Smith Favourite at Qld Am

Cameron Smith will start as the tournament's hot favourite when the Queensland Amateur Stroke championship commences at Pacific Harbour Golf Club this week.

The current Australian Amateur Stroke and Australian Boy's Champion has being one of Australia's most informed players with Smith's world amateur ranking climbing to be 32nd and our third ranked world amateur behind Matt Stieger and Ryan McCarthy.

With McCarthy still recuperating from a surfing accident and Stieger electing to compete this week in the South Australian Classic, Smith is the highest world ranked player in the 156 field.

This summer Smith recorded his two national victories, won the Victorian Junior Masters and secured top-15 finishes at the Riversdale Cup, Queensland PGA Championship. Back in January Smith also finished runner-up at the Lake Macquarie Amateur.

The likely challengers for Smith at this championship include Tim Hart, Jake Higginbottom, Marika Batibasaga, Blake McGrory, Luke Humphries and Dimitrios Papadatos.

Hart in March collected his first main amateur title winning the Federal Amateur with a 7-under-par total to be the only player in the field to break par around the Red Hill layout. The Federal Amateur victory was important for Hart in a number of ways, however, the most important aspect was the win represented that break through victory for Hart after runner-up finishes in the 2009 Mandurah Easter Amateur, the 2008 NSW Amateur Championship, the 2009 Federal Amateur, 2009 Victorian Amateur, 2010 Queensland Amateur and the 2010 Port Phillip Amateur.

At the Australian Amateur Championships last month, Hart progressed to the quarter finals and recently has posted some low rounds in our main events. Hart has the experience and game to seriously challenge for the Qld Amateur Championship, a title that's eluded his collection to date.

Last year Brett Drewitt pulled out a "get out of gaol card during the second half of the Queensland Amateur Championship final to win his first major amateur title when he fought back from 5 down after 19 holes to defeat Hart, 1-up.

Like Stieger, Drewitt has elected to compete in South Australia this week and will not be returning to defend his title.

Higginbottom has recently being struggling a little with his swing, however, is a tenacious competitor when the glove is on.

This season Higginbottom has exhibited some stellar form and will be looking to go one better than his runner-up finish last week to Cameron Smith at the Australian Boy's Championship in Sydney.

Add into the equation Higginbottom's top-5 finishes at the New South Wales Amateur Stroke championship and at the Lake Macquarie Amateur and another runner-up finish at the Harvey Norman Junior championship, the 2010 China Open and NSW Amateur Champion backs a sold game. He also rates as one of my favourites for this title.

Blake McGory is coming off a solid New Zealand Amateur Championship where he secured a 3rd place finish in the Medal and made the top-16's in the match play. The 2007 Lake Macquarie Amateur champion is hungry for another victory and has the experience to be threatening at these championships and should contest well.

Marika Batibasaga's spell from main amateur golf during the 2008-9 period has done no damage to his game and he's returned and notched up some results quickly.

Batibasaga's aggressive and flamboyant style will make him dangerous during these championships. At the Australian Amateur he finished 4th in the stroke and progressed to the top-16 in the match play. Should Batibasaga progress to the top-16 at Pacific Harbour after Friday's completion of the stroke format, he'll take some stopping during the match play and championship proper.

Both Luke Humphries and Dimitrios Papadatos have displayed signs of promise this Australian season and should compete well this week.

Humphries made it through to the semi-finals of the NSW Amateur Championship only to have his run halted by the eventual winner, England's Jack Senior. With a top-10 finish at the Australian Amateur Stroke championship, Humphries then progressed to the round of 16. He's due for a main amateur win after a number of solid performances this season.

Papadatos made the quarters of the New South Wales Amateur and in numerous National Section Events has played strongly, including a tied 3rd at the Dunes Medal back in 2009. The 2011 Australian Foursomes Champion with Kevin Marques, qualified for the 2010 Australian Open and back in 2008 won the New South Wales Country Championship.

A solid striker of the ball, Papadatos like Humphries, is due for a main amateur win.

Also another promising talent that's been missing from the winner's podium lately is the 2010 NSW Amateur Stroke Champion, Michael Williams.

Williams is in the progress of regaining his winning form and has been working hard with his coach, John Serhan, at St Michael's Golf Club in Sydney to fix the odd stitches that have crept into his game recently. If Williams was to make the top-16 come Friday evening, he'll be another to monitor at these championships.

The format of this year's Queensland Amateur has rounds 1 & 2 scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday at Pacific Harbour Golf Club and the final 36 holes for Friday.

The cut of the leading 50 players plus ties will follow Wednesday's second round with the top-16 qualifying for the Queensland Men's Amateur Championship to be played at Arundel Hills Golf Club from the 3rd May, with the 36-hole final scheduled for Friday week.

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