Aussies set for British Amateur

This week’s British Amateur at Hillside and Hesketh Golf Clubs at Southport, north of Liverpool, sees six Australians competing in arguably the biggest amateur event in Europe this summer.

They will be amongst 288 world-ranked amateur golfers from 35 countries competing for a place in this year’s British Open Championship and an invitation to the 2012 Masters Tournament.

The Australian contingent includes Ryan McCarthy, Brett Drewitt, Matt Stieger, Bryden MacPherson, Kalem Richardson and Chris Wood.

As to who will win this British Amateur Championship, speculation of this nature is often fraught with danger, yet there are some you tend to favour will feature strongly over the coming week.

England’s Tom Lewis is one.

In 2010 Lewis was England’s top-ranked player and secured a second place among the professionals in the New South Wales Open last December. He also took medallist honours at the Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club as the top amateur last December and won the Silver medal at the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year.

Others to follow include England’s Andrew Sullivan and Jack Senior who were impressive during their tour down under this Australian season.

In its 126 year history, the British Amateur has evaded Australian hands for the last 57 years, although Tim Stewart went close in 2007, narrowly going down to Drew Weaver at Royal Lytham & St Annes, 2&1.

Douglas Bachli was the last Australian to claim the title in 1954 at Muirfield, while Jim Ferrier in 1936 was defeated in the championship final.

All of the Australians competing this week have the game to challenge the field.

Ryan McCarthy is due for a solid tournament after being sidelined with a shoulder injury following a surfing incident during the Lake Macquarie Amateur in January.

McCarthy’s international experience is a factor in events like the British Amateur with international credits that include a top-16 finish at last year’s US Amateur and numerous top-20 finishes in main US amateur events at the Porter Cup, Southern Amateur and Dogwood Invitational.

When it comes to links golf and the ability to adjust to the varying conditions the current Australian Amateur champion and world number eight, Matt Stieger, is a true specialist.

Stieger plays out of St Michael’s Golf Club in Sydney under the watchful eye of John Serhan.

During the last eighteen months Stieger has made his mark winning two national selection events with the Tasmanian Open and the Australian Amateur Championship, as well as the Western Australian Amateur.

It’s Steiger’s consistency in these bigger events which gets your eye and you’ll expect him to challenge the field well this week.

It will be worth also keeping a close eye on US based Aussie, Bryden MacPherson.

MacPherson can go low around a links layout, like his sizzling course record 63 at The Dunes during his maiden National Trial win at the 2008 Dunes Medal, before going onto win the Australian and New Zealand Amateur Stroke titles in 2009.

Should MacPherson survive the qualification rounds he’ll strongly feature at this British Amateur.

Last March, MacPherson returned to Australia to compete at the Australian Amateur, only to have his championship cut short in the semi finals by the eventual champion Matt Stieger.

Brett Drewitt is another to follow particularly should the world number fourty-three progress to the match play segment of this event.

Drewitt’s match play record is impressive having won the 2010 US Pacific North West Amateur, as well as the 2010 Queensland Amateur.

Drewitt’s confidence remains on a high claiming his first main amateur stroke title at the Golf SA Classic just before leaving for the UK.

The qualification stroke-play stage of this British Amateur will be played on Monday and Tuesday with the top 64 players and ties qualifying for the match-play stage over four days staring Wednesday at Hillside Golf Club.