Tait: Lack of U.S. players at British Am a shame
Monday, June 20, 2011
Where are the boys in red, white and blue?
That’s the question in my head as we head into the most important tournament in the British amateur calendar.
The British Amateur Championship takes place over Hillside Golf Club next week, where the crème de la crème of world golf will tee it up.
Missing from the mix are the top Americans. Only four U.S. amateurs are in the draw.
World No. 58 Scott Pinckney is the highest-ranked U.S. player in the field, followed by Maxwell Scodro (326th), Alex Johnson (438th) and Chris Piumelli (881).
Now I know transatlantic travel is expensive. I know it’s a long way to come for possibly only two rounds of golf. I know there’s a busy amateur schedule in the U.S. However, the British Amateur is huge.
We’re talking invitations to the Open Championship and Masters for the winner. The Hillside links would also be good preparation for this year’s Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen, yet none of the candidates for this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team are in the field.
The R&A moved the date of the Amateur Championship a number of years ago to ensure it was held after the NCAA Championship. The reason was twofold: to ensure the top British and European amateurs were able to play in the championship, and hopefully attract a few more high-caliber Americans.
The first part of the R&A’s plan worked. The top British and Europeans playing college golf will tee it up in the Amateur Championship. For example, Germany’s Sean Einhaus just completed a busy season for Oklahoma State but will be at Hillside.
Getting the top U.S. players to play has proved more problematic. That’s a conundrum. I thought more U.S. players would follow after Drew Weaver won the 2007 Championship at Royal Lytham. As this year’s championship shows, it hasn’t happened.
Pity. The championship will suffer without the top U.S. amateurs.
Counted out on a clerical technicality: I couldn’t believe the news when I heard the Ladies Golf Union used a card count-back to decide the top 64 in the Women’s British Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.
Sixty-two players qualified at 8 under for match play, with another 10 tied at 9 under for the last two spots. Alexandra Peters of England and Ireland’s Emma O’Driscoll got the last two spots after the count-back.
Imagine how 17-year-old Meghan Maclaren felt when told she had finished 65th and wouldn’t get the chance to make match play.
Seems the LGU instituted this policy following a long playoff at Royal St. David’s in 2009.
The Women’s British is the biggest amateur event held in these isles. To resort to a count-back seems, well, pretty amateurish. The LGU needs a rethink. Maybe it should take a leaf out of the R&A’s book and hold a preliminary round to whittle the draw down to the top 64. It seems unfair to the 10 players who tied for the 63rd spot that they were precluded from the chance to win the greatest prize in women’s British golf on an accounting technicality.
Class act: Speaking of the Women’s British Amateur, kudos to Graeme McDowell for turning up at Portrush to watch the women play. He was home resting before defending his U.S. Open title. He could have been forgiven for staying at home with a nice cup of tea, yet he turned up to watch the women play. I’m not surprised. McDowell is a class act.
Bjorn’s Open comeback in doubt: It seems strange to think Thomas Bjorn might not be at Royal St. George’s for this year’s Open Championship. The Dane probably would have won The Open if not for a meltdown over the final few holes. A bogey, double bogey, bogey run from the 15th to 17th holes cost him the title, including three bunker shots on the par-3 16th. He finished second, one shot behind Ben Curtis.
The Dane won the Qatar Masters earlier his year and looked likely to make St. George’s on form alone. However, he had to take an extended break to tend to his ailing father. Ole Bjorn died a few weeks ago at the age of 73. Bjorn withdrew from International Final Qualifying at Sunningdale due to injury and only has a few routes left into the championship. Let’s hope he is there. It would be great to see him contend at St. George’s.
Final thought: Shame on those players who withdrew from the second round of Open Championship International Final Qualifying at Sunningdale. I counted 21 who withdrew after playing the opening round. If you start something, you finish it – unless you physically can’t because of injury. If I had my way, I’d ban those WDs from IFQ next year.