Six players to watch at the WATC
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Well, it’s Census Day in Argentina, and that means no golf for participants at the World Amateur Team Championship. Almost all of Buenos Aires’ businesses, including the golf courses, are closed as the census is calculated. That means it’s a rest day for most teams. Since there is no on-course action to report, here are a half-dozen international players to keep an eye on this week:
• Romain Wattel, France (No. 6 in Golfweek/amateurgolf.com World Rankings).
Wattel won on the Challenge Tour as a 19-year-old last month. He’s the fifth amateur to win a Challenge Tour event, and second this year. He also tied for 32nd in the European Tour’s French Open. Wattel, who also won this year’s Scottish Amateur, will turn pro after the World Amateur Team Championship.
All three Frenchmen at the World Amateur Team Championship rank in the top 25 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com World Rankings. Johann Lopez-Lazaro is No. 25, and Alexander Levy is No. 26.
• Matt Jager, Australia (No. 11)
Jager put together one of the most impressive amateur performances of the year. Jager swept Australia’s stroke-play and match-play national championships, which are held over a single week. (the 72-hole stroke-play event determines the 32 match-play participants.) He won the stroke-play event by five shots over two players, including British Open low amateur Jin Jeong. Jager beat New Zealand’s Ben Campbell, 8 and 7, in the final.
Jager also won the New Zealand Amateur, finished fourth at the NEC Master of the Amateurs and tied for 23rd in the Nationwide Tour’s New Zealand Open.
Jager is part of a strong Australian contingent. Kieran Pratt, No. 5 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com rankings, was a semifinalist at the Western Amateur in the United States. Bryden Macpherson played half of last season at the University of Georgia, and was named the SEC Newcomer of the Year. He was No. 63 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
• Tom Lewis, England (No. 14)
Lewis won the 2009 English Boys and British Boys titles. He’s found success in amateur competition this year, finishing second in medal play at the British Amateur before advancing to the Round of 16. He also tied for fourth at the St. Andrews Links Trophy and tied for eighth at the Jones Cup, a prestigious international competition at Ocean Forest Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.
• Andrea Pavan, Italy (No. 29)
Pavan is another in what seems to be an increasingly long line of successful Italian golfers. He was a first-team All-American at Texas A&M this past season, and was No. 11 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Pavan had a strong summer; he was runner-up at the European Amateur and quarterfinalist at the British Amateur.
Pavan’s success did not carry over to PGA Tour Q-School, though. Pavan played the first stage last week in Lakeland, Fla. Pavan, who missed advancing by a single shot, was undone by poor opening rounds. He shot 73-75 in the first two rounds, then rallied with 68-65. He made just one bogey over his final 36 holes, but it wasn’t enough.
• Lucas Bjerregaard, Denmark (No. 69)
Bjerregaard won this year’s European Amateur, a victory that earned him a place in next year’s British Open. He also was co-medalist at the Junior World Cup in Japan. Among the players he beat were Americans Yaroslav Merkulov, Bobby Wyatt, Cameron Wilson and Oliver Schniederjans. Bjerregaard also tied for 34th in a Challenge Tour event this year.
• Alan Dunbar, Ireland (No. 87)
Dunbar won last year’s St. Andrews Links Trophy, arguably the top event in the British Isles outside of the British Amateur. This year, he won the Irish Amateur, the North of Ireland Amateur and advanced to the Round of 16 at the British Amateur.
Dunbar is teamed with a player, Kevin Phelan, who already plays college golf in the U.S. Phelan, a sophomore at North Florida, qualified for this year’s U.S. Open and advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Public Links. The third member of Ireland’s team, Paul Cutler, won this year’s Lytham Trophy, held at British Open site Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and was a quarterfinalist at the British Amateur.