LION FOUNDATION NEW ZEALAND AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW

18/04/2011

Cecilia Cho is in the spotlight at the Russley Golf Club in Christchurch this week as she attempts to become the first golfer to win three Lion Foundation New Zealand Amateur Championships in a row in more than a century.

Cho, who defended her title last year at the Bridge Pa Golf Club in Hastings winning in sudden death on the 38th hole against Philippine golfer  Chihiro Ikeda, became the first woman to achieve back to back titles since Australian Lorraine Lambert in 1991- 1992.

She now has the chance to rewrite history once more and match the achievement of a legend of women’s golf in this country Miss Kate Rattray from the Otago Golf Club – Rattray won the event three times in succession in 1898 (Dunedin), 1899 (Hutt) and 1900 (Christchurch).

The World No.2 Amateur expects to face competition from a familiar foe in good friend and fellow Srixon Academy member Lydia Ko who is yet to win the title.

The 13-year-old Ko has had a good run of form lately defending her North Island Strokeplay by one shot from Cho at Whitford Park and in March she was the youngest ever winner of the Australian Strokeplay title, after two playoff holes with Cho.

Ko, who in 2009 at the Titirangi Golf Club was the youngest finalist in the Lion Foundation New Zealand Amateur aged only 11, will take confidence from her new found maturity as the World No.3 Amateur.

However, Cho has shown that when it comes to matchplay the Auckland rep has an edge over Ko as she has gone undefeated in the format in 10 New Zealand Amateur matches since 2009. 

Last year’s beaten finalist Ikeda, who defeated Ko in the semi-final, is back in New Zealand along with three other Philippine golfers adding depth to the women’s field.

Meanwhile there will be a new men’s champion in 2011 with two-time winner Australian Matt Jager, who was outstanding in 2009 (Titirangi) and 2010 (Bridge Pa), turning professional last year.

Two of New Zealand’s best are chomping at the bit at the prospect of becoming New Zealand Amateur Champion before they look to turn professional at the end of the year.

Ryan Fox arrives in Christchurch full of confidence after his emphatic 11 stroke win in the North Island Strokeplay at his old home course Whitford Park to secure his first national title.

Fox has never played the Russley Golf Club and will familiarise himself with the course with the practice rounds, the foursomes and then the New Zealand Strokeplay title which decides the final 32 for the main event.

The New Zealand Amateur title is also a glaring omission from the amateur record of New Zealand’s highest ranked player Ben Campbell.

The World No.6, who is currently based in Melbourne, has made it known he wants to follow in the footsteps of Danny Lee and become the World No.1 amateur before he joins the pro ranks.

It was around this time last year that Campbell shot to prominence in the local scene when he won the Carrus Tauranga Open on the Charles Tour beating a field of highly regarded professionals.

He went onto have a season to behold in 2010 with a T4th in the Asian Amateur Championships and he was the highest placed New Zealander (4th)  at the Eisenhower World Teams Championship in Argentina where New Zealand came fourth – the best finish since winning it in 1992. 

Campbell and Fox know each other’s games inside out and enjoyed a great battle in the Australian Amateur semi-final in March where the Masterton golfer outlasted Fox on the 21st hole.

Campbell lost in the final for the second year running, this time to Aussie Matt Stieger by a margin of 1-down.

But while favoured Campbell and Fox are not certainties to make the final with other Srixon reps Mathew Perry and Brad Kendall, who won the New Zealand Strokeplay title and a finalist in the Matchplay last year, all more than capable of an upset.

There is also a charge expected from the Russley Golf Club members.

Sean Jones, who knocked out both Campbell and Fox in last year’s match play before losing to Jager on the 18th in the semi-final, will lead that contingent alongside Keelan Kilpatrick and Owen Burgess.

Thursday has been announced as a special “Red and Black” day where all participants are being encouraged to wear red and black in support of the Christchurch Earthquake.

Players and spectators can make a donation on the first and eleventh tees and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker will be in attendance.

On course Cho and Ko are overwhelming favourites for the women’s final on Tuesday and all eyes will be on the 16-year-old Cho to see if she can etch her name in the annals as an immortal of amateur golf in New Zealand.    

Tournament Timetable - Russley Golf Club

-          Tuesday 19 April - New Zealand Foursomes Championship

-          Wednesday 20 April - Round One Stroke Play

-          Thursday 21 April - Round Two Stroke Play - 
(At the completion of Round Two the field will be cut to the leading 70 players and ties).

-          Friday 22 April - Round Three Stroke Play

-          Saturday 23 April - Round Four Stroke Play -
(At the completion of Round Four the field will be cut to 32 players to contest the New Zealand Amateur Championship).

-          Sunday 24 April - Round One & Two Match Play

-          Monday 25 April - Quarter & Semi Finals

-          Tuesday 26 April - NZ Amateur Final - 36 Holes

 

 

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