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Masters Is Dunbar's Final As Amateur

by Colin Callander - April 8, 2013

This week, Northern Ireland’s Alan Dunbar will bring the curtain down on an illustrious amateur career when he competes against the world’s best professionals in The Masters at Augusta National.

Alan Dunbar

The 22-year-old Amateur champion from Portrush will be joined in Georgia by U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox, U.S. Amateur runner-up Michael Weaver, U.S. Mid- Amateur Links champion Nathan Smith, U.S. Public Links champion T.J. Vogel, and 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, the reigning Asian Amateur champion, as they try to emulate another Asian amateur, the Japanese player Hideki Matsuyama, who made the cut at Augusta in both 2011 and 2012.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away, on the other side of the Atlantic, 640 less celebrated, but equally enthusiastic amateurs will be making their way to Royal Cinque Ports and Royal St George’s, in Kent, to compete in another of golf’s great institutions.

Unlike The Masters, the Halford Hewitt does not enjoy an international TV audience measured in millions but, as far as its competitors and their supporters are concerned this foursomes tournament, contested by 10-strong teams from 64 public schools in England and Scotland, is every bit as important.

The Hewitt, as it is normally known, is sometimes referred to as “The Other Rite of Spring,” and not just because invariably it is played in the same week as the first major of the year. It is one of Britain’s most hotly-contested tournaments, but it is also one of the game’s most convivial gatherings, something that is entirely appropriate given that it was conceived over lunch at one of England’s inest golf clubs back in 1923.

There is a degree of debate surrounding the Hewitt’s inception but, according to that great golf writer and TV commentator, Henry Longhurst, its origins stem from a lunchtime discussion John Beck, the captain of the 1938 GB Walker Cup team, had with G.L. “Susie” Mellin, a semifinalist in the 1920 Amateur Championship, at the Addington Club, in Surrey, when it was agreed that it would be a good idea to establish a public schools golf tournament along similar lines to an existing football tournament, the Arthur Dunn Cup.

Being traditionalists, Beck and Mellin quickly decided to utilise a foursomes format and then, just when they were wondering who they could find to provide a suitable trophy, a wealthy acquaintance, Halford Hewitt, walked in and the tournament got its name.

Mellin was an old Malvarian and Beck a Carthusian so it was no surprise that later in the year representatives from those schools, Malvern and Charterhouse, met up with delegates from Eton, Highgate, The Leys and Winchester to finalise details for the first tournament. They were joined in the inaugural by four other schools, Mill Hill, Rugby, Beaumont and Radley, although, ultimately, when the first event was played the following spring, Beaumont scratched and Radley failed to raise a team.

Eton, Charterhouse and Harrow went on to dominate the early years of the tournament, winning 17 of the first 19 played, but that did not stop competitors, if not the wider goling public at large, viewing it as the highlight of the goling calendar.

“This tournament has never greatly attracted the general golfing public, not even the public school public,” Bernard Darwin wrote in “Golf Between Two Wars.” “For those who are not actually present its very magnitude detracts from the interest; they grow weary of reading so many names and the results of so many ties. But among those at Deal there surges an intense and increasing excitement. It is often said with some justification that golf is a selfish and not a team game and that a team match is no more than an aggregation of single combats.

“As far as that reproach, if it be a reproach, can be removed, the thing has been done by this tournament. In the first place it is played entirely by foursomes. In the second the team spirit – a tiresome expression but a good thing – reigns supreme. No one cares about his own match except in so far as it brings victory or defeat to his side. Everybody having finished his own match rushes to encourage his comrades who are still struggling, with voice and gesture. There is a real passion of school patriotism.”

That passion will be there in abundance as the 83rd Hewitt gets underway on Thursday, when King Edward’s Birmingham play Gresham in the first match at Royal Cinque Ports and when last year’s losing finalists, Epsom, take on Wrekin in the opening encounter a couple of miles away at Royal St George’s. The event runs through until Sunday afternoon when the final is staged at Cinque Ports.

Last year, Charterhouse defeated 2000 champions, Epsom, 3 and 2, in an engrossing final to claim its 16th victory in this annual event. The defending champions begin this year’s tournament with a first round tie against Rossall while the 2012 losing semifinalists, Eton and Radley, play Marlborough and King’s Canterbury, respectively. Tonbridge begins its quest for a sixth title in 12 years with a first round match against Bradfield.

Headfort’s Rory McNamara collected his second major Irish title in the space of a few months when he won the 2013 West of Ireland Championship at Co. Sligo.

The 23-year-old Irish international won last year’s North of Ireland title and he completed the double when he defeated Muskerry’s Niall Gorey by 5 and 4 in the final at Rosses Point.

Earlier, McNamara had defeated 2012 champion Harry Diamond, from Belvoir Park, by 4 and 3 in one semifinal while Gorey had come back from 4-down with five to play to beat 2013 Spanish Amateur champion Reeve Whitson on the 19th hole in the other.

“It’s fantastic to win two championships in a few months”, McNamara told the Irish Golf Desk’s Brian Keogh. “I’m absolutely delighted. It has been a long, long week.”

McNamara plans to play in this month’s inaugural Headfort Senior Scratch Cup before competing in both the Lytham Trophy and the Irish Open Amateur Stroke Play.

Laura Funfstuck completed a notable German double when she won the French International Lady Junior Amateur Championship at St Cloud.

The 18-year-old German international from Langen beat Spain’s Natalia Escuriola by one hole in the final just 24 hours after her compatriot, Dominic Foos, had beaten English Amateur champion, Harry Ellis, in the French International Boys’ Championship, also played at St Cloud.

Earlier in the week, a Germany “A” side comprising Antonia Scherer, Franziska Freidrich and Quirine Eijkenboom had also tied for first place with a Spain “B” squad made up of Escuriola, Ha Rang Lee and Clara Baena in a Nations Cup contest but lost out to the Spaniards on a card countback.

Funfstuck came into the French event having finished third in last year’s German Girls’ Championship and she immediately made her mark by recording rounds of 65 and 71 to finish a single shot behind Escuriola in the 36-hole stroke play qualifying event.

The German, who is about to start a golf scholarship at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, began the subsequent match-play stage with a one-hole victory over England’s Charlotte Thompson and then defeated Spain’s Jonama Andrea, compatriot Antonia Scherer and Scotland’s Eilidh Briggs before beating 18-year-old Escuriola in the final.

England’s Bronte Law had lost to France’s Celine Boutier in the final of last year’s French championship. She failed to make it into the top light for this year’s match play stages but made amends a few days later when she succeeded compatriot Meghan MacLaren as the winner of the Cartier Trophy, awarded to the player who wins the second flight.

Law started out with a 3-and-2 victory over Belgium’s Charlotte De Corte and also beat Spaniard Lee and Germany’s Leonie Harm before claiming a convincing 3-and-2 victory over Sweden’s Jessica Vasilic in the final.

“This is a good trophy to win as I’m revising hard for my A-levels at the moment,” said the 18-year-old Curtis Cup player from Bramhall in Cheshire, who will head to California and UCLA after the summer.

“I hit the ball well during qualifying but really, really struggled with the putting,” she added. “But I managed to work my way into it during the week and it’s ten times better now.

“Today I finished birdie, birdie, birdie, holing two from six feet and then a 25-footer on the last to win,” she added.

Scotland “A,” comprising Briggs, Alyson McKechin and Ailsa Summers finished 10th and as leading GB team in the Nations Cup. England “A” was 12th and England “B” 14th.

English international Alice Hewson closed with a storming 6-under-par 66 to claim a two-shot victory in the Scottish Under-16s Girls’ Championship at the Strathmore Golf Centre in Perthshire.

Hewson, a former English Under-13s champion from Berkhamsted, carded rounds of 73 and 66 for a 5-under par total of 139, two in front of English Under- 15 champion, Sophie Madden and three ahead of Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey.

World No. 5 Georgia Hall will defend her title at this week’s Hampshire Rose at North Hants Golf Club.

Georgia Hall

Fresh from her appearance at last week’s Kraft Nabisco tournament in California, 17-year-old Hall, from Remedy Oaks, will appear alongside Nikki Foster, with whom she shared the title 12 months ago. They are part of a strong field which also includes fellow English internationals, Charlotte Thompson, Rachel Goodhall, Amber Ratcliffe and Alex Peters.

Twelve months ago, Hall began her meteoric rise up the Women’s World Amateur Rankings when she reached the semi-finals of the French International Lady Junior Championship and then won the Hampshire Rose, The Roehampton Gold Cup and the Critchley Salver in quick succession.

Later, she went on to win the British Girls’ Championship, finish runner-up in the English Women’s Championship and reach the semi-finals of the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship, where she lost to eventual winner, Stephanie Meadow.

This year, Hall started where she left off winning both individual and team gold medals at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival at Royal Sydney. “I cried after the last hole,” she admitted to Telegraph golf writer Jamie Corrigan on the eve of her appearance in the first women’s major of the season. “It was so much pressure but really, really fun. I can’t imagine what it will be like in Rio.”

The Hampshire Rose is one of several important club events to be staged this week as GB&I begins to escape the last vestiges of winter. Elsewhere, the Craigmillar Park Open is played at Craigmillar Park, Edinburgh, while in Wales the Duncan Putter and Tenby Scratch Cup are contested at Southerdown and Tenby, respectively.

Graeme Robertson won last year’s Craigmillar Park Open on his way to finishing the season in second place behind Jack McDonald in the Scottish Amateur Golf Rankings. Ben Westgate and Luke Thomas shared the Duncan Putter while Becky Harries edged out Curtis Cup player, Amy Boulden, at Tenby.

Former Wigan Athletic midfielder Jimmy Bullard was one of almost 20 amateurs to make it through the first stage of the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School.

Bullard, who plays out of The Wisley and whose other previous football clubs included Fulham and Hull City, shot a 75 and a 76 at Stoke by Nayland to make it through to this week’s final stage at Frilford Heath.

“It was a little bit into the unknown for me,” he said. “I’m used to playing football so for me to come up here for the first time with a card and pencil in my hand was a different pressure but I really enjoyed it. I couldn’t sleep last night. I just wanted to get out there again.

“I entered Q-School as an amateur just in case I didn’t qualify, then I could go back and play some amateur events and medals. But do I believe I can qualify? Yes, of course I do.”

Former England “A” squad member Greg Payne (Chobham), who is now a professional, led the qualifiers at Stoke by Nayland after carding rounds of 69 and 71.

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