Five Aussies in Rice Planters field

Australians, for some reason, perform well at the Rice Planters Invitational. Matthew Griffin last year won his maiden US amateur title when he fired a closing round 3-under-par 69 to equal Aron Price's 2004 tournament record of 17-under-par to finish a stroke ahead of American Mike Stern, at 16-under-par.

Five years ago Australians claimed the top three spots when Aron Price outlasted Marc Leishman, both now playing on the PGA Tour, to post a tournament record to claim the title, whilst Andrew McKenzie finished outright third.

Asian Tour player Tristan Lambert won the rained shortened event in 2005, Tim Stewart was runner-up in 2006 and Michael Foster in 2007 won in a two-hole playoff with fellow Aussie, Josh Younger.

Just five Australians will contest this year's Rice Planters Invitational, which commences tomorrow at Snee Farm Country Club in South Carolina, USA.

This is a far cry from the 20 strong Australian contingent that teed up in 2007 and again indicative of the funding stance taken by Australian amateur golfing administrations this season.

Each Australian this week has paid for themselves to get to South Carolina, the contingent headed by 2009 New South Wales Amateur Champion, Michael Smyth and 2008 Victorian State Amateur Champion, Luke Bleumink.

"I've only arrived here in the US a few days ago and just had a practice round this morning and was impressed with the layout," said Bleumink.

"I'm looking forward to this event as Australians have done so well here in the past. The course is still new to me, so I'll see how it plays after another practice round."

The other Australians playing at Snee Farm include Ray Beaufils, who played some solid golf last week at the weather affected Monroe Invitational in New York, Ryan Lynch and Ben Weatherly.

Weatherly has been based in the US for the past month and narrowly missed out in the US Open Qualifying by four strokes from teeing it up at Bethpage.

The Victorian has already accounted for a number of solid performances at the Memorial Amateur, Palmetto Amateur and had a top-30 finish at the Southwestern Amateur last week in Tucson, Arizona.
Weatherly, like the other Aussies here this week, has funded the bulk of his own trip to gain the valuable playing experience from US amateur competition.

"I've been driving the ball well and at the same time being accurate off the tee and that's a big help," said Weatherly.

"If I can get my short game and putting going this week, my game will be more competitive. It's an aspect that has let me down a bit at these tournaments lately. I've enjoyed every minute so far and looking forward again to another tournament."

No American inside the world's top 100 is competing this week in South Carolina which should again favour the Australian contingent to feature strongly.

Throughout the years an illustrious group of golfers have competed in the Rice Planters. Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Andy Bean, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank, Duffy Waldorf, Brian Watts, Scott Hoch, Hal Sutton, Jeff Sluman, Steve Jones, Mark O'Meara and Brian Gay have made their respective marks at the event.

Stewart Cink (1993), Aron Price (2004), and Josh Younger (2007) share the course record of 63, whilst Aron Price (2004) and Matt Griffin (2008) share the tournament record of 271, 17-under par in a stark reflection of the Australian dominance at the championship.

The Rice Planters is a 72-hole invitational event with a 54-hole cut coming into effect for the low 60 and ties after the third round.

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