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Higginbottom & Sullivan lead NSW Medal

(Photo: Anthony Powter)
Defending NSW Amateur champion Jake Higginbottom and world number 19, Englishman Andrew Sullivan, share the lead at the NSW Medal at 14-under-par to enjoy a seven stroke margin over Josh Cabban, Dimitrios Papadatos and another Englishman, Laurie Canter following the half way stage of the NSW Medal.

Higginbottom fired opening rounds of 67 at Liverpool and 63 at Cumberland in contrast to Sullivan's 66 at Cumberland and an impressive 8-under-par 64 at Liverpool Golf Club to set a clear margin over the remaining field heading into the final stages of the qualification rounds for the championship.

The NSW Medal re-commences today at Cumberland Golf Club following a cut of plus-2 with the top 60 players plus ties contesting the final 36 holes and a place in the desired top-32 for elimination match play for the NSW Amateur championship.

The 32 qualifiers for the NSW Amateur Championship will then contest 18 holes knockout match play format for three days, beginning on Monday, 31st January at NSW Golf Club and concluding on Wednesday, 2nd February with the championship final being determined over 36 holes.

The opening two rounds again have reflected the English Team's stellar Australian summer with Andrew Sullivan, Laurie Canter and Stiggy Hodgson all currently inside the top-10 and, barring any individual implosion, all look certain to progress to the match play segment in the championship.

Last year Jake Higginbottom accounted for England's, Tommy Fleetwood, with a 3&2 victory at Royal Sydney Golf Club to secure his biggest amateur victory since progressing from the junior ranks.

Originally from the Newcastle region, Higginbottom played solid golf at the Lake Macquarie Amateur last week at Belmont to finish in a tie for 4th position after securing a top-15 finish the week before at the Australian Master of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne. The opening two rounds exhibited by Higginbottom in this championship, reflective of his talent and capability to score well in bigger events.

Yet arguably the player to beat in these championships is England's Andrew Sullivan, however, that's not to imply that Higginbottom does't have the game to take out back to back victories, as he certainly does. Sullivan has simply been a threat in each of the two Australian events he's entered since arriving early in the year.

The world number 18 has been right in the mix at the Australian Master of the Amateurs and at the Lake Macquarie Amateur, with Sullivan's putter letting him down during critical closing stages to deny his claim to another international title. Sullivan has the experience and know-how to secure a main title like the NSW Amateur and should he be contesting next Wednesday's championship final he's sure to be a fiery competitor.

Despite being seven strokes behind the leaders, Laurie Canter is another that should also feature strongly in these championships.

Canter recorded a runner-up finish at the Australian Master of the Amateurs and a top-15 finish at Belmont. The world number 17 in 2010 won the South African Amateur and the West of England Amateur. Another links specialist, Canter will take some stopping should he progress to the top-32 match play segment, which given his current position should be no more than a formality over Friday's 36 holes at Cumberland.

Other named players to be presently inside the desired top-32 include Brett Drewitt following rounds of 72-67 to be in a tie for 10th, Tim Hart with 70-70 to be in a tie for 13th, England's Tom Lewis who's in a tie for 16th after rounds of 70-71 and New Zealand's Ryan Fox with rounds of 67-75 to be in a tie for 19th.

Club pennant players Grant Thomas from Moore Park and The Australian's, Ian Bradley have opened strongly with Thomas in a tie for 6th at 6-under-par with rounds of 71-67 and Bradley finds himself in a tie for 19th at 2-under-par with rounds of 70-72. Thomas in the process also collected the Champion of Champions, a 36 hole event in conjunction between club champions, nudging Brett Drewitt from Long Reef by a stroke for the title

Brady Watt, winner last week at the Lake Macquarie Amateur, missed the cut with two rounds of 77 to finish well down the leader board.

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