Nathan Holman, a 20-year-old Australian who had to qualify for the tournament, won the Master of the Amateurs Championship on the West Course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. Holman, who grabbed the lead after the second round, took a five-shot lead into the final round, and that turned out to be the final margin of victory. Holman closed with a 2-under-par 70 and posted a total of 278, 10-under par.
Holman, ranked No. 249 in the world, won the 2011 Riversdale Cup and previously won the Victorian Amateur title. He is a member of the Victorian Institute of Sport and plays his golf locally in Melbourne at The Woodlands.
He opened with a 67, and shot a heroic even-par 72 in the wild conditions that impacted play in the second round. Holman took command of the tournament by shooting a 3-under 69 in the third round, giving him a comfortable lead entering the final day.
Runner-up Queenslander Daniel Nisbet, tied for second with Ben Campbell after 54 holes, started strongly in the final round with five birdies and two pars before faltering on the eighth. A triple-bogey seven with all his problems on the green, saw his title chances toll away. Nisbet recovered with a strong back nine, finishing 2-under for the day. Campbell finished third, seven shots back. American Kelly Kraft, the world amateur No. 5, was a further two shots back.
With this, the biggest win of his amateur career, Holman receives an exemption into the Amateur Championship next June at Royal Troon. He also is exempt for the Canadian Amateur, as well as The Players Amateur, the Dogwood Invitational and the Porter Cup, all played in America next summer.
Youth was served, however briefly, in Melbourne last week. Sixteen-year-old D.J. Loypur, from the Yarra Valley, claimed the first round lead with a 6-under-par 66. He made five birdies in breezy conditions on the front nine but a double bogey at the par-3 13th held him back from challenging the 50-year-old West Course record of 63.
Seventeen-year-old West Australian Oliver Goss shot 64 in the third round, just one shot off the record low. He shot 30 on the back side despite losing a ball on the 12th hole.
And then there was Tian-lang Guan. Pre-tournament publicity featured 13-year-old Guan, positioned as the No. 1 amateur in China based on his World Amateur Golf ranking of 112. The press release vaguely compared his 45.6 percent winning percentage in 199 tournaments played since 2004 to Tiger Woods’ winning percentage of 27.36. Nonetheless, the youngster posted four sub-80 rounds (72-78-78-74) and finished 34th.
This year’s 54-man field for the Master of the Amateurs seemed to be a bit down in quality. Just four players in the top 20 in the world chose to compete only five Americans made the trip and only three United Kingdom players entered.
The English National Team, which played last year, was absent. In fact, no national team made the effort to play. And unlike in past years, no one represented Italy or Korea.
Participation was an issue close to home as well. Aussie teen sensation Jake Higginbottom, now ranked No. 15 in the world, passed on the event to try to qualify for the Open Championship next July. The International final qualifying event for Australia took place January 10-11 at Kingston Heath GC in Melbourne; Higgenbottom did not make it.
The second round was a wild one. Lashing rain and howling winds resulted in a three-and-a-half-hour delay, and once play resumed, players had to contend with gusty blasts. Tasmanian Ryan McCarthy and American Corbin Mills were undaunted, posting under-par rounds despite the conditions that brought summer snow to the Australian Alps and caused havoc around the city. Holman’s even-par round that day may well have won him the tournament.
World No. 5 Kelly Kraft, the highest-ranked amateur in the field, made his second appearance in Australia in the past three months. Kraft, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion who will turn pro after The Masters, finished as low amateur in the Australian Open in November. He won the inaugural South Beach International in Miami shortly before Christmas. He plans to play the Jones Cup and then the Georgia Cup as he prepares for his Masters debut. He finished T4 at Royal Melbourne.
Englishman Ashley Chesters, 22, recorded his fourth career hole-in-one in the third round on the par-3 16th hole.