Eight Australians have progressed through to the matchplay rounds of The 122nd Amateur Championship in England.
After two qualifying rounds of strokeplay at Royal St George’s and Prince’s Golf Clubs, NSW’s Blake Windred and Victorian David Micheluzzi will contest the preliminary matchplay round in a bid to join six fellow Aussies who have already qualified through to the round of 64.
New South Welshman Harrison Endycott (pictured above), who was part of the winning Australian team in last year’s Eisenhower Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships in Mexico, carded three birdies on the back nine on his way to a 65 at Royal St George’s and a seven-under-par total, which was the best of the Australians in the strokeplay. He finished three strokes back of top qualifier Caolan Rafferty, from Ireland.
Victorian Zach Murray was among a clutch of players who finished on six-under-par and T6.
Three more Australians – NSW’s Travis Smyth and West Australian pair Ben Ferguson and Min Woo Lee – were a further shot back at five under and T11 after the 36-hole qualifying after shooting a superb four under 68 at Royal St George’s.
NSW Dylan Perry rounded at the Aussie assault for the championship after jumping 17 places up the leaderboard with his second round two under 70 at Prince’s Golf Club.
The eight will be hoping to join Bryden Macpherson (2011) and Doug Bachli (1954) as the only Australians to win the coveted amateur title, which will also see the champion exempt in next month’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
“It’s always a huge positive to qualify high on the leaderboard. It gives you a bit of confidence going into the match play where anything can happen,” Endycott said.
“I’m expecting tough matches from minute one but I’m looking forward to getting out there and competing.
“As an amateur it would be unbelievable to play in The Open, to walk the fairways with the game’s greatest players. I’m going to be doing everything I can this week to get there.”
The player to watch though is the top qualifier, Rafferty. The 25-year-old carded a ten-under-par 62 at Prince’s to match Kevin McAlpine's Amateur Championship qualifying score on the Old Course at St Andrews in 2004. Richard Finch posted the lowest qualifying score with a 61 at Pyle & Kenfig in 2002.
Rafferty also broke the course record of 64 at Prince’s set in the opening round by Iceland’s Gisli Sveinbergsson.
Rafferty, who finished tied seventh at the Lytham Trophy, eagled the par-5 2nd hole and reached the turn in six-under-par before going on a run of five birdies in six holes from the 10th. A bogey at the last, after finding a bunker, left the Dundalk golfer on ten under.
Rafferty finished a shot clear of Italy’s Alberto Castagnara. The 20-year-old Italian carded a two-under-par round of 68 to finish on nine-under-par and secure his place in the match play stage which gets underway at the renowned Sandwich links tomorrow.
“The wind was up today but everyone knows back home that I love the wind and playing links golf in the wind suits me right down to the ground. It might be a bit of a graft when it comes to getting a score out of it but today I just kept hitting it to ten to 12 feet and I couldn’t miss it,” Rafferty said.
“It is nice to know that I am the leading qualifier in this field. The players are the best of the best. They are the closest thing to professionals that we are going to see. To come out on top is always nice.
“Match play is a funny game. You can play really poorly and win a match or you can play really well and lose a match. You just have to take it one step at a time in match play and not get down about it. I enjoy match play so I’m looking forward to it.”