Stieger set for Scottish Open Amateur

Reigning Australian Amateur Champion Matt Stieger is set to play his first European amateur event this season when the Scottish Stroke Play Championship gets underway at Blairgowrie Golf Club tomorrow.

Stieger, a winner of two national selection events with the Tasmanian Open and the Australian Amateur Championship as well as the Western Australian Amateur, arrived in Scotland earlier in the week to prepare for a two month tour of both the UK and the US.

Matt Steiger Matt Stieger set for Scottish Open Amateur (Credit: Anthony Powter)

“I’ve been working hard to get ready for these events in the UK,” said Stieger, ranked 13th in the world from St Michael’s Golf Club in Sydney.

“St Michael’s have been great with their assistance and I’ve done a lot of preparation with my coach John Serhan there.”

“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. I’m looking forward to these events, particularly the St Andrews Links next week.”

This is Stieger’s second tour of the UK and US and his excellent form this season back home in Australia is an encouraging sign leading in to this event.

Stieger’s 2011 tally includes three wins and two runner-up finishes at the Riversdale Cup and Keperra Bowl.

There was also a 3rd place finish at the Mandurah Easter Amateur and a semi-final finish at the New South Wales Amateur.

“I’ve won an international event before,” says Stieger regarding his maiden international win at the Pacific North West Amateur last year in April.

“I feel my game has improved since the win last year in the US and see this tour as a real opportunity to prove myself against the best in the world.”

“I’m confident, yet I’m also aware this will be a tough tour with the number of events and the quality of the field I’ll be playing against in every event. There are no weak tournaments here and that’s something to look forward to.”

England’s Tom Lewis is the highest world ranked amateur at number three competing this week at Blairgowrie.

Lewis collected the Silver Medal last December at the Australian Open as the leading amateur and the week prior pushed tour journeyman, Peter O’Malley, to three extra holes at the New South Wales Championship at The Vintage.

This season in the UK, Lewis has recorded mixed results, yet enters this event with a runner-up finish last week at the Lytham Trophy, which was won by Jack Senior who also won the NSW Amateur back in March against fellow countryman, Andrew Sullivan.

Senior is also competing this week as is Sullivan, who toured Australia recently with Lewis and Senior and featured strongly in our main events, winning the NSW Stroke Championship along with a runner-up finishes at the Master of the Amateurs and the NSW Amateur Championship.

UK’s leading amateur golfers will also be aiming to impress the Walker Cup selectors with the biannual tournament against the USA scheduled for Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in September.

There are only three other Australians with Stieger in Scotland, Chris Wood, Chris Akers and Daniel Nisbet.

This is Nisbet’s first tournament after an 18-month ban for steroid possession was lifted this week.

It will be interesting to follow how the former Australian Junior Champion and Queensland Amateur champion will go against players well tuned and match fit compared to Nisbet’s forced absence from the game.

In contrast seven New Zealanders have entered the championship headed by Ben Campbell.

Campbell was a finalist at the Australian Amateur against Stieger and finished inside the top-10 in each main amateur event he competed this season in Australia.

Supporting Campbell are fellow New Zealanders, Daniel Perce, Frazer Williams, Tyler Lock, Craig Hamilton, Landyn Edwards and James Hamilton.

With a strong international field assembled for this week’s Scottish Amateur, many are using it as a warm-up for the St Andrews Links Trophy, starting 2nd June.

The list of past Scottish Amateur champions includes Colin Montgomerie, Bernard Gallacher, Alastair Forsyth and Richie Ramsay.

The top 40 players plus ties, from the 144 starters, will contest the last 36 holes in Sunday’s final in the 72 hole competition.

Last year the best performances from an Australian-based player came from Jin Jeong and Ben Campbell who finished in a tie for 7th at 4-over-par, with France’s Romain Wattel winning the title a 9-under-par total.