Marquee field set for Lake Macquarie Amateur

The Lake Macquaire Amateur commences this Thursday at Belmont Golf Club south of Newcastle to be played over 72 holes of stroke play.

It’s an event that attracts the best of Australia’s amateurs who battle against the ever strong English Golf contingent.

Simon Viitakangas Simon Viitakangas (Credit: Anthony Powter)

Taylor MacDonald, Cameron Davis, Jordan Zunic, Anthony Murdaca, Jarryd Felton, Cory Crawford, Geoff Drakeford, Curtis Luck, Troy Moses and Simon Viitakangas are some of the marquee Aussie players competing.

England’s Ryan Evans, the top-seed last week at the Australian Amateur, comes off a course record on The East Course at The Grange and should feature at Belmont. As will fellow countryman and world number 32, Harry Casey.

For many of our elite players last week’s Australian Amateur Championships was a lost opportunity.

Some simply did not step up to the plate and perform when the heat was on, resulting in early departures of some of our best from the national championship.

This week at Belmont they will have the opportunity to make amends.

Past results indicate the winner will need to shoot anything between 15-20 under par with the open and, by modern standards, relatively short layout at Belmont falling victim to easy scoring when conditions are benign.

Geoff Drakeford has to be considered as one of the favourites for the title.

Whilst his main focus is the forthcoming Asian Tour Q-School, the big hitting Victorian would like nothing better than to exit the amateur ranks with a win. Drakeford’s massive length off the tee and raw power game will see him rip apart Belmont if the conditions are favourable.

Drakeford was a little unlucky in Adelaide, with a poor drive on the 18th in his third round match against Curtis Luck the only costly error which prevented Drakeford moving forward.

That’s not taking anything away from Luck, who played stellar golf during the championship and eventually finished runner-up for the title.

Murdaca was another to experienced final hole blues in Adelaide, falling agonisingly short in his semi-final match to the eventual champion, New Zealand’s Tae Koh.

Murdaca is a tenacious fighter and it will be interesting to see how he bounces back following the setback in Adelaide where he showed so much during the main part of the tournament.

With a number of young guns not competing at Belmont including, Ryan Ruffels and Zach Murray, who are both prodigious talents and Todd Sinnott also sitting out, the field is not as strong as it could be.

But the event has a rich history and is the pride of the Belmont Golf Club, a Club which has over the years ensured this great amateur event continues to provide the perfect test for our best amateurs.

The Lake Macquaire Amateur was first played in 1958, and past winners include Geoff Ogilvy in 1997, Jarrod Lyle (2003-4), Marc Leishman in 2005, Kieran Pratt in 2010 and more recently in 2012, Daniel Nisbet.

Last year New Zealander Josh Munn finished at 15-under for a three stroke victory over Brett Drewitt and England’s Nathan Kimsey. Munn has returned to defend his title with both Drewitt and Kimsey now in the professional ranks.

In 2006 Jason Day almost claimed victory only to be pipped in a playoff by Englishman, Adam Gee, after Day blasted a course record 63 final day round.

The Belmont layout might not be overly long and is open, yet when the wind gets up it shows its teeth and even the very best struggle.

With the likely prospect of fickle conditions this is a tournament where anything is possible, yet if history is any gauge this is an event which produces truly great champions.