For the first time since the inaugural staging of the event in 1997, the increasingly prestigious championship will include a women’s field of 21 female amateur golfers who join the 78 top National & International elite male amateur golfers, although in a separate Championship, but under the same title of the Australian Master of the Amateurs Championship.
The introduction of the women’s contest adds another dynamic to the already successful event which has seen many of the game’s leading amateurs participate but not always win the championship.
The most significant champion amongst the honours roll is Jason Day whose victory in 2006, just before heading to the US as an 18-year-old, helped elevate the profile of the event especially given Day’s growing reputation in amateur golf at the time and of course his subsequent success.
The event has been staged at Royal Melbourne in the last seven years adding further to its standing, Australia’s highest ranked layout offering an outstanding test for those involved.
In 2018 the leading world ranked amateur in the men’s field is American Dylan Meyer who will have good memories of Royal Melbourne layout having recorded a final round of 66 last year when finishing 12th last year.
Meyer has won several events in collegiate golf and other in 2017 and in his most recent world ranked tournament he won the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational in Florida.
The brilliant Chinese star Andy Zhang, who recently finished runner-up at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and who at the age of just 14 became the youngest player to play the US Open in 2012, is the second highest world ranked amateur in the field and China’s highest ranked.
He has played his golf in the US since 2010 and so is well versed in international conditions and while this layout is a significantly different golf course to that he faced at Royal Wellington two months ago, he is all class.
Also creating interest amongst the International players will be the Japanese stars Takumi Kanaya and Keita Nakajima. Kanaya produced a remarkable performance to finish runner-up at the Japan Open last October and then finished 11th at the NSW Open and 19th at the Australian Open. He was unable to play the Asia-Pacific Amateur due to collegiate commitments in Japan but he is a rising star.
Kanaya is currently the highest placed amateur in the Official World Golf Rankings which combines amateur and professionals and is the only amateur inside the top 500 in world men’s golf.
Australia’s best amateurs currently, in terms of world amateur ranking at least, are Dylan Perry and Min Woo Lee, both of whom are in the field as are the next best ranked amateurs in David Mucheluzzi, Shae Wools-Cobb, Charlie Dann, Zach Murray, Blake Windred and current Australian Amateur Champion Matias Sanchez.
Sunshine Coast golfer Dann is the defending champion while Victorian Murray has also won the event previously.
New Zealand’s hopes may well rest with two-time New Zealand Amateur Champion, former Australian Junior Champion and their leading world amateur ranked player Daniel Hillier. Hillier won the second of his two New Zealand Amateur Championships in Christchurch in November, played well at the NSW Open, also in November, and was 6th at the Asia Pacific Amateur in his hometown of Wellington.
Amongst the women’s field the leading world ranked female amateur is American collegiate (University of Arizona) golfer, Hayley Moore, who two years ago made the cut at the ANA Inspiration, one of the majors on the LPGA Tour.
Australia’s leading world ranked amateurs in the women’s field are Kirsty Hodgkins, Grace Kim and Becky Kay.
The tournament is played over 72 holes and begins on Tuesday 9th of January.
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