St. Michael’s Kelsey Bennett and Avondale’s June Song have been selected to represent Australia at next month’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship in the United Arab Emirates.
The Asia Pacific Amateur (men) and Women’s Asia-Pacific Championships in Dubai and Abu Dhabi carry the lure of invitations to play in 2022 golf majors for the winners – the Masters at Augusta National and the Open Championship at St Andrews for the men, and the AIG Women’s Open and the Evian Championship for the women.
Both events were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic and government travel restrictions, along with the World Amateur Teams Championship and several other international tournaments; however, the highly-rated Asia-Pacific championships are a welcome addition to the calendar this year.
The pair are among 12 players picked for national honours after almost two years of frustration due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“This represents an opportunity to compete when there hasn’t been much elite competition for these players because of the pandemic and the restrictions on travel,” Brad James, General Manager High-Performance Golf Australia, said today.
For Bennett, the Championship will be her first appearance in a national team, while for Song, currently studying at Iowa State, it will be her first senior team appearance following an outstanding junior career.
“I’m so excited, I couldn’t be more happier,” Bennett said when she heard she was in the team.
“It will be a massive learning curve no matter what happens, I am going to be like a sponge taking it all in.
“Mum and Nan are over the moon. They are not happy they can’t go. They want to be there to support me, but they are still very happy for me.
“This is a good start for me for the next few years I think,” she beamed.
Joining the NSW pair in the women’s squad are Perth duo Kirsten Rudgeley and Maddison Hinson-Tolchard and the Queensland pair of Isabelle Taylor and Cassie Porter.
The Men’s team is headed by 2019 US Mid Amateur champion Lukas Michel from Victoria, who is no doubt looking for another trip to the Masters at Augusta National to go with the spot he earned in 2020 as US Mid-Amateur champion.
Michel, who will be the veteran of this team at 27, missed the cut at the Masters (won by Dustin Johnston last November), shooting 76-74.
Fellow Victorian Andre Lautee has also been named in the team alongside the West Australian trio of Connor McKinney, Hayden Hopewell and Haydn Barron.
Rounding out the men’s team is South Australia’s US-based college star, Lachlan Barker.
James said the Asia-Pacific Championships presented some of the best amateur golf in the world for the Australians to play in.
“There’re no stand-outs necessarily,” he said. “They’ll all have a good chance and it’s potentially the best amateur event that they can play in, with the carrots that are attached to it and the experience that they can extract.”
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship has been developed by the R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite female amateurs to the international stage.
The winner earns invitations to play in two major championships – the AIG Women’s Open and The Amundi Evian Championship, as well as an exemption for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
It runs from 10-13 November at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The men’s Asia-Pacific Championship is from 3-6 November at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. Past winners include Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (twice), Australians Curtis Luck (2016) and Anthony Murdaca (2014).
ASIA-PACIFIC AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Lachlan Barker (SA) 22
Andre Lautee (VIC) 22
Lukas Michel (VIC) 27
Connor McKinney (WA) 19
Hayden Hopewell (WA) 19
Haydn Barron (WA) 25
WOMEN’S ASIA-PACIFIC GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
Isabelle Taylor (QLD) 20
Kirsten Rudgeley (WA) 20*
Cassie Porter (QLD) 19*
Kelsey Bennett (NSW) 21
June Song (NSW) 19
Maddison Hinson-Tolchard (WA) 19
*Subject to travel arrangements