On the global amateur golf stage, the Master of the Amateurs is a curious player. Launched in 1997 in Australia, this invitational event brings together a strong field at the beginning of the year. It is played at a spectacular venue, and it has all the trappings of a big-time tournament. The champion takes home a bevy of amateur exemptions and, yes, a green jacket.
On the other hand, critics point out that the travel stipends might be just a bit too generous, perhaps going right up to the line of amateur status. Others suggest that there is way too much pomp and circumstance, ceremony worthy of Ryder Cup-type celebration and not appropriate for the amateur game.
Perhaps. But what cannot be questioned is the passion of the founders of this tournament, Peter and Angela Mann. This is not a part-time effort that occupies them for a few weeks leading up to the event … this is their life’s work; it is a full-time endeavor. And it almost didn’t survive the early years.
Peter Mann is a former television executive who came up with the idea of creating an amateur tournament in Australia, one that would let amateurs “live the dream” of pro golf, if just for a week. Mann is just an “average golfer” in his words, but he wanted to do something good for the game. It was tough going in the early years, and only intervention from his brother prevented Mann from walking away from it. He persevered and worked tirelessly, and today this is a championship that is gaining considerable respect and traction in the global amateur game.
The tournament has come a long way in 14 years, rising to No. 17 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking strength of field list in 2010 and becoming arguably the strongest Australian amateur event of the year. Playing it at Royal Melbourne, one of the world’s great courses in a region with more than a few truly great tracks, has helped it gain even more stature.
Mann’s stated goal is to make this the premier amateur event in the world. The only problem here is scheduling. Early January is not ideal for most elite American amateurs or internationals playing U.S. college golf. Last week, as the tournament was conducted, only three of the top 20 players in the WAGR were not playing U.S. college golf. A week-long trip to Australia early in the new semester just isn’t realistic for most of these players. That is why this year’s U.S. contingent included four mid-amateurs. Occasionally Mann will attract a Rickie Fowler (now a PGA Tour pro) or some other highly ranked individual, but not the quantity of top-ranked players needed to reach his goal.
Eleven countries were represented this year, and the field included most of Australia’s and New Zealand’s best players, as well as the English National Team. British Amateur champion Jin Jeong was in the field, as was Italian junior sensation Domenico Geminiani. The field won’t prove to be as strong as last year’s, but this is still a quality championship.
To be sure, this tournament enjoys sponsorship that is the envy of amateur tournament directors around the world. And it enables the event to do things others cannot do, even if they wanted to. Maybe all the pomp and signage is a bit over the top, but you have to respect the Manns’ passion and what they have created.
Australia’s Tarquin MacManus stormed from behind with a closing round 7-under-par 65 to capture the Master of the Amateurs title at Royal Melbourne. Ranked No. 41 in the WAGR, MacManus made five birdies on the back nine to finish at 12-under-par 276, three shots clear of fellow Aussie Ryan McCarthy, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and England’s Andrew Sullivan.
MacManus, runner-up at the Asian Amateur last fall, rode a hot putter to the biggest win of his career. He capped of the sensational final round by holing a 20-footer on the final hole.
Fox especially must have wondered what might have been. He made a disastrous triple-bogey on the final hole of the third round. Fox’s opening round 64 was low round of the tournament, but he followed with rounds of 74 and 75 before posting a closing 66.
After posting a pair of 69’s, England’s Stiggy Hodgson withdrew after he developed a fever and was hospitalized for possible food poisoning … U.S. competitor David McDaniel withdrew after three rounds due to a wrist injury … All week long, MacManus was incorrectly identified in the media as being a student at Arizona State University. He is enrolled at the University of Arizona … MacManus’ coach at Arizona, Rick LaRose, assists the Manns with international player selection. He also competed, finishing 49th at 315 … With his victory, MacManus earns exemptions this summer into the Amateur Championship, the Porter Cup, the Players Amateur, the Dogwood Invitational and the Canadian Amateur.