Amateurs converge on St Andrews

The St Andrews Links Trophy is rightly regarded as one of the top amateur tournaments on the international stage.

First played in 1989, the St Andrews Links Trophy has attracted the world’s top amateurs who have gone on to enjoy success on the PGA and European Tours, including Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Trevor Immelman, Geoff Ogilvy, Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose.

Ben Campbell New Zealand’s Ben Campbell (Credit: Anthony Powter)

Contested over four rounds of stroke play across the Old and the New Course, the championship is rated inside the world’s top-10 and serves for many as a lead-in to the coveted British Amateur to be played at at Hillside and Hesketh, starting 13 June in England’s north west.

The field list this year in St Andrews includes the best from European and world amateur golf. Fourteen of the world’s top forty players are competing.

The Australians include Kalem Richardson, Matt Stieger, Brett Drewitt, Chris Wood, Ryan McCarthy and Daniel Nisbet.

They are supported by their New Zealand colleagues including Ben Campbell, Daniel Pearce, who played well last week at the Scottish Open Amateur and Fraser Wilkin.

Campbell was the best of the Australasians at this event last year finishing 19th at 3-under-par with rounds of 70-70-72-73. Campbell loves playing St Andrews and will be a contender for the title this week.

“I’ve lots of fond memories playing St Andrews,” says Campbell, ranked 18th in the world.

“This is a great event and the challenges are there with who you are up against and with the courses.”

The internationals are led by world number three, England’s Tom Lewis, winner of the Amateur Medal at the Australian Open last December.

Lewis is the highest ranked player in the field and is off a runner-up finish a fortnight ago at the Lytham Trophy.

Todd Adcock, David Coupland, NSW Amateur Champion Jack Senior, Walker Cup player Stiggy Hodgson, Andy Sullivan winner last week at the Scottish Open Amateur and Darren Wright are all challenges for the St Andrews Links trophy.

Spaniard sensation Adrian Otaegui is another to follow.

The 18-year-old from San Sebastian, though his family now live in France near Biarritz, has already tasted success on Scottish soil, following in the spikemarks of Olazabal, Sergio Garcia and Pablo Martin as he won the British Boys’ Championship at Kilmarnock (Barassie) last August.

He has won the Spanish Amateur Stroke-play Championship since then and now Otaegui, the world No 30, has the St Andrews Links Trophy in his sights.

“The first time I came here was in 2008 for the Amateur Championship at Turnberry,” says Otaegui.

“I was 15 but just failed to qualify by a shot. I also played in the Links Trophy last year, finishing 12th, then won the British Boys. I just love the challenge of the links.”

Last year England’s Matthew Southgate shot a final day five under par 67 in horrendous conditions that left him five clear of his nearest rivals at 13-under-par.

Philip McLean and Stiggy Hodgson both birdied the last to post 8 under par, a shot clear of Englishmen Tom Lewis, Jack Senior and Todd Adcock in third.

Stuart Bouvier is the only Australian to win the St Andrews Links Trophy with a 4-under-par total in 1990.

Following a surfing accident back in January that had our former number one Australian amateur out of the game needing a shoulder reconstruction, Ryan McCarthy makes his return to main amateur golf.

McCarthy has been working hard with his coach, Peter Knight, for the return and is optimistic of a solid performance despite not having played main competitive golf for a while.

“I’ve done everything possible to just get myself here to play this week,” says McCarthy who made the top-16 last year in the US Amateur at Chambers Bay.

“I’ve spent three long months thinking about the Old Course at St.Andrews whilst rehabilitating and injury proofing my body. My shoulder couldn’t be any stronger than what it is now and it will not be a concern in the future.”

The standard of golf at main international amateur events has never been more competitive with the Europeans and USA currently dominating the world amateur rankings.

McCarthy is eager to get his current ranking of 43 back inside the top-15, but knows his consistency first needs to return to his game.

“My game’s still a little rusty and inconsistent,” says McCarthy.

“It’s taken a little bit longer to comeback than I expected. Some days are just grinds but I’ve been fully prepared for that.”

“The injury has made me mentally stronger as a person and any ‘hurdle’ on a golf course seems insignificant. It will take time and a lot of hard work buy that’s what is needed.”

Brett Drewitt is another to closely monitor this week at St Andrews after a strong Australian summer where he recorded a win at the Golf SA Classic last month, a runner-up finish at the Tasmanian Open and five top-10 finishes in National Trial events.

“It feels amazing to have the opportunity to play at St Andrews,” says Drewitt.

“I can’t wait to get out the tackle the course in tournament mode. You have play different shots around the green, more running shots as everything is so hard and you can putt from 30m off the green.”

“It’s a great feeling to be playing on the Old Course and St Andrews is just pure.”

Our highest ranked amateur, Matt Steiger, opened well last week at the Scottish Open Amateur with rounds of 71-72 to be at 1-under and seven from the leader.

Challenging conditions over the closing two rounds tested Stieger’s game to remind him of the uniqueness of links, something he’s use to having played out of St Michaels golf course in Sydney since moving from from Bellata Golf Club, near Narrabri in central New South Wales.

“St Michael’s is similar to the courses you have here and I’ve learned to play with the wind and work the ball around the greens,” says Stieger.

“I’m looking forward to these events, particularly the British Amateur. I’ve done a lot of preparation and feel my game is there.”

“All the Aussies are eager to play well this week and there’s a great feeling amongst us all.”