Amateur Championship: High-flying Daan Huizing brought down to earth
ON A day when Daan Huizing, the man of the moment, as well as the top two seeds, Daniel Jennevret and Geoff Drakeford, made early exits, Baberton’s Paul Ferrier and Jack McDonald from Kilmarnock (Barassie) both had good reason to feel pleased to be among the 32 players still standing in the 117th Amateur Championship on the Ayrshire coast.
In recent stroke-play events, Huizing had been untouchable, winning the Lytham Trophy by 11 shots and, more recently, the St Andrews Links Trophy by 14. Englishman Craig Hinton finished 20 shots and 16 respectively behind the 21-year-old in those tournaments, yet, as can happen so often in match-play, the form book counted for nothing in their second-round joust.
Hinton, who qualified for last year’s Open Championship and gave himself a timely boost heading into this event by winning the recent Welsh Open Stroke Play at Prestatyn by seven strokes, had the scent of victory in his nostrils after chipping in for a birdie-2 at the 17th to go one up and wasn’t to be denied despite Huizing digging deep into his reserve tank to win the last with a battling par-4.
A positional 5-iron off the tee at the first extra hole then a wedge to 3ft set up a match-winning birdie and a third-round encounter for Hinton this morning against Australian Daniel Nisbet. “Daan’s a great player, but it’s match-play so anyone can beat anyone,” said the 23-year-old, who plays off plus-four. “I knew if I played well on my day, I could beat him. There’s no point putting him on a pedestal.”
Being on a pedestal as the leading qualifier has become a poisoned chalice in the amateur game’s blue riband event.
In falling to Spaniard Emilio Cuartero on the home green, Jennevret became the ninth top seed in 14 years to tumble out in the first round. He was followed soon afterwards by Drakeford, who suffered the ignominy of being handed the day’s heaviest defeat – an 8 and 7 hammering at the hands of American Will McCurdy.
If that effort is anything to go by, McCurdy looks as though he could prove a handful for McDonald, the local lad who underlined his potential when landing the Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play at Ladybank three years ago and, since joining the excellent golf programme at Stirling University, has also won the British Universities’ Championship.
As luck would have it, McDonald found himself up against Swiss Matthias Eggenberger, a Stirling team-mate, in his opening tie. While it didn’t quite come down to the toss of a coin, Dean Robertson, the Stirling performance coach, opted to caddie for McDonald, and having a former European Tour winner on the bag was worth its weight in gold to the 19-year-old.
The advice offered by the 1999 Italian Open champion after McDonald had found a thick clump of rough just off the fairway at the last proved especially helpful as a 5 there proved good enough to take him through. “If I had been carrying my own clubs, I would have gone for the green,” he admitted. “But Dean got me to hit a wedge out then another wedge on to the green.”
Ferrier, the 2007 Scottish Boys’ champion who returned to winning ways in last year’s East of Scotland Open at Lundin, progressed without having to break sweat. Up against Englishman Ben Stow, the 23-year-old was five up after six and went on to record a thumping 7 and 6 success.
Refreshing in a game that is dominated so often by the big-hitters these days, Ferrier revealed he’d used brains instead of brawn to make a winning start after qualifying for the first time.
“I hit a 4-iron for most of my tee shots, having come up with a gameplan that was designed to keep me out of any trouble,” he said. “The first time I hit my driver was the tenth and I only used it twice altogether.”
Ferrier has just finished a four-year stint at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte and reckons his game has come on leaps and bounds thanks to the US college circuit. “You are tested every week out there,” he said. “I’m driving it straight, my short game is better and my mental attitude is also a lot better, too.”
Others still in the title hunt – the winner on Saturday night will also earn spots in the Open Championship, the Masters and the US Open in the next 12 months – include Rhys Pugh and Alan Dunbar, two members of last year’s winning Walker Cup side at Royal Aberdeen, as well as Paul Barjon, the Frenchman who lifted the Scottish Stroke-Play title at nearby Barassie just over a fortnight ago.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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