Southport, England – Bryden Macpherson stands on the verge of laying to rest a 55-year-old ghost. The University of Georgia player can become only the second Australian to win the British Amateur Championship.
Doug Bachli’s 1954 victory at Muirfield is the only time an Australian golfer has ever held aloft the British Amateur trophy. Only one other Australian has come close in recent years.
Tim Stewart reached the final in 2007 at Royal Lytham, but lost to Drew Weaver.
Macpherson defeated Scotland’s Greg Paterson 4&3 in the semi-final to set up a 36-hole contest against Scotland’s Michael Stewart. Earlier, Macpherson had bettered Spain’s Antonio Hortal 2&1 in the quarterfinals.
If either of the two finalists deserves to win, it should perhaps be Macpherson over the home player, given the Australian’s love of the British Amateur.
“I would not miss this tournament for anything in the world,” Macpherson said. “I love links golf. It’s where it all started. I just love the whole atmosphere. Look at the crowds out there watching in the rain. If that was back in the United States there would be about three people.”
Macpherson has just finished his sophomore year at the University of Georgia. He didn’t exactly have a stellar year for the Bulldogs, finishing 229th on the Golfweek/Sagarin College Golf Rankings. However, he won all three of his matches in the NCAA Championship. He also reached the semi-finals of this year’s Australian Amateur Championship.
Macpherson’s grandfather Keith actually played golf with Bachli back in the 1950s. That might be a good omen.
Macpherson believes in omens, in superstition. According to Macpherson, Georgia head coach Chris Haack and assistant coach Jim Douglas are extremely superstitious and pass that on the Bulldog team. “’Don’t mess with the mojo’, is what they say,”
The 20-year-old Australian has stayed true to that theory. He’s eaten in the same Southport restaurant every night, and eaten the same meal, a vegetarian burger. Not surprisingly, he was dining at the same establishment on the eve of the final.
Stewart will be a hard man to beat, however. Earlier this year he won the South African Amateur Championship. He’s also a former winner of the Scottish Amateur and Scottish Boys Championship, all match play titles.
“I don’t know why I seem to do so well at match play,” Stewart said. “I just seem to play well when it’s one on one.”
Stewart proved that in the quarterfinals when he defeated highly rated Englishman Tom Lewis. Many felt Lewis was the man to beat this week, but Stewart took him down pretty easily, winning 4&3.
The 21-year-old from Troon then cruised past Frenchman Sebastien Gros in the semi-finals to set up his encounter with Macpherson. Stewart only dropped three shots in 27 holes, in pretty tough conditions.
“Unbelievable,” Stewart said about reaching the final. “This is what I came here to do. I’ve just been getting better every day. I just need to keep putting well.”
Stewart spent two years at East Tennessee State before quitting to concentrate on playing golf back home in Scotland. It’s looking like he’s made the right choice.
Stewart’s preparation for this tournament hasn’t gone totally to plan. He hurt his wrist at the Lytham Trophy at the beginning of May and only got back to action last week at the St Andrews Links Trophy, where he missed the cut.
“I wasn’t ready to win last week because my short game was pretty rusty, but it was a good warm-up for this week. My short game is really good at the minute. I’ve worked hard on that the last three weeks.”
Stewart’s entire game will need to be up to speed to get past the gritty Australian to become the first Scot to win the British Amateur since Stuart Wilson took the title at St Andrews in 2004.