[PHOTO: Brett Costello]
Australia begins its quest for the World Amateur Team Championship in Abu Dhabi today, with world No.29 Karl Vilips leading a strong team from Down Under.
There are 36 teams competing in the 33rd championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates.
Australia last lifted the Eisenhower Trophy in 2016 with the team of Harrison Endycott, Curtis Luck and Cam Davis. It was the fourth triumph by an Australian team in the prestigious event that began in 1958.
In the 2022 WATC, the Australian men’s team of Harrison Crowe, Hayden Hopewell and Connor McKinney finished 15th in France.
Italy is the defending champion and will try to become the first team to win consecutive WATC titles since the USA did so in 2012 and 2014. Last year’s gold in the Eisenhower Trophy was Italy’s first medal in 32 championship appearances.
The field in Abu Dhabi includes the world’s No.1 and No.2-ranked amateurs, South African Christo Lamprecht and American Gordon Sargent.
Vilips qualified for the U.S. Open this year and is completing his stint at Stanford University. He was the gold medallist at the 2018 Youth Olympics.
The other two Australians are Jack Buchanan from Adelaide and Jeffrey Guan from Sydney, who has flown into Abu Dhabi from playing a professional tournament on the Japan Golf Tour.
Kazuma Kobori, the Kiwi who won the 2023 Australian Amateur, is also in the field.
The oldest player in the field this week is Columbia’s Manuel Merizalde, 44, who is making his fifth appearance at the WATC.
Louis Klein, of Czechia, is the youngest in the field at age 14 but there are two other 14-year-olds playing this week.
The national women’s team will take centre stage next week at the same venue when they play for the Esperito Santo Trophy.
AUSTRALIAN MEN’S TEAM PROFILES
Karl Vilips (WA)
Club: Stanford University (USA)
Perth star who is in his final year at Stanford. Won a world junior aged 11; qualified for the U.S. Open this year.
Jeffrey Guan (NSW)
Club: The Australian
National junior champion in 2021 and 2022, Guan has been earmarked for big things since he became NSW Junior champion.
Jack Buchanan (SA)
SA champion in 2022 and runner-up in the Australian Amateur in the same year, a fixture in all the big events.