Elite amateurs set up Sydney heat

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Victorian Dave Micheluzzi will fly the flag to Australia against a strong field of amateurs in The Lakes.

One of the strongest amateur quotas in living memory will tackle the next week's Australian Open

No less than seven of the world's top 20 amateurs test their courage against the professionals as they try to match Aaron Baddeley, the most recent amateur champion in 1999.

And they will all arrive in Sydney in a white-hot form.

Tournament Director Trevor Herden said that, in line with the growing reputation of the amateur game, he expected some of them to appear on the overall ranking.

"We have seen some really good amateur performances in recent years and with this harvest at The Lakes I see no reason that will not last," said Herden.

"There are some impressive Australians among them, but the tournament has also attracted some of the best performing athletes from abroad, including the US and the Asian-Pacific champions.

"Some will say that it is the future of golf, but I would not be surprised if that future comes a little earlier than we expect."

The Australian amateur quota is particularly strong, but contains two players whose status remains in the air.

Perth's Min Woo Lee and Wodonga's Zach Murray both weigh their options around turning a pro, but still have to define a timeline. They are currently number 7 and no. 19 in the world rankings for amateur.

Even if they make the switch, world No.14 David Micheluzzi, from Melbourne, and Australian youth champion Connor Fewkes, from Kalgoorlie, will proudly carry the flag.

The Norwegian Viktor Hovland, world number 4, is perhaps the most popular amateur in the world to win the American Amateur in August and, just last week, the individual part of the East Lake Cup while representing his Oklahoma State University.

Japan takes a mighty one-two with the Australian amateur champion Keita Nakajima who regains Down Under after his recent third place in the Asian-Pacific Amateur.

The winner on that occasion in Singapore was his compatriot and Masters and Open Championship-bound Takumi Kanaya, the world No.8.

Kanaya not only dominated the best of Asia-Pacific, he was also second in the individual rankings at the recent Eisenhower Trophy in Ireland.

New Zealand Daniel Hillier, a former Australian junior champion, has driven an impressive winter campaign from 2018 to advance to the No.18 in the world and will return for his second chance at the Stonehaven Cup.

And he is assisted by the American Zach Bachou, the world No.17 who successfully defended his Canadian Amateur crown in August.

"It is certainly an impressive collection of players," said Herden.

The low amateur wins a silver medal that is presented next to the overall champion on the final green in The Lakes.

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