Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the iconic host venue of this year’s Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, will be a huge advantage for home side Australia.
This was the common opinion of PGA Tour star Lucas Herbert, the defending champion Harrison Crowe and Lukas Michel, one of 10 Australian players, in the field when the Championship tees off at the Dr. Alister MacKenzie-designed course, just south of the Melbourne CBD area in Black Rock, Victoria.
The three Australian players joined a media conference recently ahead of the premier amateur Championship for the Asia-Pacific region.
Herbert is a three-time champion on the DP World Tour and won the 2021 Butterfield Bermuda Championship on the PGA Tour. He is also a famous alumnus of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, having played three times and never finishing outside the top 12. The 27-year-old was tied 4th in 2013, tied 12th in 2015 and tied 8th in 2014, when the Championship was last held at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
“I think Royal Melbourne is a great venue,” said Herbert, the No. 57 player in the Official World Golf Ranking. “I was just in Napa a couple of weeks ago talking to Geoff Ogilvy and we had some good discussions about Royal Melbourne. It’s just a venue that brings out the best players in the field. It brings out the best shot-making, it brings out the best tactical challenge. When you see an event come to Melbourne, you want it to be on Royal Melbourne.
“I think it’s a great home-side advantage for the Australians. There’s just not going to be a lot of other players throughout the world who play that style of golf where the ball runs on the ground and you’ve got to use your tactical brain to think your way around the course a lot. It’s going to be a great challenge for the golfers and I’m looking forward to seeing how our Australian guys go.”
Michel’s Inside Knowledge
The 29-year-old Michel will be playing his third Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and knows a thing or two about good golf course design and possesses an intimate knowledge of Royal Melbourne Golf Club. He caddied there for five years before joining the golf course architecture firm Clayton, DeVries & Pont, where he works as a shaper.
Asked about the uniqueness of Royal Melbourne, Michel said: “Genuinely, it’s one of the top-five golf courses in the world. So, to get to play a golf tournament on a course like that, you don’t get that opportunity very often.
“It’s going to play firm…it always does. The sand that makes up the golf course is packed really hard. So, the greens will be playing very firm. They should be pretty quick. The most difficult thing will be distance control into the greens, controlling your ball, putting enough spin on it and stopping it close to the hole. The course is a strategic design, so you need to think about where you’re hitting the wide fairways to attack the greens from the right angles.
“I know the Australian team was at Royal Melbourne about a week ago (Michel was playing the US Mid-Amateur Championship). A lot of them have played Royal Melbourne sandbelt golf, so they should be pretty familiar with what it’s like.”
Major Opportunities Await
Crowe, champion in Thailand last year, will not be defending his title at Royal Melbourne as he has decided to join the professional ranks.
Having greatly enjoyed the rewards that come along with being an Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship winner – including an invite to the Masters Tournament and an exemption into The Open – Crowe said he had to overcome a huge temptation of playing another edition of the Asia-Pacific Amateur in his home country.
“The past year has been absolutely amazing to have that opportunity to play those two majors. I learned a lot about myself, a little bit about my game, and to be able to take any information from all the top players in the world was really awesome,” said the 22-year-old Sydneysider.
“I was quite tempted (to remain an amateur and play this year). It was just a decision on where I wanted to put my focus, and it was getting events under my belt and trying to finish well on the Australasian Tour Order of Merit. I felt like I was ready to go and I was extremely happy with everything that I’ve done as an amateur.”
The 14th edition of Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship will feature 120 of the top amateurs from the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan’s Yuta Sugiura, the highest-ranked WAGR player in the field at No. 13, and Jeffrey Guan, the highest-ranked Australian at No. 58.