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GB&I's Top Amateurs Clock The Air Miles

by Colin Callander - January 21, 2013

England is sending four of its leading players to compete at next month’s Jones Cup Invitational at Sea Island, Georgia. Seb Crookall-Nixon (currently at the University of San Francisco), Ben Stow (University of Kentucky), Ben Taylor (Nova Southeastern University) and Jack Hiluta (who recently graduated from the University of South Alabama) will tee up at Ocean Forest Golf Club on February 1-3 as part of a strong international contingent bidding to win an event traditionally dominated by home players.

The English quartet will be joined in the field by Ireland’s Kevin Phelan, Welsh duo Jason Shufflebotham and Ben Westgate and French trio Mathieu Decottignies-Lafon, Romain Langasque and Kenny Subregis.

They are up against a formidable field of American players, including 2012 US Amateur champion Steven Fox and defending champion Justin Thomas. Thomas went on to reach the semi-final of the US Amateur and win several collegiate events before being called up for his country’s Walker Cup training weekend in December.

Taylor closed with a 1-under-par 71 to finish in third place, three shots behind Thomas on 3-over-par 219. Florida-based Phelan was fourth on 220 while Rhys Enoch from Wales claimed a share of 12th place three shots further behind.

Ireland’s leading amateurs will be clocking up the air miles over the next few weeks while competing in international events on three different continents.

The Goling Union of Ireland announced last week that it was sending squads to the South American Amateur Championship at the Rincon De Cajica Golf Club in Columbia on January 23-26, the 10 Nations Cup at Kingswood Golf Club, South Africa, on February 6-9, the South African Stroke Play Championship at Oubaai Golf Club on February 12-15, the Portuguese Open Amateur Championship at Montado Golf Club on February 13-16 and the Spanish Open Amateur Championship at La Manga from February 27 to March 3.

Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) and Brian Casey (Headford) are the two players selected to make the long trip to South America while Harry Diamond (Belvoir Park), Richard O’Donovan (Lucan), Chris Selfridge (Moyola Park) and Reeve Whitson (Mourne) travel to South Africa for both the 10 Nations event and the South African Stroke Play Championship. Nicky Grant (Knock), Gary Hurley (West Waterford), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena) and Rory McNamara (Headford) also play in the latter.

Alex Gleeson (Castle), Eddie McCormack (Galway), Gavin Moynihan (The Island) and Pat Murray (Limerick) are Ireland’s representative at the Portuguese event at Montado, while Diamond, McNamara, O’Donovan, Selfridge, Whitson and Simon Ward (Co. Louth) make up the country’s six-strong squad in Spain.

Meanwhile, a young Irish women’s team comprising Chloe Ryan (Castletroy) and her Under-18 international teammates Jean O’Driscoll (Muskerry), Olivia Mehaffey (Royal Co. Down Ladies) and Ariana Coyle Diez (Elm Park) has returned from Ireland’s first sortie to the Mexican Ladies’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

Ryan was the top Irish performer at that event finishing in 10th place. O’Driscoll was tied 18th, Mehaffey was 26th while Coyle Diez was 42nd. The event was won by Mexico’s Marijosse Navarro, who came home in 2-under-par 33 on the final afternoon to win by two shots from US Curtis Cup player Emily Tubert on level par 288.

Scotland’s Ewan Scott got his 2013 season off to a fine start when he finished fifth behind Queensland teenager Viraat Badhwar at the prestigious Australian Master of the Amateurs event at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

The 17-year-old from St Andrews, the reigning Scottish Youths champion, recorded rounds of 68, 71, 73 and 73 to finish six shots behind Badhwar. England’s Garrick Porteous was fourth and America’s Patrick Rodgers tied sixth.

Badhwar is widely tipped as one of Australia’s brightest young prospects. He hails from Delhi but emigrated to Australia with his family in 2008 and last year became his adopted country’s No. 1 junior after a series of fine performances, including a runner-up at the Australian Boys’ Amateur Championship. He also won the individual prize while helping Australia claim the Toyota Junior Golf World Team Championship in Japan. Badhwar begins a golf scholarship at Stanford University this autumn.

The GB&I authorities spend a great deal of money financing foreign trips for their elite players but that investment pales into insignificance alongside the grant High Performance Sport New Zealand has awarded world No. 1 woman amateur Lydia Ko.

Stuff.co.nz reported that the 15-yearold has been handed a $230,000 grant to be split over two years and her coach, Guy Wilson, has confirmed it will help to finance trips to the five women’s majors and many leading international amateur events.

“The increased amount of golf Lydia has had to play overseas has accelerated her needs,” said Wilson. “(Until now) it’s all been privately funded, and that will still be required, but now the government will make a contribution, which is great.”

Ko started her 2013 season by sharing medallist honours with Victoria’s Grace Lennon at the Australian Women’s Amateur Championship at the Commonwealth and Woodlands Golf Clubs but then lost to another Victorian player, Jo Charlton, in the second round of the subsequent match-play stages.

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