Stewart, Lewis a can't-miss match at British Am

Michael Stewart during the 2008 Boys Home Internationals at Royal County Down in Newcastle, Northern Ireland.

SOUTHPORT, England – The British Amateur Championship has the match-up for which everyone was hoping. Too bad it comes in the quarterfinals and not the final.

Scotland’s Michael Stewart plays England’s Tom Lewis in the highlight of the quarterfinal matches. They are arguably the strongest two players left in the competition.

Stewart overcame Austria’s Philipp Fendt by two holes in the fourth round, after defeating Brazil’s Daniel Stapff, 4 and 3, in Round 3.

The 21-year-old Stewart won the South African Amateur Championship earlier this year. He is a member of the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup squad, and many feel he is a lock to play against the United States at Royal Aberdeen Sept. 10-11.

He could do so as British Amateur Champion. That’s been the plan all week.

“I didn’t turn up here to make the cut,” Stewart said. “When we got here on Friday night, my Dad (Robbie) reminded me that Tiger Woods doesn’t turn up every week expecting not to win.

“I know everyone wants to win so I’ve just got to want to win it more, and I do.”

Stewart spent two years at East Tennessee State under coach Fred Warren’s tutelage before quitting to concentrate full time on amateur golf back home in Scotland. Stewart, who resides in Troon, has benefited from trips to South Africa and Dubai over the winter as part of the Scottish national squad.

“Playing for East Tennessee State made me a better golfer, but it was time to leave. I can’t fault the university or Coach Warren because he was brilliant. It was just time to leave, and my golf has improved as a result.”

Lewis had an easier avenue to the quarterfinals than Stewart. He overcame England teammate Andrew Sullivan, 6 and 4, in their fourth-round encounter. However, he had a tougher task in the third round.

Lewis was 2 down to countryman David Booth, but got back to all square before closing out the match with a birdie at the 18th.

The Englishman arrived in Southport on a high after winning the St Andrews Links Trophy. He rallied in qualifying to make the match play stages and many feel he can go all the way.

“I thought it was going to be a really tough, close match, but Andy struggled a bit out there and I played pretty solid,” Lewis said. “I’m not hitting it quite as well as I know I can, but I’m still confident going into the quarters.

“It was nice to have a more comfortable match this afternoon, because it was a bit too close this morning.”

It’s anyone’s guess on who will win, but if history is anything to go by then Stewart might be the better bet. Stewart has the upper hand in their only encounter to date. He beat Lewis, 3 and 1, in last year’s Home Internationals at Ashburnham.

Either one would make a worthy British Amateur Champion. However, there are a few contenders left in the field who can deny them the trophy.

Strong Australian player Bryden Macpherson is through to the quarters after defeating Switzerland’s Marc Dobias. Macpherson, who faces Spain’s Antonio Hortal, is bidding to become only the second Australian to win the British Amateur since Doug Bachli in 1954 at Muirfield.

France’s Sebastien Gros is another who could take the title. The strong Frenchman fought his way through to the quarterfinals after beating England’s Ashley Chesters at the 19th hole. He now faces Norway’s Joakim Mikkelsen, probably the slowest player in the field.

Arizona native Alex Johnson saw his British Amateur run come to an end with a two-hole loss to Welsh Amateur champion Alastair Jones. Johnson, who has just finished his senior year at the University of the Pacific, defeated Frenchman Adrien Saddier, 3 and1, in the third round before losing in a close match with Jones.

Jones now faces Scotland’s Greg Paterson.

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