Asia Pacific Dream beckons for Blues Stars

The chance of emulating 2022 Champion Harrison Crowe and getting to walk the hallowed fairways of Augusta Nationa in next years Masters- plus a start in the 2024 Open Championship- could be just four rounds away for a brace of our State’s finest when the 2023 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship gets underway at Royal Melbourne Golf Club tomorrow.

The original ten-person Australian team, which included Eisenhower Cup Rep Jeffrey Guan, Royal Canberra’s Harry Bolton and Newcastle’s Jye Pickin was extended to twelve on the eve of the tournament, with Pickin’s fellow Novocastrian Jake Riley added to the squad on Sunday.

Riley, who still has one exam to complete in his HSC, said events since getting the callup had happened at break-neck speed.

“It’s been a whirlwind after getting the call late on Sunday night. The last few days have gone really quick.”

Despite the late addition to the squad, the 18-year-old is unphased by the task ahead, even if it is his first time playing the fabled composite layout of Royal Melbourne.

“There has been plenty of learning on my part. this is something unique to me.

“It’s a completely different ball game here. It feels like half the greens you are not trying to hit, but I’m learning as much as possible.”

Pickin, also making his Asia Pacific Championship Debut, said the feeling around the event was special.

“It’s a huge honour to be on a course I’ve played a few times before, with people around me who I know. Wearing the uniform and the green-and-gold bag means everything tom every amateur golfer in Australia.”

Pickin said that despite having some familiarity with the course, the revered layout was a place where you always discovered something new.

“I feel like you learn something new every time around here.  You can never know too much about this place.”

2022 NSW Team Captain Harry Bolton said being selected for the team this year was particularly special, after seeing any chance he had of playing in the 2020 tournament evaporate due to COVID-19.

“It feels awesome,” Bolton gushed. “I’ve been looking forward to it since 2020, and knowing it was coming back (this year) was something I’ve waited for for the whole year for.”

Despite the official practice round being called off due to rain, Bolton said he had been in the southern capital long enough to realise what the phrase “ four seasons in one day” is all about when it comes to the fickle Melbourne weather.

“I’ve been here since last Thursday.  played Metro with Lukas Michel on Friday. It was perfect. Saturday, it deteriorated, and Sunday was no different. this week has been all umbrellas up and down. Monday was nice, but Tuesday was hurricane winds.”

“It’s looking like the weather will ease up, but you’ll want the wind on a course like this to get a great champion.”

After a solid northern summer, Bolton said his game was trending nicely, and he was hoping for a good week but was aware the composite course’s nuances would be a factor.

“My game has been pretty good. I finished third in the stroke play rounds of the US Mid-Amateur so there are some good signs.”

“But on a course like this, you need a really good game plan and be disciplined in how you play by hitting the shots you want to hit and not getting stuck by the course design.”

“Hopefully, I’m not eating my words come Friday.”

Guan, fresh from his pivotal role in Australia’s runner-up finish in the Eisenhower Cup in Abu Dhabi last week, will start the tournament as one of the favourites for the individual crown.

“it’s definitely exciting to be playing here. “ Guan grinned. “I played the Japan Open the week prior (to abu Dhabi) and that style is golf is different, fairways  are tight, and the rough is long, hopefully, that is an advantage this week.”

While admitting that while Royal Melbourne may not exactly be “home” Guan said was almost as close to home as it could be for himself and the 11 others in the squad.

“I want to say home track, our home base with the gym and the practice facility is literally across the road.”

“We have done a lot of planning as a team, here. It plays firm, everyone knows that, you have to hit it long here and hit short irons into the greens.”

Pressed about being “That Sandbelt specialist this week” Guan said he would love to be, but there were a couple of well-credentialled locals in Jasper Stubbs, Max Charles and Lukas Michel ready to take the title.

“ Anyone in the Aussie team has a chance,” he grinned 

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