Players from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have entered this Year’s St Andrews Links Trophy and are likely to challenge home based players for what is recognised as Britain’s top amateur stroke play tournament.
The Trophy will be played over the Jubilee course and Old Course on 20th, 21st and 22nd May and even with the field being extended to 144 players, it is the strongest yet with a handicap of +1.9 being a requirement for a place in the starting list.
Surprisingly, there has only been one overseas winner in the 16 years that the Trophy has been played and that occurred in 1990, when Stuart Bouvier of Australia lifted the silverware in only the second year of competition. Why this should be, is open debate but what is certain, in this year of Walker Cup selection, is that players from GB&I will be pulling out all stops in an attempt to catch the eye of the selectors.
Most of the GB&I Elite Squad have entered with Lytham Trophy winner Gary Lockerbie of Penrith heading a strong English contingent of 59 players. At Lytham, Lockerbie pulled away in the final 36 holes to win by a single shot with a four round total of 276 from Florian Fritsch of Germany although at the halfway stage it was Scottish Champion George Murray who seemed favourite for the title.
Last year in the Amateur Championship, Stuart Wilson impressed with his mastery of the Old Course links and his defeat of Lee Corfield in the 36 hole final. Now that rivalry will be renewed as each player aims to add his name to the Links Trophy for the first time and hopefully gain a place in the Walker Cup team in Chicago in August. Another player with fond memories of the Old Course is Eric Ramsay after his semi-final place in last year’s Amateur and that form has returned this year with his outstanding win in the Australian Amateur at Royal Melbourne.
Also coming into form at the right time is Richie Ramsay, the 2004 Scottish Stroke Play title holder. Yesterday (Sunday) he won the Irish Amateur Open Championship by two shots from Irish International Darren Crowe. Both players are in the field alongside defending champion Jamie McLeary.
Five Australian players however have ideas of returning home with the Links Trophy and Tristan Lambert and Richie Gallichan, their top ranked entrants should find the St Andrews courses in excellent condition for their title attempt. New Zealand have three players entered while South Africa have the strongest entry of the overseas countries with 13 players including Albert Pistorius off +5, the backmarker, David Hewan off +4 and George Coetzee their 2005 National champion.
A further strong entry is from the United States with six players including Brad Gibson off +4 and Robert Gerwin II, a regular in UK tournaments off +3.
Commenting on the entry, Niall Flanagan, the Golf Services Manager at St Andrews Links said: "We are continually striving to set the highest possible standards for the St Andrews Links Trophy and we feel that this year’s entry reflects the place that St Andrews holds in the hearts of the top amateurs from around the world. It is certainly the strongest yet and I have no doubt that as the winning putt is holed on the Sunday, that it will be one of the world’s best amateur players who will be presented with the Trophy."
Players will play one round over the Jubilee Course on Friday, 20th and Saturday 21st May and the top 40 and ties will play a further 36 holes over the Old Course on Sunday, 22nd May.