Asian Amateur attracts top field

The Asian Amateur Championship, organised by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A, has attracted a stellar field for its 2011 championship being played at the New Course at The Singapore Island Country Club.

Six Australians, Matt Stieger, Jake Higginbottom, Luke Humphries, Cameron Smith, Matthew Smith, and Brad Moules will fly the Australian flag in the 120 invitational field 72-hole stroke play event that gets underway this Thursday.

Both Smith and Higginbotton hit the Singapore layout with plenty of form. Higginbottom securing numerous victories including the Australian Masters, NSW Age Championship and more recently a runner-up finish at the Thunderbird International Junior in the US.

Smith to his credit has moved his world ranking inside the top-30 to be our third highest ranked amateur behind Stieger and US based, Bryden Macpherson, following strong international performances in the US which include a top-20 finish at the Players Amateur, Medalist honours at a US Junior qualifying, as well as the Australian Amateur back in March.

Higginbottom and Smith represent the next wave of Australian Amateur talent and are sure to feature this week in Singapore along with the experienced Matt Stieger.

Stieger, out top ranked amateur at 15th in the world needs to bank some results after being as high as 8th in the world ranking following his Australian Amateur title, which added to a string of local victories including the Tasmanian Open and Western Australian Amateur.

Winless in the US this season and recording a tied fifth as his best 2011 international performance at the Berkshire Trophy in the UK, the world number 15 needs to claim a main international title to cement his place as one of our most talented amateurs.

Stieger is a gritty player and following a recent return to refresh his game at St Michael's Golf Club in Sydney with his coach, John Serhan, Stieger heads to Asian with a positive outlook towards securing another international victory after winning the 2010 Pacific North West Medal in the US.

The Australasian contingent is rounded out with a strong New Zealand squad that includes the second highest ranked player in the field, world number 14, Ryan Fox.

Fox has been a standout performer internationally with numerous top-10 finishes in the US as well as strong performances at the Riversdale Cup and Australian Amateur.

Add to the mix the ever talented Ben Campbell, who came fourth at last year's Asian Amateur Championship, Campbell enters this event on the back of a solid performance at Asia-Pacific Panasonic Open where the 20-year-old made the cut in the Asian Tour event.

Amongst the leading contenders for the championship is 2010 Asian Amateur Championship winner and world number 5, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.

Matsuyama returns after a triumphant Masters Tournament that saw him win the coveted Silver Cup as the highest placed amateur who made the cut. His tie for 27th at Augusta National Golf Club left him impressively alongside 2010 Masters champion Phil Mickelson come Tournament's end.

It is also worth following Eric Chun who finished runner-up in this event in 2009.

Chun honed his game originally in Australia before heading to the US to play the tough Collegiate system.

The second place finish back in 2009 in this event earned Chun the right to qualify for the 2010 British Open at the International Final Qualifying Stage. There, the Northwestern Collegiate golfer shot rounds of 67-71 and sank a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole to land a spot in his first Major Championship at legendary St. Andrews.

This Asian Amateur is a forward thinking event that continues to thrive with every year. The event is the foresight of the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A, who created the Asian Amateur Championship in 2009 to help develop golf in Asia and provide a focal point for the amateur game in an area of the world where the game's growth has flourished in recent years.

The inaugural tournament was won by Han Chang-won of Korea at Mission Hills Golf Club in southern China, with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama triumphing in 2010 at Kasumigaseki Country Club on the outskirts of Tokyo.

This week's tournament has a lot at stake for the winner in this truly international field.

The 2011 Asian Amateur winner receives an invitation to the Masters, while the champion and runner(s)-up earn spots at The British Open Championship's International Final Qualifying (IFQ) in Asia.

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