2004: Newsmakers - Golfweek formulates British rankings

Welshman Craig Smith has the distinction of sitting atop the inaugural Golfweek British Amateur Ranking.

Golfweek began compiling the ranking this spring, to complement the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Ranking in the United States. The British ranking is based on a points system, with points awarded for high finishes in 13 designated tournaments, including those in the British Isles that are open to all nationalities, plus the Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English Closed Amateur Championships.

“Creating a ranking of amateurs who compete primarily in Britain is a natural extension of our comprehensive coverage of competitive golf,” said Dave Seanor, editor of Golfweek. “Rankings serve to raise the profile of amateur golfers, and such recognition of the outstanding players in the United Kingdom is long overdue.”

The ranking system is weighted in favor of the British Amateur Championship, with 100 points going to the winner this week at St. Andrews. Additional points will be available for amateurs competing in British Open Final Qualifying and the British Open.

Points will accumulate over a rolling 52-week period, meaning those earned at this week’s British Amateur will be replaced by the results of that event in 2005.

Through four tournaments this year, the 6-foot-7 Smith, from St. Mellons Golf Club in Wales, has racked up 120 points, 20 more than Finland’s Roope Kakko.

England’s Matthew Richardson is third with 90 points, only five ahead of Englishman Gary Wolstenholme, the 2003 British Amateur champion, who is tied for fourth with Scotland’s Graeme Brown.

Smith, 23, is enjoying his best season as an amateur. He finished 20th in the Lytham Trophy, won the Irish Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship and was fourth in the English Open Amateur Stroke Play. (Smith did not compete in the other points tournament, the Scottish Stroke Play.)

“I’ve learned that you have to have patience in this game,” Smith said. “Ninety percent of the guys out here hit the ball as well as the guys on Tour, but the ones who do well are the ones who play well between the ears.

“I’ve learned a lot from people who have done it all before. I talk a lot with Nigel Edwards, David Llewellyn and Paul Mayo and try to learn from their experience.”

Smith couldn’t have picked three better mentors. Edwards was a standout in Great Britain & Ireland’s Walker Cup victory at Ganton last year; Llewellyn, the current Welsh national coach, is a former PGA European Tour pro who partnered Ian Woosnam to victory in the 1987 World Cup of Golf; and Mayo won the 1987 British Amateur at Prestwick and played the European Tour for many years before becoming a club professional.

Kakko has shown consistent form in the last three tournaments. He finished fifth in the Irish, 13th in the English and second in the Scottish Stroke Play.

Richardson, 19, won the English Stroke Play tournament. He is a former World Boys’ champion and former member of the Walker Cup squad.

Two former college players also are in the top 10. Jamie McLeary, who attended Baylor, is in the sixth spot, while former Augusta state standout James Heath is seventh. Heath posted a record-breaking performance in the Lytham Trophy, where he had four rounds in the 60s en route to an 18-under-par 266 to win by eight shots over Ross Fisher.

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