History has shown that the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, host venue of the 2023 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC), has been extremely partial to the home side over the years, and it will not be any different this week.
The contingent of 13 Australian players in the Championship will enjoy a distinct ‘home advantage’ on a golf course that poses a unique set of challenges most of the field has never faced before.
It all started with the 1959 Canada Cup, the precursor of what became the World Cup of Golf. That was the first major international event hosted at the Dr. Alister MacKenzie-designed course, and Australian legends Kel Nagle and Peter Thomson, combined winners of six Open Championships, secured the first victory for their country in the tournament.
The story was no different when the World Cup of Golf was played here in 2013, with local heroes Adam Scott and Jason Day scripting a very popular victory.
In between, the club also provided the lone spot of cheer for the International Team, then captained by Thomson, in their biennial Presidents Cup clash against Team USA. The only international win in the history of the tournament was at Royal Melbourne in 1999, coming against a strong US side that featured Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and David Duval, among others. Of the four Australian players in the side that week, only two matches were lost, and that came in the last two singles long after the Internationals clinched a lop-sided victory.
Home Chance Again?
This year marks the second time the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is visiting Royal Melbourne. Quite predictably, when the championship was held here in 2014, it was Australia’s Antonio Murdaca who won by a landslide margin of seven shots, which remains the largest winning margin in the 13 editions held thus far.
Sandbelt golf is a very different beast from parkland or links courses. It asks questions that most players have never answered before.
Max Charles, No. 368 in World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) and making his first appearance for Australia in the championship subscribes to the theory.
“It’s an advantage. I grew up playing around here. I’m a member at Kingston Heath right around the corner, which is a pretty similar Sandbelt style as well,” said Charles, a quarter-finalist at last year’s Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s.
“I’d say even going up north sometimes for us is a bit different. We have to get used to the grain and it’s a different grass. So, I think a lot of the players will find that difficult this week, whereas we’ve already got that under our belt.”
Missing in the Right Places
Jack Buchanan, WAGR No. 117 and just coming off a solid final-round 68 in the World Amateur Team Championship in Abu Dhabi that helped Australia finish second to USA in the Eisenhower Trophy, agreed.
“For us, I think it’s a huge advantage. Especially if you’ve played the course before and know where to miss it. There are some spots this week where you can miss it, and par is not even an option. I think us knowing where to miss it, is huge,” said the 21-year-old.
It also helps that Golf Australia conducted a camp for the players at Royal Melbourne a few weeks earlier.
“Yeah, that camp was an eye‑opener. I think playing in the Sandbelt is so different and I haven’t played here before. I’ve played around here, like the Master of the Amateurs was just across the road at Victoria, and getting your eye into that kind of stuff it gives you an advantage that you hope to utilize for the week,” said Quinn Croker, who is making his AAC debut but has score three top-10s in three starts on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
“When I walked up and saw that the fescue on the front of the green is where you’re going to have to land a lot of wedge shots downwind, I was very surprised. My coach was telling me, look, hit it here, and I didn’t trust him. We decided to hit one on the last and it worked out. So, it will be a bit of an adjustment for me, but it’s different.”
Buchanan offered a tip to the rest of the field.
“I think using slopes to your advantage, like how you flight your iron shots in, you don’t always have to land every shot on the green. So yeah, using the slopes to your advantage, and like letting the ball go where it needs to go, is going to help,” he added.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is organized by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A. The winner will receive an invite to the 2024 Masters, as well as a guaranteed spot in The 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon next year and The 129th Amateur Championship (provided they retain their amateur status).