[PHOTO: Gary Lisbon]
The Australian Amateur, which tees off in Sydney today, has resumed its truly international flavour for the first time in a couple of pandemic-shaped years, but ironically it is a local hero who will soak up quite a bit of the attention this week at the visually stunning New South Wales and St Michael’s golf clubs.
Harrison Crowe is not the highest-ranked male player in the field – England’s John Gough at No.19 on the amateur rankings, holds that mantle, while Crowe is ranked 23rd – but his profile is extensive given the substantial impact of a certain pair of Major championship invitations that have come his way.
Crowe, 21, the reigning NSW Amateur and Open champion, recently received his invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National courtesy of his victory at the Asia-Pacific Amateur in Thailand last October. The invitation still to come is for the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July this year.
They are priceless opportunities for a boy who grew up not so far from the courses at Bexley, started his golf at the par-62 Bardwell Valley, and more recently a member of St Michael’s, arch-rival at major pennant level and geographical neighbour of New South Wales.
“It (getting the invitation in the mail) made it more real,” he said. “Up until now, it feels like it’s just words, ‘You’re playing Augusta.’ But that made it more real.”
The week itself has significance for Crowe, because the clock is ticking on his appearance in the Masters in April. As early has next month, he plans on flying to Georgia to take up the practice opportunities that the famous, old club offers to participants in its invitational tournament, before returning to Sydney to defend the NSW Open title he won at Concord last March.
“These events for me are building blocks to get myself ready for April and July,” he said yesterday. “Speaking to my coach (John Serhan), I need to get myself and my body in a good spot and keep ticking away.
“I’ll get over there next month and I think it’s five practice rounds that I can have. I’ll use as many as I can. Then I’ll be back home, but it won’t be a busy March for me. I don’t want to burn myself out before the big game.”
Crowe finished tied for 36th at the Master Of The Amateurs in Melbourne last week, but he had a good explanation for his tardy start to 2023. It was his playing resumption after the first two-week break from golf he can remember indulging himself with.
“I had a couple of weeks off over Christmas without touching the clubs and just had a refresh, did nothing, which was great,” he said. “The wedge was pretty rusty when I got it out of the shed! I’ve looked at what was wrong, and a lot of it came down to the fact I hadn’t picked up a club, I didn’t quite feel that everything was clicking and I was figuring out the feels. I definitely feel better this week.”
Crowe knows every square centimetre of the courses in play this week. “Being around my home track, and so close to home, with some home crowds and seeing faces I haven’t seen in a while, I’m trying to take that advantage on the field, just knowing where to go,” he said. “New South is visually more appealing (than St Michael’s), but I think they’re both great golf courses.”
A total 312 young men and women – double last year’s field at Cranbourne Golf Club on the south-eastern outskirts of Melbourne – have entered for this week’s 72-hole strokeplay event that concludes on Friday, with the relaxation of travel restrictions helping the cause.
They represent 13 countries with the Australians competing against the best from Europe, Japan, South Korea and other parts of Asia, New Zealand and the United States.
England’s Gough, last week’s Master Of The Amateurs winner and also the English Amateur champion, is here. So is Fiona Xu, the New Zealander who won the Australian Amateur last year. The world No.3 woman, Japan’s Baba Saki is playing, along with countrywoman Yuna Araki, who won the women’s Master Of The Amateurs in Melbourne last Sunday.
Jack Buchanan, the South Australian who was runner-up to Connor McKinney in last year’s national championship, aims to go one step better and Sydney superstar Jeffrey Guan is playing, too. Kipp Poppert, the English player who recently won the Australian All Abilities Championship during the ISPS Handa Australian Open, makes his own little bit of history by teeing it up in an open field.
St Michael’s is hosting the Australian Amateur for the first time, and New South Wales previously hosted the national championship in 2007.
They are truly historic events. The Australian Amateur dates to 1894, making it one of the oldest golf tournaments on the planet, with a list of high profile winners to match.
The two winners each receive an invitation to play in this year’s Australian Open in Sydney. Just as importantly, they will go down in the annals with the likes of Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee, Cameron Smith and Adam Scott as winners of this prestigious championship.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Harrison Crowe (NSW) The reigning NSW Open champion, Asia Pacific Amateur champion, NSW Amateur champion
Jeffrey Guan (NSW) Two-time Australian Junior champion
Caitlyn Pierce (SA) Karrie Webb Scholarship holder
Justice Bosio (Qld) Golf Australia Order Of Merit winner
Kip Poppert (UK) Australian All Abilities champion
Fiona Xu (New Zealand) Reigning Australian Amateur champion
John Gough (England) English Amateur champion, Master Of the Amateurs champion
Jack Buchanan (SA) Runner-up Australian Amateur in 2022
Baba Saki (Japan) World No.3 and winner of the US Women’s Amateur.
72-holes of strokeplay for men and women. Cut after 36 holes and 54 holes.
Rounds 1 and 2 (Tuesday-Wednesday) at New South Wales and St Michael’s golf clubs, rounds 3 and 4 (Thursday-Friday) at New South Wales.