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Golf Today 22nd December
New cart court case in Australia
Baddeley skips Ernie Els invite
Nicklaus making one last big push in 2000
New names knocking on LPGA Hall of Fame door
Golf Notes December 22: And now, a word about sponsors

Baddeley skips Ernie Els invite

Australian Open champion Aaron Baddeley has declined an invitation to play alongside Ernie Els in the $1.6 million Heineken Classic in Perth from January 27-30.

The 18-year-old amateur will instead accept an offer to play in the $500,000 New Zealand Open the week before at Paraparaumu Beach in Wellington.

Baddeley's father, Ron, said last night that while the offer to play with Els was tempting, it would have meant Aaron playing three events in a row – the Heineken, the Greg Norman International and the Australian Masters.

"It would be too much. It's very hot in Perth. We'll be pretty much sticking to our plan (devised in consultation with coach Dale Lynch) of not playing more than two events in a row next year," he said.

Aaron Baddeley
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1999 Australian Open

"We've pretty much decided our itinerary. We're just waiting on answers from a couple of events."

One of those events is The US Masters at Augusta National. Bruce Devlin, the last amateur before Baddeley to win the Australian Open, in 1960, and now a commentator on American television, has lobbied the Augusta committee on the teenager's behalf.

It could be the first week in January before Baddeley knows if he has received an invitation to play Augusta in April.

The highlight of his early season in Australia will be the clash with Spanish teenager Sergio Garcia in the Australian Masters at Huntingdale next February.

Baddeley became the youngest Australian Open champion when he kept at bay a field including Greg Norman, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo at Royal Sydney last month.

He then played in the Players' Championship at Royal Queensland, where he shot a creditable six under to finish in a tie for 19th. He declined an invitation for the Australian PGA Championship and joined the Coolum Classic last week as a member of an amateur team in the pro-am format.

For the past two days he has been one of the main drawcards at the Jack Newton Celebrity Classic at the Peter Thomson-designed Twin Waters layout on the Sunshine Coast.