Buoyed by their strong performance at last week’s Queen Sirikit Cup, the leading New Zealand women’s golfers will now turn on eachother to chase the honours in the Lion Foundation New Zealand Amateur Championship in Hawkes Bay.

Internationals Zoe Brake (Whakatane) and Cecilia Cho (Pakuranga) will have the opportunity to defend their titles in the New Zealand Strokeplay and Amateur Championships respectively from a field of 55 starting tomorrow.

All eyes will be on Australian Matt Jager in the men’s competition with the brilliant Western Australian returning to defend the New Zealand Amateur honours in the men’s championship.
Jager, who recently won the Australian Amateur crown, bypassed the recent Trans Tasman Cup battle to ready himself to defend the title he won so brilliantly in Auckland last year.

There is a host of top Kiwis keen to ensure that does not happen in the week-long championship, the third time that both the women and men have joined for the national amateur titles.

It begins with the foursomes today ahead of the 72 hole New Zealand Strokeplay tomorrow, with the women at Napier Golf Club and the men at Hastings Hawkes Bay Golf Club. The women play one round each on Wednesday and Thursday with two rounds on Friday to decide the honours before the top 32 move on to the matchplay.

The men’s strokeplay begins tomorrow with a cut to the top 72 players plus ties after two rounds with final round on Saturday. The top 32 players will move on to the matchplay, joined by the women at the exceptional Bridge Pa course.

In the women’s competition it is hard to see past the international trio of Brake, Cho and North Harbour’s Lydia Ko, who combined to finish runners-up at last week’s Queen Sirikit Asia Pacific Championship.

Brake is the current South Island Champion and defending New Zealand Strokeplay titleholder, Cho won the Australian Strokeplay and was runner-up in the Australian Amateur recently while Ko won the North Island Amateur and was runner-up to Cho in last year’s final.
Others with solid credentials include South Island runner-up Caroline Bon (Northland), Nelson’s Lisa Wright, Hamilton’s Emily Perry, last year’s leading amateur in the Charles Tour, and talented juniors Liv Cheng (Auckland) and Erin Hawe (Waikato).

Jager was in emphatic form to win the Australian Strokeplay and Amateur titles, with the Western Australian eying up a big year on the international amateur scene ahead of a move to the paid ranks.
There are plenty of kiwis with the credentials to stop that charge, led by Masterton’s Ben Campbell, who was beaten by Jager in the final of the Australian Amateur.

Andrew Stewart (Tauranga) and Nick Gillespie (Wellington) won the South Island and North Island titles respectively recently while Ryan Fox (Auckland) impressed in the strokeplay at the Australian Amateur.

Tauranga’s James Hamilton was a semifinalist last year, with the young Omanu player back after a thwarted attempt at a US Scholarship and keen to push back into the amateur scene at the highest level, while Auckland’s Ben Wallace has a fine matchplay record, losing to his good friend Jager in the quarterfinals last year.

Others to watch include Auckland’s Gary-John Hill, seventh last year in the strokeplay, Hamilton’s Mathew Perry and the 2008 Amateur champion Thomas Spearman-Burn (Wellington).
There is plenty at stake for all players with selection at stake for the world teams’ championships to be staged in Argentina in late October.
The only impediment today may be fog that has rolled in and may thwart the scheduled start of the foursomes competitions on both the Napier and Hastings courses this morning.


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