the middle of each game to reveal) it was clear to see how tough the links played today.

Round 4

Round 4 proved to be the end of the line for Wilco NIENABER (RSA). In a tight match where neither player led by more than 1 hole Tom SLOMAN (ENG) was handed a 1-Up win when the 18 year old South African missed a relatively short par putt on the last hole.

Fellow South African Jovan REBULA was behind for virtually all of his match before two bogeys on the last two holes by Ben HUTCHINSON ensured there would be Boks representation in the Quarter Finals. Rebula won by 1 hole.

Match 3 arguably proved to be the most exciting in the last 16 with Bristol’s Mitch WAITE attempting to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory before thankfully saving the day against Timo VAHLENKAMP. As you can see from the scorecard below the German made a strong comeback over the last 8 holes but a three putt on the 19th meant it was all in vein.

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Mitch Waite v. Timo Vahlenkamp Rd 4 Scoreboard (Photo: R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Christoffer PÅLSSON (SWE) again didn’t have to work very hard to progress. Luca FILIPPI (RSA) struggled this afternoon and easily fell to a 4&3 defeat.

Conor PURCELL (IRE) was the first of three Irish to make the last 8 at The Amateur Championship. The Charlotte 49ers via Dublin golfer reeled off five birdies in 6 holes from the 11th to blow away Adam BLOMMÉ (SWE).

Robin DAWSON was next up. He beat Elis SVÄRD 6&5 as the relatively inexperienced Swede finally bowed out having enjoyed a very good Championship.

John MURPHY, who seems to have transformed himself into a world beater in the last two weeks, was the third Irishman to make it through to the Quarter Finals. He beat a clearly out of sorts Viktor HOVLAND (NOR) 6&5.

Murphy talking to The R&A afterwards said: “I feel a lot more confident coming off the back of winning the St. Andrews Links Trophy. I feel I can win against the top ranked players in the world and I don’t think I would have felt that way without the victory last week. I’m feeling good and every part of my game is clicking. I was the 14th Reserve so when I got the call to say I was playing here at Balgownie I was delighted.”

There were a number of one sided matches this afternoon as perhaps the physical and mental exertions of the last four days started to affect some of the remaining competitors.

In the other last 16 game David MICHELUZZI played well to beat Paul PEREDA (MEX) 5&4. The experienced Australian seems to be making very comfortable progress, largely under the radar, and must now be one of the favourites for the title.

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship MP Round 4 Results

Round 3

The highlight of this morning’s golf was the final match, played between relatively unknown Tom FORSTER (ENG) and WAGR Number 5 Viktor HOVLAND (NOR).

Forster, who is studying in the USA at NCAA Division II college Carson-Newman, is clearly not a respecter of reputations as he gave Hovland, one of the star players at Oklahoma State, the 2018 NCAA Division I champions, a game to remember.

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Tom Forster v. Viktor Hovland Rd 3 Scoreboard (Photo: R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

As you can see from the above scoreboard Forster led 4-Up after 13 holes, Hovland in all kinds of trouble in the wind. Thankfully the Norwegian recovered his senses just in time and with a little help from an increasingly nervous Forster escaped with a 1 hole victory.

Round 3 started at 7.30am with Wilco NIENABER (RSA) playing US-based Perry COHEN (SUI) in Match 1. The stroke play medalist started well and quickly built a 3-Up lead after 8 holes. However, some loose play around the turn and improvement by Cohen saw the match All Square with just the 18th to play. In the end a par down the last was good enough to secure the win for the South African protégé.

Tom SLOMAN (ENG) enjoyed a tight match with Jeff WRIGHT (SCO). A bogey on the 17th by the battling Scotsman finally letting in the big man from Somerset, who would hold on down the last for a 1 hole win.

Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) overcame Rowan LESTER 2&1 in Match 3. The Irishman was leading 1-Up after 15 but sadly stumbled down the last 3 holes.

Ben JONES (ENG) had an horrific start in his match and was quickly 5-Down to Timo VAHLENKAMP after just 7 holes. The German youngster ran out a surprisingly easy winner 7&5 in the end.

Mitch WAITE (ENG) beat Stuart EASTON (SCO) by 1 hole in a rollercoaster match.  Waite was 2-Up after 4 before then falling 3-Down after 11. Easton then lost his way, recording four bogeys in a row, allowing the man from Bristol to pull 1-Up after 15. Both players then steadied themselves before halving the last in double-bogey 6, Waite moving on.

James SUGRUE (IRE) lost 3&2 to Christoffer PÅLSSON (SWE) in what appears to have been a poor quality Match 7. The Irishman bogeyed or failed to finish 11 of the 16 holes contested.

Matthew JORDAN (ENG) looked comfortable early on against Conor PURCELL (IRE) but let things slip. Purcell, who plays out of Portmarnock, the 2019 host course, drew level after Jordan bogeyed the 18th and then completed the coup de grâce with a 40 foot chip in on their first extra hole.

Scotland bowed out of the Championship later in the morning when their remaining player Sandy SCOTT lost 3&1 to Mexico’s Paul PEREDA.

Match 13 saw Robin DAWSON (IRE) take on Spain’s Victor PASTOR. Dawson struggled on the front nine but played the back nine superbly in 3-under to run out the winner by 2 holes.

In a very similar match Dawson’s compatriot John MURPHY played the back nine very well to overcome Lee WALKER (USA) 4&2 having earlier been 2-Down after 8 holes.

Jovan REBULA (1 Hole) and Luca FILIPPI (4&3) were the winners in the two all-South African matches beating  Malcolm MITCHELL and Therion NEL respectively.

There were also wins for Adam BLOMMÉ (SWE), the ever impressive Australian David MICHELUZZI and giant killer Elis SVÄRD (SWE).

At the end of the morning our 14 GB&I players had been reduced to just 6.

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship MP Round 3 Results

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Wednesday 20th June 2018

Round 2

Wilco NIENABER (RSA) started his Round 2 match against Niclas WEILAND at 9.15am. Showing no signs of faltering, as often happens with the medalist, he quickly despatched the Swede 5&4.

Malcolm MITCHELL (RSA), David MICHELUZZI (AUS), Paul PEREDA (MEX) and Victor HOVLAND (NOR) are amongst the other highly ranked overseas players who are through to Round 3. However, it was a surprise to see Lorenzo SCALISE (ITA) lose, albeit he took Adam BLOMMÉ (SWE) to the 21st in the longest match of the Championship so far.

GB&I contributed 26 players to the 64 that started Round 2. We finished the day down to 14.

The Irish party are doing well. Rowan LESTER will be pleased with his performance; he beat fellow St. Andrews Trophy squad member David HAGUE (ENG) 6&5. James SUGRUE beat Australian Kyle MICHEL on the 19th hole whilst Conor PURCELL overcame Pablo RODRIGUEZ-TABERNERO TORRES (ESP) 2&1 to progress. Robin DAWSON took control of his match against David RAVETTO (FRA) from the start and ran out a comfortable 4&2 winner. Finally, John MURPHY made it 5 for the ‘Green Army’ coming from being behind early on to beat Oliver FARRELL (ENG) 4&2.

Scotland have three representatives in Round 3. Jeff WRIGHT showed great determination to take out compatriot Euan MCINTOSH on their first extra hole; Euan having qualified strongly and played well for most of this match too. Stuart EASTON beat Australian Will HEFFERNAN by 1 hole before Sandy SCOTT took care of Claudio CONSOL (GER) 3&2.

Of the 13 Round 1 winners just four could do the business again. One of these was Thomas FORSTER who surprised Daniel HILLIER (NZE) 2&1. The Englishman was joined by Tom SLOMAN, who beat Jediah MORGAN (AUS) by 1 hole, and Mitch WAITE, who enjoyed the biggest win of the afternoon, 6&4 against German Alexander HERRMANN. Wins for Ben HUTCHINSON, Ben JONES and Matthew JORDAN took the English qualifiers up to 6. Hutchinson beat Jamie LI (ENG) 5&3, Jones recorded a good 2 holes win against Matt SAULEZ (RSA) whilst Jordan ended up having to go to the 20th to finally despatch Finland’s battling Matias HONKALA.

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship MP Round 2 Results

 

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The Amateur Championship Trophy (Photo: Dominik Holyer) 

Round 1

Game 1 of the Match Play Stage between Eetu ISOMETSÄ (FIN) and Robin WILLIAMS (ENG) teed off at Royal Aberdeen G.C. at 7.00am. It was raining, with a north westerly wind appearing for the first time.

It was a game that Williams would disappointingly go on to lose 3&2.

Of the 30 qualifying GB&I players 8 were required to play in this preliminary Round 1 which consisted of 13 matches.

John PATERSON (SCO), Jack COPE (ENG), Oliver FARRELL (ENG) and Thomas FORSTER (ENG) were successful with the last three all requiring extra holes to overcome stubborn opponents. Cope ended up beating compatriot Max O’HAGAN, who had led for much of their match, on the 20th hole.

Callan BARROW (ENG) lost 4&3 to Top 100 SPWAR ranked Mexican Paul PEREDA.

Australia-based Scot Robbie MORRISON lost by 1 hole to experienced German Claudio CONSUL.

The 13 winners of these Round 1 matches fed into the bottom of the Round 2 draw and would therefore be required to play again in the afternoon.

The rest of the field will certainly have been pleased to see Takumi KANAYA (JAP), Alvaro ORTIZ (MEX) and Matias SANCHEZ (AUS) all surprisingly fall at this first step.

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship MP Round 1 Results

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Tuesday 19th June 2018

18 year old Wilco NIENABER (RSA) shot a 67 (-4) at Royal Aberdeen G.C. today to secure medalist honours at the 2018 Amateur Championship. His impressive 133 (-8) total included 11 birdies and just three bogeys.

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Wilco Nienaber’s Stroke Play Scores (Photo: R&A / Golfbox)

In an interview quoted on The R&A website Wilco said: “When I heard I was going to play The Amateur Championship this year I was really excited. To finish at the top after the qualifying is great. I made good decisions from the tee, stuck to my game plan and hit the greens. When I missed a green I got up and down – I kept the momentum going and didn’t really make a lot of bogeys. The match play stage is a different game but winning this or finishing at the top makes me feel like I can beat the other guys, which is really nice. So we will see what happens this week.”

Watch Wilco’s interview with GolfWeek’s Alistair Tait after the stroke play qualifying prize presentation: –

Two shots further back was Victor HOVLAND (NOR) who finished second in the stroke play qualifying on 135 (-6). Hovland shot a 65 (-5) at Murcar Links today, the best score on this course over the two days.

Sam MEEK (CAN), who recorded rounds of 69 and 69 for a 138 (-3) total, finished third to claim the final stroke play qualifying prize.

MATT SAULEZ (RSA) and Blake WINDRED (AUS) joined Wilco in shooting 67 at Royal Aberdeen today. This was the best score at the lead host course during the stroke play stage.

Harry HALL (ENG) recorded a second successive 70 today to finish on 140 (-1). His tied 5th result was the best of all of the GB&I players in the field.

Ben HUTCHINSON (ENG) Ev and Mitch WAITE (ENG) +1 finished 8th and tied 9th respectively.

At the end of play the top 64 and ties match play cut fell at +6 with 77 players progressing.

There were 30 GB&I qualifiers in total including 2018 winners John MURPHY (IRE) +2, Matthew JORDAN (ENG) +3, Robin DAWSON (IRE) +3 and Billy MCKENZIE (ENG) +4.

With the wind dropping on Day 2 and the sun shining for the most part the scores were much improved. Murcar Links (par 70) saw it’s average score drop to 73.94 from yesterday’s 77.30 (-3.36) whilst Royal Aberdeen’s (par 71) fell from 76.86 to 73.98 (-2.88). Clearly those that played at the tougher Murcar Links yesterday had a slight disadvantage over the two days of qualifying.

Click here to view the – 2018 Amateur Championship Stroke Play Qualifying Results

Amongst the leading players to miss out were Joe PAGDIN (ENG) +7, Dylan PERRY (AUS) +7, Andrew WILSON (ENG) +7, Calum FYFE (SCO) +8, Euan WALKER (SCO) +8, John AXELSON (DEN) +8, Angel HIDALGO (ESP) +8, Christo LAMPRECHT (RSA) +8, Clayton MANSFIELD (RSA) +9, Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) +9, Sam LOCKE (SCO) +9, Nick POPPLETON (ENG) +9, Alex GLEESON (IRE) +10, Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) +10, Jake BURNAGE (ENG) +11, Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) +13, Bailey GILL (ENG) +14, Jamie STEWART (SCO) +16, Garrick HIGGO (RSA) +17, Todd CLEMENTS (ENG) +17 and John PAK (USA) +18. 

ME.

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Monday 18th June 2018

Wilco NIENABER (RSA) shot a 66 (-4) at Murcar Links to lead the 36 hole Stroke Play Qualifying after Round 1 of the 123rd Amateur Championship.

David MICHELUZZI (AUS) and Sam MEEK (CAN) are second having both posted 69’s (-2), the best round of the day, at Royal Aberdeen G.C.

Laird SHEPHERD (ENG) was the only GB&I player to post an under par score; his 69 (-1) at Murcar Links leaving him in tied 4th place.

Euan MCINTOSH (SCO), who hit the first tee shot at Royal Aberdeen at 7.00am this morning, shot 71 (Ev) and finished the day tied 7th alongside Harry HALL (ENG) whose 70 (Ev) at Murcar Links looked like being much better for most of his round.

On a windy but sunny day in Scotland the average score was higher at Murcar Links (77.30 / +7.30 in relation to par) than at Royal Aberdeen (76.86 / +5.86).

After 18 holes there are 60 players on +3 or better, with a further 31 on +4, implying that the top 64 and ties cut will be around +7.

The final stroke play round will start at 7.00am tomorrow morning with each competitor playing on the other host course.

ME.

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17th June 2018

Unsurprisingly Chun An YU (CTP), who played the first two rounds of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, has withdrawn from this year’s Amateur Championship.

Other late withdrawals include William BUHL (USA), Falko HANISCH (GER) – winner of the 2016 Boys’ Amateur Championship at Muirfield -, Noah COMBS (USA), Yuxin LIN (CHN), Zach MURRAY (AUS) and Raphael GEISSLER (GER).

Click here to view the final – 2018 Amateur Championship Stroke Play Draw

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15th June 2018

The 123rd Amateur Championship starts on Monday 18th June at Royal Aberdeen G.C. and Murcar Links G.C. in north east Scotland.

The Amateur is the most prestigious amateur golf event played outside of the United States and without question the highlight of the Great British and Irish (GB&I) amateur season.

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Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (Photo: Royal Aberdeen G.C.)

Format

288 players will play two stroke play qualifying rounds, one round on each course, on Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th June.

As in previous years tee times will commence at 7.00am and end at 3.52pm on both days.

The 64 players with the lowest 36 hole scores, and ties for 64th place, will advance to the match play stage and be seeded in line with their qualifying finishes.

The match play games will be played solely at Royal Aberdeen between Wednesday 20th and Saturday 23rd June.

Matches will be played over 18 holes except for Saturday’s Final which will be over 36 holes.

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5th hole, Murcar Links Golf Club (Photo: Albrecht Golf Guide)

Players

The 288 players are drawn firstly from a number of exempt categories covering R&A and U.S.G.A. Championship performances and representative teams. Thereafter places are allocated to those players ranked 1st – 2,000th in the WAGR as at 16th May 2018 and, if required, by reference to exact handicaps.

Players from 38 different countries will contest the 2018 Amateur Championship.

Outside of the home nations the best represented countries are France (31 players), U.S.A. (23), Australia (20), Germany (14), Spain (13), Sweden (13), South Africa (10), The Netherlands (9) and Italy (8).

Whilst there are a large number of Americans playing it sadly remains the case that the vast majority of their leading players continue to skip the Championship. It is a sad state of affairs that most of them prefer to play in the Northeast Amateur Invitational at Wannamoisett C.C. in Providence, Rhode island – an event that starts on Wednesday 20th June. Without their participation The Amateur will always lack a little something despite the Major exemptions on offer. The best American this year is John PAK (SPWAR 52).

Harry ELLIS, the defending champion, has not entered the Championship. He has been playing in the U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills this week and is expected to turn pro immediately afterwards. Last year’s runner up Dylan PERRY (AUS) is back for another go at claiming the title that eluded him last year.

KristofferREITAN (NOR) 40 and Ryan LUMSDEN (SCO) 51 had both entered the Championship but both withdrew when they qualified for the U.S. Open. Chun An YU (CTP) 28 is also currently playing in New York but remains entered. It will be interesting to see if he is at Murcar Links on Monday for his 1.02pm tee time. Good on him if he is.

Looking at the the current SPWAR top 50 the leading players, in addition to Yu, competing are Viktor HOVLAND (NOR) 9, Matthew JORDAN (ENG) 12, Christo LAMPRECHT (RSA) 17, Garrick HIGGO (RSA) 24, Wilco NIENABER (RSA) 26, Todd CLEMENTS (ENG) 27, Matt SAULEZ (RSA) 29, Lorenzo SCALISE (ITA) 31, David MICHELUZZI (AUS) 33, Joey SAVOIE (CAN) 37, Malcom MITCHELL (RSA) 42 and Alvaro ORTIZ (MEX) 45.

From a GB&I perspective Robin DAWSON (IRE) 57, Jake BURNAGE (ENG) 67, Harry HALL (ENG) 68, Gian-Marco PETROZZI (ENG) 73, David HAGUE (ENG) T74, Alex GLEESON (IRE) T74, Caolan RAFFERTY (IRE) 91, Laird SHEPHERD (ENG) 95, Sandy SCOTT (SCO) 115, Ben JONES (ENG) 124, Andrew WILSON (ENG) 128, John MURPHY (IRE) 145, Bailey GILL (ENG) 177, Tom SLOMAN (ENG) 189 and Nick POPPLETON (ENG) 194 will all arrive with high hopes given their current good form.

With the nine-man GB&I St. Andrews Trophy team due to be announced in mid-July a good Amateur Championship by any of the home players will undoubtedly resonate with the selectors.

Finally, Spain’s Alejandro LARRAZABEL is an interesting entry. Alejandro won The Amateur in 2002 at Royal Porthcawl G.C. and has recently been reinstated to the amateur game. He will be the only past winner in the field.

Host Courses

For the first time in it’s history the Amateur Championship is being staged at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar Links in Scotland.

Royal Aberdeen was founded in 1780 and is the 6th oldest golf club in the world. Originally known as The Society of Golfers at Aberdeen the club’s name was changed in 1815 to Aberdeen Golf Club. In 1903 the ‘Royal’ title was conferred on the club by His Majesty King Edward VII.

The club has hosted many prestigious championships, including seven Scottish Amateurs, two Boys’ Amateur Championships, the Boys’ Jacques Léglise Trophy and perhaps most memorably the 2011 Walker Cup, when GB&I defeated the United States by a single point.

In 2005, it hosted the Senior Open which was won by five-time Open champion Tom Watson. In 2014, the Scottish Open was held there for the first time with Justin Rose coming out on top.

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Royal Aberdeen – Balgownie Links Indicative Scorecard (Photo: mygolfdays.com)

The Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen is a classic links with the outgoing holes played through the undulating dunes on the coast before the return on an inland plateau with numerous blind shots and hidden ditches coming into play.

Neighbouring Murcar Link’s was established in 1909 and lies to the north of the Royal Aberdeen course.

Murcar hosted the inaugural Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play competition on the European Tour in 2016. Previously it had staged the European Girls Team Championship (2009), the Scottish Amateur Stroke Play (2009) and the European Boys Team Championship (2013).

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Murcar Links Indicative Scorecard (Photo: mygolfdays.com)

Weather Forecast (last updated Sunday 17th June)

The weather forecast looks good, with very little rain and a consistent and south westerly wind expected: –

Mon 18th June – Sunny. Wind 17 mph SW. Temp. Max. 17°C / Min 7°C.
Tue 19th June – Sunny. Wind 15mph SW. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 10°C.
Wed 20th June – Showers. Wind 11mph W. Temp. Max. 13°C / Min 8°C.
Thu 21st June – Light Cloud. Wind 15mph NW. Temp. Max. 14°C / Min 9°C.
Fri 22nd June – Light Cloud. Wind 10mph SW. Temp. Max. 14°C / Min 10°C.
Sat 23rd June – Light Cloud. Wind 11mph SW. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 11°C.

Click here to view the – Latest BBC Weather Forecast For Aberdeen

Players will tee off throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday so changes in the weather and wind speed early in the week may impact the stroke play qualifying scoring.

Prizes / Exemptions

A momento is presented by The R&A to the players finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the stroke play qualifying competition, with any ties determined by a second round count back.

The winner of the match play stage will become the Champion Amateur Golfer for the year and is awarded the Championship Trophy and a Gold Medal. The runner-up receives a Silver Medal and each losing semi-finalist a Bronze Medal.

The winner of The Amateur Championship will be exempt into next month’s 147th Open Championship down the coast at Carnoustie Golf Links.

Traditionally, the champion is also invited to compete in the following year’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National G.C.

Finally, they will also be exempt into the 2019 U.S. Open Championship which is being held at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

2017 Amateur Championship

England’s Harry ELLIS won the 2017 Amateur Championship on the 38th hole at Royal St. George’s G.C.

4 Down with five holes to play the odds were well and truly against the then 21 year old Hampshire player. However, his opponent Dylan PERRY (AUS) bogeyed four of the last five holes to let Ellis back in.

On the second extra hole Perry got into trouble and Ellis was able to secure the famous trophy with another par, his seventh in a row.

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Harry Ellis (Photo: @RandA / Getty Images)

This was Ellis’ second major amateur victory. In 2012, aged just 16, he became the youngest player to win the English Amateur Championship.

Following in the footsteps of fellow Hampshire player Scott Gregory, Ellis said in his post round press conference: “I can’t believe what I have just done but you should never give up and never give in. I just kept giving myself chances down the stretch and luckily played much better than I had all day. It has always been a dream to play in Majors and I get to play in three now. My game is in a good place so hopefully I can do something .”

Click here to view the – 2017 Amateur Championship Stroke Play Qualifying Results

Click here to view the – 2017 Amateur Championship Match Play Results

Here is the Golfing World / R&A highlights film of the 2017 Amateur Championship: –

A Short History of The Amateur

The Amateur Championship was first played in April 1885 at Royal Liverpool G.C. Allan Macfie (SCO) was the first champion beating Horace Hutchinson (ENG) 7&6 in the Final.

Up until the Second World War it was a hugely prestigious event and in many of these early years was afforded a much higher standing in the game than The Open. Players like Johnny Ball (ENG), Harold Hilton (ENG) and Freddie Tait (SCO) were all amateurs and as good if not better than most of the professionals of the day.

With only modest rewards available in the professional game many of the better players simply stayed amateur. The great American Bobby Jones, who won The Amateur in 1930 on the way to his Grand Slam, remains the most well known career amateur.

Even after the war players remained amateur for much longer and famous names like Frank Stranahan (USA), Joe Carr (IRE), Sir Michael Bonallack (ENG) and Peter McEvoy (ENG) all built their reputations on Amateur Championship wins.

With the growth and transformation of the professional game from the early 1980s onwards both the better players and the media increasingly started to turn their backs on the amateur game.

Save for exceptional cases like Gary Wolstenholme (ENG) all continuity has been lost over the last 30 years and most of the young golfing stars of today rarely play any more than 2 or 3 Amateurs before being lured into the pro ranks by the huge rewards on offer.

Past Winners

The greatest player in the history of The Amateur is Johnny Ball. The Hoylake man won the Championship a record 8 times between 1888 and 1912.

Only three other players have won the competition more than twice; Sir Michael Bonallack (5), Harold Hilton (4) and Joe Carr (3). Bonallack amazingly won it three years in a row between 1968-1970. The last person to retain The Amateur was Peter McEvoy in 1977 and ’78.

Prior to Ellis’ win in 2017 the last 10 winners of The Amateur Championship have been: –

2016  Scott Gregory (ENG) – Royal Porthcawl GC
2015  Romain Langasque (FRA) – Carnoustie GL
2014  Bradley Neil (SCO) – Royal Portrush GC
2013  Garrick Porteous (ENG) – Royal Cinque Ports GC
2012  Alan Dunbar (IRE) – Royal Troon GC
2011  Bryden Macpherson (AUS) – Hillside GC
2010  Jin Jeong (KOR) – Muirfield
2009  Matteo Manassero (ITA) – Formby GC
2008  Reinier Sexton (NED) – Trump Tunberry
2007  Drew Weaver (USA) – Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC

A great achievement and honour for all of the players listed above. However, it’s also another reminder of how incredibly tough golf is and that wins in the biggest events are no guarantee of success in the professional game.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2018, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

The Amateur Championship – 2016 Preview & Results

18th June 2016

UPDATE

Scott Gregory (ENG) today beat Robert MacIntyre (SCO) 2&1 in the 36-hole final of The Amateur Championship on a dry day at Royal Porthcawl GC.

Scott Gregory Amateur Champion 2016

Scott Gregory (Photo: R&A / Getty Images)

Gregory shot 72 at Royal Porthcawl and 71 at Pyle & Kenfig in the Stroke Play Qualifying. This saw him finish tied 13th with a +1 total.

Seeded 13th he then proceeded to beat Andre Nel (RSA) by 2 holes, Pierre Mazier (FRA) by 1 hole, Harry Hall (ENG) 4&3, Javier Sainz (ESP) 5&4 and Adrian Meronk (POL) to reach the Final.

Click this link to review all of the Match Play results – Amateur Championship MP Results

14th June 2016

UPDATE

The Stroke Play Qualfying stage of The Amateur Championship was completed this evening.

Click this link to view the Stroke Play Results and Seedings – Amateur Championship SP Results

The top 64 and ties cut fell at +5 with 79 players progressing to the Match Play stage which is being played exclusively at Royal Porthcawl GC.

11th June 2016

The 121st Amateur Championship starts on Monday at Royal Porthcawl and Pyle & Kenfig Golf Clubs in South Wales.

It is the most prestigious amateur golf event played outside of the United States and without question the highlight of the Great British and Irish (GB&I) amateur season.

Royal Porthcawl Amateur 2016

Royal Porthcawl GC (Photo: @Royal_Porthcawl Twitter)

Format
Entry is limited to 288 players with the event administered by the Championship Committee of The R&A.

Two qualifying rounds of stroke play, one round on each course, will be played on Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th June. Tee times will start at 7.00 am and end at 3.52 pm on both days.

To view the stroke play draw click here – Amateur Championship SP Draw

The 64 players with the lowest stroke play scores, and ties for 64th place, will be seeded in line with their finishes and will advance to the match play stage. All other players will be eliminated at this point. This second stage will be played solely at Royal Porthcawl between Wednesday 15th and Saturday 18th June. Matches will be played over 18 holes except for the Final which will be over 36 holes.

Royal Porthcawl Golf ClubBridgend County South Golf Activities and Sports

Royal Porthcawl GC (Photo: welshgolfvacations website)

Players
Players from 32 countries will contest the 2016 Amateur.

The leading players that are competing, based on their Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings (Nationality / SPWAR*), are: –
Matthias Schwab (AUS / 7)
Jack Hume (IRE / 9)
Grant Forrest (SCO / 13)
Harrison Endycott (AUS / 23)
Conor Syme (SCO / 24)
Antoine Rozner (FRA / 27)
Jamie Bower (ENG / 30)
Travis Smyth (AUS / 33)
Robin Sciot-Siegrist (FRA / 36)
Cameron John (AUS / 40)
Albert Venter (RSA / 43)
Craig Ross (SCO / 44)
Craig Howie (SCO / 45)
Herman Loubser (RSA / 46)
Aubrey Beckley (RSA / 49)

* All SPWARs quoted were correct as at 11th June 2016

Whilst there are some American’s playing, including 2015 Walker cup mid-amateur Mike McCoy, it remains the case that the vast majority sadly continue to skip the Championship. Without their participation it will always lack a little something despite the ‘prizes’ on offer. This year, with the Palmer Cup taking place at Formby GC in a few weeks time, I had hoped that one or two might make the extra effort to come over early.

Unfortunately Wales’ No. 1 amateur David Boote (SPWAR 29) has his Stanford graduation ceremony on Monday so is unable to play. Fellow Palmer Cup player Sam Horsfield (ENG / SPWAR 6) was always unlikely to enter but at least he now has the excuse of qualifying for the US Open at Oakmont which also takes place next week.

This latter point begs the question, even allowing for the exceptional challenges of this Olympics year, why do the R&A schedule the Amateur Championship against a professional men’s Major ? It’s hardly likely to help with media coverage and interest as the event reaches it’s climax next week is it ? 

Courses
The Championship is being staged at Royal Porthcawl and Pyle & Kenfig, two of the best courses in Wales.

Pyle & Kenfig Golf CourseAerial South Golf Activities & Sports

Pyle & Kenfig GC (Photo: welshgolfvacations website)

This will be the seventh time Royal Porthcawl has been the lead course at The Amateur Championship. It has also hosted the Curtis Cup (1964) and Walker Cup (1995 – GB&I beating a US Team including Tiger Woods 14-10).

Porthcawl plays to 7,065 yards and a par of 72 from it’s black championship tees. Pitched down to the shore it famously allows golfers to see the sea from every hole on the course but also feel the wind on most of their shots too.

James Mason’s Plant Golf Review of Royal Porthcawl GC

Neighbouring Pyle & Kenfig has co-hosted The Amateur with Royal Porthcawl on two previous occasions, 1988 and 2002.

P&K has a total yardage of 6,860 from it’s blue championship tees. It is a par 71 course of two different halves; an inland parkland start gives way to a final 9 played across a road amongst sand dunes nearer to the coast.

James Mason’s Plant Golf Review of Pyle & Kenfig GC

The Amateur Championship has been played at Royal Porthcawl on six previous occasions. The winners then were: –

1951 – Dick Chapman (USA)
In the first Amateur to be held in Wales and with comedian Bob Hope in the field Chapman beat fellow American Charles Coe 5&4. Chapman had lost in two Finals in the previous four years so was certainly deserving of his eventual win.

1965 – Sir Michael Bonallack (ENG)
Sir Michael made a terrible start to the Final against Clive Clark, finding himself 7 down after 8 holes. At lunch he won the jackpot on the club’s fruit machine before completing his comeback to win 2 and 1.

1973 – Dick Siderowf (USA)
Siderowf, a 34 year New York stockbroker, beat England’s Peter Moody (24) 5&3. He went on to win The Amateur again in 1976, this time at St. Andrews.

1980 – Duncan Evans (WAL)
Playing in heavy rain on a flooded course Evans (21), who had beaten a 16 year-old Ronan Rafferty in the semis, became the first Welshman to win the Amateur in front of a home crowd. His 73 in round 1 of the final was particularly memorable given the conditions. He beat South Africa’s David Suddards 4&3 on a day that gradually improved weather wise.

1988 – Christian Hardin (SWE)
Hardin beat South Africa’s Ben Fouchee 1Up in the Final.

2002 – Alejandro Larrazábal (ESP)
Caddied by his brother Pablo, now a successful European Tour golfer, Alejandro beat Wales’ Martin Sell 1Up.

Weather Forecast
As at Saturday 11th June, 17.00pm the weather forecast looks reasonably positive: –

Mon 13th June – Light Rain PM. Wind 7 mph S. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 13°C.
Tue 14th June – Light Cloud. Wind 13 mph W. Temp. Max. 15°C / Min 12°C.
Wed 15th June – Light Showers. Wind 9 mph W. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 12°C.
Thu 16th June – Sunny. Wind 10 mph NW. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 12°C.
Fri 17th June – Sunny. Wind 9 mph NW. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 12°C.
Sat 18th June – Sunny. Wind 8 mph W. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 13°C.

Just like at The Open players will tee off between 7.00am and 3.52pm on Monday and Tuesday so the weather may very well play a part in the stroke play qualifying scoring.

Betting Odds
SkyBET released their Amateur Championship ‘Outright Winner’ Odds on Monday 6th June.

As they are removed from their website when play starts I have taken photos of the original odds so we can look back at them once the results are known.

Amateur 2016 skyBET 1Amateur 2016 skyBET 2Amateur 2016 skyBET 3Amateur 2016 skyBET 4

Ireland’s Jack Hume was the 28-1 initial favourite with SkyBET when they released their original odds.

The current SkyBET odds can be accessed here – Amateur Championship Outright Winner.

Prizes
The winner of The Amateur Championship will be exempt into next month’s 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon.

They will also be exempt into the 2017 US Open Championship, which is for the first time being played at the stunning Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

_ hole at Erin Hills a (Hurdzan/Fry and Ron Whitten design) daily fee golf course in Erin, Wisconsin. September, 2010. PM shoot. Photo by Paul Hundley.

Erin Hills Golf Course (Photo: http://www.erinhills.com)

Traditionally, the Amateur Champion is also invited to compete in the following year’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

A Short History of The Amateur 
The Amateur Championship was first played in April 1885 at Royal Liverpool GC. Allan Macfie (SCO) was the first champion beating Horace Hutchinson (ENG) 7&6 in the Final.

Up until the Second World War it was a hugely prestigious event and in a many of these early years was afforded a much higher standing in the game than The Open. Players like Johnny Ball (ENG), Harold Hilton (ENG) and Freddie Tait (SCO) were all amateurs and better than most of the professionals of the time.

With only modest rewards available in the professional game many of the better players simply stayed amateur. The great American Bobby Jones, who won The Amateur in 1930 on the way to his Grand Slam, remains the most well known career amateur.

Even after the war players remained amateur for much longer and famous names like Frank Stranhan (USA), Joe Carr (IRE), Sir Michael Bonallack (ENG) and Peter McEvoy (ENG) all built their reputations on Amateur Championship wins.

With the growth and transformation of the professional game from the early 1980s onwards both the better players and the media increasingly started to turn their backs on the amateur game. Save for exceptional cases like Gary Wolstenholme (ENG) all continuity has been lost over the last 30 years and most of the young golfing stars of today rarely play any more than 2 or 3 Amateurs before being lured into the pro ranks by the huge rewards on offer. With the sports media facing their own challenges most of their resources sadly have to be directed towards the superstar players and the Major Championships leaving the amateur game scrambling for any coverage it can get.

Past Winners
The greatest player in the history of The Amateur is Johnny Ball. The Hoylake man won the Championship a record 8 times between 1888 and 1912.

Only three other players have won the competition more than twice; Sir Michael Bonallack (5), Harold Hilton (4)and Joe Carr (3). Bonallack amazingly won it three years in a row between 1968-1970. The last person to retain The Amateur was Peter McEvoy in 1977 and ’78.

France’s Romain Langasque beat Scotland’s Grant Forrest 4&2 in last year’s final staged at Carnoustie and Panmure in Angus, Scotland.

The last 10 winners of The Amateur Championship have been: –

2015 Romain Langasque (FRA) – Carnoustie GL
2014 Bradley Neil (SCO) – Royal Portrush GC
2013 Garrick Porteous (ENG) – Royal Cinque Ports GC
2012 Alan Dunbar (IRE) – Royal Troon GC
2011 Bryden Macpherson (AUS) – Hillside GC
2010 Jin Jeong (KOR) – Muirfield
2009 Matteo Manassero (ITA) – Formby GC
2008 Reinier Sexton (NED) – Trump Tunberry
2007 Drew Weaver (USA) – Royal Lytham & St. Annes GC
2006 Julien Guerrier (FRA) – Royal St. George’s

A great honour for all of the players listed above but perhaps when one reviews where most of them are now another clear reminder that golf is an incredibly tough game and career to pursue at the professional level.

ME.

Copyright © 2016, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Claire Dowling

18th February 2015 (and updated since)

Claire Dowling (née Hourihane) was born on 18th February 1958 near Dublin in Ireland. She shares her birthday with another Irish amateur great, Joe Carr, who was born in 1922.

Her father, Bill, was a keen golfer and member of Woodbrook GC in Bray, County Wexford, on the coast just south of Dublin. Claire joined Woodbrook and represented the Club throughout her career.

By no means long she developed a game based on a rhythmical swing that consistently delivered sound ball striking and accuracy. “When I was playing reasonably well, I would regularly hit 16 or 17 greens in regulation. And I really loved my 4-wood. I had great confidence in hitting it 170-175 yards off the fairway.” she recently told Irish golf writer, Dermot Gilleece.  In her book ‘The Women Golfer’ Belle Robertson described Claire as ‘a wonderfully tidy little golfer who should never be underestimated’.

Her biggest individual win came in the 1986 British Ladies’ Open Stroke Play Championship at Blairgowrie, where famous Scottish golfer, Jessie Valentine, aged 71, provided lodgings and caddied for her. She also won the 1987 Spanish Ladies’ Amateur Championship.

She twice fell in the semi-finals of the British Ladies’ Open Amateur Championships.

Claire won the Irish Women’s Close Amateur Championship five times – in 1983, ’84, ’85, ’87 and ’91.

Claire Hourihane amateur golfer Leinster Rep of Ireland 1985

Claire Dowling in 1988

She was only the second Irish golfer to win in the USA, following Christy O’Connor Snr at the 1977 World Seniors, when she won the 1983 South Atlantic Amateur tournament.

In terms of the other leading English Women’s amateur events Claire also won the Hampshire Rose (1986), the Critchley Salver (1990) and the Bridget Jackson Bowl (1998).

Unsurprisingly she earned a great deal of international recognition: –

Claire was selected for the GB&I Curtis Cup side 4-times: –
1984 Muifield – GB&I 8.5 – USA 9.5
1986 Prairie Dunes, KS – USA 5 – GB&I 13
1988 Royal St. George’s – GB&I 11 – USA 7
1992 Hoylake – GB&I 10 – USA 8

The 1986 victory was particularly memorable because it represented the first time a British or European golf team, male or female, had won in the United States.

Claire Dowling Curtis Cup 1986 Team

The 1986 GB&I Curtis Cup Team (Photo: Women Golfers Museum)

Disappointingly Claire was omitted from all four series of games by Captain Diane Bailey in 1988 but played 8 times in her other matches finishing with a creditable individual record of W3 L3 H2.

Claire Dowling Curtis Cup 1988 Team

The 1988 GB&I Curtis Cup Team (Photo: Ladies Golf Union)

She also played for GB&I in the Women’s World Amateur Team Championships for the Espirito Santo Trophy (1986 and ’90) and the Vagliano Trophy match against Europe (1981-83-85-87-89-91).

Claire also represented Ireland in the Women’s European Team Championships (1981, ’83, ’85, ’87, ’89 and ’91) and in the Women’s Home International Matches (1979, ’80, ’81, ’82, ’83, ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’89, ’91 and ’92). 1983 remains the last time Ireland won the Women’s European Team Championship.

Partnering Phil Wickham Claire won the Irish Bi-Centennial Foursomes in 1981-82-84 and ’85.

Claire captained Ireland in the Women’s European Team Championships in Finland in 1997 and at the Women’s Home International Matches in 1996 and 1997.

She was due to captain the GB&I team at the World Amateur Golf Team Championship in Chile in November 1998. However, the Ladies Golf Union withdrew the travelling party due to safety concerns following the arrest in London a few weeks earlier of the former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet. The Eisenhower Trophy event was played the following week in Chile with the Men’s GB&I team travelling and ultimately winning the competition.

Claire subsequently captained GB&I against Europe in the Vagliano Trophy in July 1999. Europe won 13 – 11.

Last but far from least Claire was non-playing captain of the 2000 Curtis Cup team. GB&I lost the match at Ganton GC 10 – 8.

In June 2006 Claire retired from competitive golf – which at the time was County Golf with Warwickshire.

However, she was persuaded to come out of retirement by her friend Tracy Atkin in 2012 to play in the Brenda King Foursomes, an England Golf run national competition for senior ladies.  Tracy and Claire won the competition (Frilford Heath) and successfully defended it in both 2013 (Gog Magog) and 2014 (Minchinhampton). They decided to go out at the top and didn’t defend at Coxmoor in 2015.

Claire Dowling Brenda King 2014

Tracy Atkin and Claire Dowling – Brenda King Foursomes Winners in 2015

Claire moved to England in the late 1980s obtaining an administrative job at the famous Wentworth Club in Surrey. While there she met and married her husband Peter. They subsequently moved to Solihull in the West Midlands in 1996 and Claire joined Copt Heath. Interestingly her appointment as 2000 Curtis Cup captain coincided with Peter McEvoy’s captaincy of the Walker Cup Team in 1999 and 2001, thus making Copt Heath, probably the first and last club to provide the GB&I captain to both female and male amateur teams simultaneously. Claire was afforded Honorary Membership of Copt Heath in 2014.

Following Peter’s retirement the couple moved to Budleigh Salterton in 2014 and Claire now plays at the local club, East Devon.  In one of her first competitions at her new club she won the Ladies’ Club Championship by 8-shots.  She currently plays off a handicap of 3.

In 2012 Claire was appointed Chair of the Handicap and Course Rating Committee for England Golf. She also sat on England Golf’s Club Services Committee.  The former role means she also sat on the The Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) Board and Technical Committee up until 2016, with representatives from The R&A and the other Home Unions.

In February 2015 Claire became one of the first women members of The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (The R&A) – an Ordinary rather than an Honorary one. Within this first wave of 14 ladies there were just five women from Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I). These were HRH The Princess Royal, Dame Laura Davies, Lady Angela Bonallack, Belle Robertson MBE and Claire Dowling. For more information on the R&A’s Women Members click here: Women Members – The R&A and Augusta National GC.

This was not her first involvement with the R&A though. As a representative of the Ladies Golf Union she became the first women to sit on the R&A’s Amateur Status Committee between 1997-2001.

Claire qualified as a Level 3 Tournament Referee in 2011 and in September 2015 was invited to join the R&A’s Rules of Golf Committee. In September 2017 she was made Deputy Chair(wo)man of this Committee, also becoming a member of the Joint Rules Committee (with the USGA). As a result she played an important role in developing the new January 2019 rules.

In recent years Claire has refereed at many events including The Open Championship, The Amateur Championship, the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the Arnold Palmer Cup.

img_9364
Claire Refereeing The Final Of The 2018 Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen 
(Photo: The R&A / Mark Runnacles / Getty Images)

On 21st January 2016 she received the ‘Distinguished Services To Golf’ Award from the Irish Golf Writers’ Association (IGWA).  Claire had previously been awarded the IWGA’s ‘Women’s Amateur Player Of The Year’ award in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986 and 1987.  Brian Keogh of Irish Golf Desk recorded the event at Castleknock Golf Club – click here to download and listen to Claire’s acceptance speech.

On 28th January 2017 Claire was elected an Honorary Life Member of the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union Limited at their Annual General Meeting.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

Walker Cup 2015 – The GB&I Team (2)

23rd January 2015

The R&A has today announced an initial 20-man Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup squad.

The 2015 Walker Cup is to be played on 12th and 13th September.

The players are to meet up at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, the host course, on two occasions; ahead of the Lytham Trophy which is to be played on 1st – 3rd May and then more formally on 21st and 22nd July.

The squad is shown below in full.  I have listed the players based on their World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) but also show their Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking (SPWAR) alongside: –

Rankings –                                     WAGR   SPWAR

  1. Bradley Neil (SCO)                     9             6
  2. Ashley Chesters (ENG)             22           36
  3. Grant Forrest (SCO)                  24           31
  4. Sam Horsfield (ENG)                 26          39
  5. Nick Marsh (ENG)                     32           22
  6. Gavin Moynihan (IRE)               34           74
  7. Paul Howard (ENG)                   45          20
  8. Ben Stow (ENG)                        48          34
  9. Paul Dunne (IRE)                      49           26
  10. Jack Hume (IRE)                       51          63
  11. Jamie Savage (SCO)                52         103
  12. Gary Hurley (IRE)                      64          33
  13. Adam Chapman (ENG)             82         112
  14. Jack McDonald (SCO)              90          75
  15. Cormac Sharvin (IRE)               92          53
  16. Jimmy Mullen (ENG)                123        119
  17. Tomasz Anderson (ENG)         124        110
  18. Daniel Brown (ENG)                 131        170
  19. Graeme Robertson (SCO)       139        146
  20. David Boote (WAL)                  159         55

The Top 10 GB&I players listed above have a combined WAGR ranking of 340.  The USA’s current Top 10 in the same rankings have a combined total of 108.  If one removes Ollie Schniederjans (1) and Brian Campbell (18), who have already indicated they will probably be turning Pro and won’t be playing, and replace them with the next highest ranking Americans, Xander Schaufelle (28) and Bryson DeChambeau (29), this total rises to 146.  This gives a rough indication – without allowing for the USGA’s Mid-Amateur selection policy * – of the relative merits of the two teams.  Thankfully Walker Cup’s are not played on paper.

[* On the 25/1/15 Scott Harvey (36), the reigning US Mid-Amateur Champion, won the South American Amateur Championship – almost assuring himself a spot on the US Team and to a degree overturning the point I was trying to make about this policy potentially weakening the US team.]

The squad consists of 9 English, 5 Irish, 5 Scottish and 1 Welsh player.  In 2013 there were no Scottish players in the team, the first time this had happened since 1949.  This time Wales looks the most likely to miss out with the other Home Nations well represented in this initial squad.  Hopefully someone else, perhaps Evan Griffith, Mike Hearne or Rhys Pugh, can rise to the challenge and give David Boote some support in this regard.

There are no real surprises here and the players selected are all well known and proven.  As I highlighted in December on this website there is little the selectors can do at this stage than go off the World Rankings.  Daniel Brown is the only player I excluded from today’s squad when I selected one in December.  I included Ireland’s Dermot McElroy instead.  Some background information and 2014 playing information on the players is available in that post – Golf Bible Squad.

Bradley Neil has rightly chosen to keep his options open at this stage but it is no secret that he will be hoping to turn Pro in the summer after competing in the US Masters and US Open.  Good results and growing confidence may also see other selected players elect to turn Pro before the competition starts in September, thus making themselves ineligible.

With the exception of Robertson and Boote the squad is essentially made up of the highest ranking GB&I players on the R&A-endorsed World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) list (click to view).  Continuing down the current WAGR – see below – highlights those players, most notably Dermot McElroy, who are perhaps unlucky to miss out.  Of course these and many others are still in with a good chance of making the team as the season unfolds.

  1. Dermot McElroy (IRE)              130        84
  2. Haydn McCullen (ENG)           147       363
  3. Ben Taylor (ENG)                     156       136
  4. Robin Dawson (IRE)                 170       211
  5. Chris Selfridge (IRE)                175       159
  6. Luke Johnson (ENG)               187        201
  7. Cameron Shaw (ENG)             192        547
  8. Sean Towndrow (ENG)            214        190
  9. Brandon R.-Thompson (ENG) 222        738
  10. Paul Kinnear (ENG)                 225        150
  11. Craig Ross (SCO)                    226         93
  12. Daniel Young (SCO)                229        109
  13. Connor Syme (SCO)                358       177

I am sure all of the elite GB&I players appreciate an early squad announcement so they all know where they stand with the selectors and the work they have to do over the season ahead – both to stay in the Top 20 but equally to break into it.  Whilst slightly ironic for me to say so, The R&A may regret making their thoughts known this early, particularly as it is not possible for the squad to meet before May, a full three months away.  There is lots of amateur golf to be played between now and then.  A ‘date for the diary’ communication via the Home Nations about a pre-Lytham Trophy gathering may have been preferable alongside a statement as to an early April date for a formal squad announcement.

The final 10-man team with 2 reserves will be announced in mid-August.  I look forward to following the progress of the squad and reporting on how the team is shaping up over the coming months.

Notes
Walker Cup background and my previous articles on it can be found by clicking here – 2015 Walker Cup
The full R&A press release with regard to todays GB&I squad announcement can be read here – GB&I Squad Announcement

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

The Open – Time For Sky Sports

22nd January 2015

I found myself discussing The Open’s television rights on twitter earlier today.  This got me thinking a little more about the merits of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and the most obvious alternative Sky Sports.

The current United Kingdom (UK) television contract for The Open expires after the 2016 Championship that is to be played at Royal Troon next year.  The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this month that Sky Sports may be close to securing the next set of rights to The Open which in turn has started a debate that shows no signs of abating.  Some believe a confirmatory announcement may even be just a few weeks away.

Firstly I should point out that it is very difficult to draw firm conclusions on this matter without knowing the sums offered by all of the interested broadcasters and also having an idea of the likely viewing figures that each channel will attract with it’s coverage.  Such data is of course not in the public domain.

Recent renewals have seen The R&A increasingly have to walk a tightrope when considering The Open’s highly prized UK broadcasting rights.  On the one hand, do they seek to maximise television coverage and publicity for their premier event hoping this will encourage interest and participation.  Or on the other, do they choose a partner willing to pay the contract’s full market rate, thus enabling them to increase investments into the development of the game both at home and around the world.  What’s best ? High exposure to the public whose viewing (and subsequent participation) is still voluntary versus lower potential TV figures but the cash to allow focussed investment in clubs, communities and golfers.

The above debate boils down to the merits of the free-to-air BBC and the paid-for alternatives, Sky Sports or potentially the newer BT Sport.  The BBC clung onto the rights at the last review with little more than history and potential viewers to offer The R&A.

The BBC have covered The Open forever – since 1955 to be precise.  Peter Alliss, the voice of golf in the UK, has commentated on it since 1961 and has enjoyed the lead role since 1978.  We also shouldn’t forget the excellent job the Corporation does on the radio via their Radio 5 Live channel – not that this is under threat here.  A professional job can be guaranteed but with their coverage of sport rapidly declining, largely due to budgetary constraints, it must be coming less attractive for them. Likewise it isn’t easy for viewers to build a rapport with presenters and analysts who nowadays show up in their living rooms just once a year.

BBC At The Open

Hazel Irvine and Peter Alliss lead the BBC’s Open coverage 

What is currently unclear is just how hard the BBC are fighting for The Open.  Surely they can’t expect the R&A to again hand over the rights for a pittance when other organising bodies continue to enjoy lottery wins for their sport’s contracts.  What can not be denied is that the BBC have allowed golf to drift away from their schedules over the last 10 years despite the UK enjoying an unprecedented group of world class players, almost for the first time in modern history.  Losing the rights may also help them deal with the Peter Alliss question – how long should he go on and who can replace him ?

Sky have increasingly become a very credible threat to the BBC’s historic pre-eminance.  Their week in, week out coverage of both the European Tour and the US PGA Tour is admirable and of the highest quality.  They also now enjoy live rights to the three other golf Majors, The Masters, The US Open and The US PGA.  When one adds in the experience they have of covering other sports there can no longer be any question as to their credentials to manage The Open.  The UK arrangement for The Masters may prove to be an interesting template for The R&A to adopt, with Sky taking the lead role but the BBC benefitting from highlights and some weekend live coverage.

BT Sport can’t be totally discounted.  They have ‘poached’ Premiership Rugby, Premiership Football, FA Cup Football and Moto GP coverage from Sky and the BBC in recent years and are said to have bid hard for the US PGA Tour rights at their last review.  As a developing sports broadcaster in the UK they would be very keen to secure The Open given half a chance.  However, this contract renewal may be too early for them to be a serious contender but their involvement will no doubt have kept Sky honest during this latest tender process.

The R&A is often portrayed as an out of touch lawmaker and as simply a gentleman’s club but it has grown impressively in recent times.  Commercial activity at The Open has developed greatly, firstly under Sir Michael Bonallack and more recently under the leadership of Peter Dawson.  The retirement later this year of the latter is a further complication here too.  Dawson may not want to go out with such a big decision and no doubt new Chief Executive Martin Slumbers will not be looking forward to dealing with the potential aftermath.

So just how important is free-to-air coverage to the game of golf in the UK ?  Many commentators believe it is of critical importance.  Look at the recent victory of Lewis Hamilton over Rory McIlroy at the 2014 BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards as evidence of the need for more exposure and presence on terrestrial television they say.  If people don’t watch it they don’t know about it.  The complete removal of golf from mainstream television would be disastrous they believe, echoing the words of many in the cricket world which has experienced such a move.  People will stop playing and new players will fail to emerge without Rory to inspire them like Seve did their father and grandfathers they argue.

My view is that The R&A should hand the rights over to Sky.  If golf is reliant on just four days of golf on the BBC every year for its future success then something is very badly wrong.  Whilst I can see the link between terrestrial TV coverage and participation I am not persuaded it is that significant.  Snooker and bowls are on the BBC a lot but I have no intention of seriously taking up either.  I believe the results would be greater if the R&A took Sky’s cash and invested it in a focussed way into the game.  By involving the National Unions and the Professional Golfers Association, and with local advertising, subsidised club memberships and school coaching schemes could be offered at a much higher level than currently.

Golf has many more important issues to overcome to increase its popularity than the need to cling onto the BBC.  Many of these need funds to enable them to be fully realised.  Getting more women and children playing, making the game quicker (perhaps with more 9-hole courses), subsiding public / council-owned courses, helping old fashioned private clubs become more customer facing and developing new formats that attract new players all quickly spring to mind.

It is time for change.  I think Sky deserve a crack at it given their 365 day a year loyalty to the sport.  They have earned it.  I am also sure the additional funds generated can help the R&A to make more of a difference and grow the game.  I don’t see what The R&A have to lose – the contracts are normally only short-term so if it doesn’t prove beneficial then they can go back to the BBC, ITV or Channel 4 if they want at the next review.  Personally I doubt they will need to.

ME.

Copyright © 2015, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.