Ben Van Wyk (photo courtesy The R&A)
South Africa’s Ben Van Wyk maintained his overnight advantage to finish as the leading qualifier at The 128th Amateur Championship.
On his championship debut, the 22-year-old leads 64 players and ties into the match play stages with an impressive total of 11-under-par after 36 holes over Hillside and Southport & Ainsdale.
From an international field of 288 players, Van Wyk finished a stroke ahead of a trio of players – Ronan Kleu from Switzerland, England’s Eliot Baker and Richard Teder from Estonia. Joshua Greer from Australia was in fourth place on nine-under.
Irishman Caolan Rafferty – a member of the GB&I Walker Cup team in 2019 – and last year’s R&A Boys’ Amateur Champion Albert Hansson from Sweden were in a three-way group at eight-under, alongside the USA’s George Duangmanee.
Van Wyk, 22, the University of Georgia student who recently closed his senior season by earning All-American honours, followed his opening 64 at Hillside with a 68 at Southport & Ainsdale.
With conditions easier at Hillside after the morning rain cleared to glorious sunshine, Greer and Rafferty both signed for 66s with Kleu posting a superb eight-under 64.
Kleu recorded four birdies each on the outward and inward nines for his ten-under-par total as the 23-year-old builds on his run to the last-64 in 2020 at nearby Royal Birkdale. Tiverton’s Baker joined him on that mark late in the day after his own 64 at Southport & Ainsdale.
One of the last players to finish at Hillside, Teder, 18, shot a 69 for his ten-under total. He is making his championship debut and has won four times this year, including the Estonian Amateur Open.
Greer began his round at Hillside with five birdies in the first six holes. The 22-year-old, who was born in Glasgow, has top-five finishes in three events in Australia in 2023.
Rafferty, who enjoyed a bogey-free round, has recorded top-seven finishes in the Irish Amateur Open, the East of Ireland Amateur Open and the St Andrews Links Trophy this year.
Hansson is also in fine form arriving in England’s north-west having won the Sotogrande Cup in Spain and finished runner-up in the Spanish Amateur, the Fjallbacka Open in Sweden and the St Andrews Links Trophy. University of Virginia student Dungmanee made nine birdies and just one bogey over his 36 holes.
The qualifying mark for the leading 64 players and ties fell at 2-under-par.
John Gough, last year’s semi-finalist at Royal Lytham & St Annes, recent St Andrews Links Trophy winner Alex Maguire and Thailand’s TK Chantananuwat all progressed. Notable players to miss out included former Walker Cup player Conor Gough, Scottish Men’s Open champion Connor Graham and 2022 Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion Harrison Crowe.
The winner of Saturday’s 36-hole Final will secure exemptions into The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool next month, the US Open, and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament.
Spectators are welcome to attend The Amateur Championship with tickets available to purchase at www.randa.org. Adult tickets are available from £10, with a four-day ticket just £25.
To encourage children and young people to attend The Amateur, The R&A will continue the successful ‘Kids go Free’ programme which provides children under-16-years-old free entry to the Championship when accompanied by a paying adult. Half-price youth tickets are also available for 16-24-year-olds.
Ben Van Wyk, South Africa
“I’m feeling great. I had my best friend on the bag, Norman Seton, so that was helpful and helped me simplify the game. He's from George where I'm from in South Africa. Growing up, since we were like ten, he's always played well. He always beat me when we were younger.
“It's nice to get him back for a moment and he's actually my mental coach. It's very impressive for a young age and he's helped me a lot on the course. I love match play, the competitive style.”
Ronan Kleu, Switzerland
“There are so many players here, 288. The first goal is always to make the cut and after that, it sounds like a cliché, but I'm here to win the thing. I really enjoy links golf because it gives you so many different possibilities. Last week we played in St Andrews, at the home of golf, and so that sort of prepared us for this links style, which is really fun. It’s definitely different to golf courses in Switzerland, a lot of fun.”
Joshua Greer, Australia
“I didn't really play much golf when I lived in Scotland. It was more football. I guess all the courses I've played have been in Perth (Australia), but I come back here every year so I'm used to this sort of golf. I'm hitting it pretty good so if I can keep doing that it makes it a bit easier. I guess whoever putts the best generally wins but I’ve just got to see what I can do.”
Caolan Rafferty, Ireland
“Whenever I do play it's pretty good at the minute. I’ve had a couple of good results this season so far from what I've played. I’m just really comfortable with my game.
“Playing a lot, then not playing, playing nine holes and stuff at home and going under par regularly is a big help as well, because you're not afraid to do it anymore. Whereas over the years, you wouldn't have got a chance to do that as much and it was always a bit of a struggle in competition golf because you're grinding every week. The more social, laid-back aspect has definitely helped me a lot.”
Albert Hansson, Sweden
“I think the Boys’ Amateur from last year has helped me prepare. It was my first time playing links golf so I got some good experience from that. I think I played like 13 rounds in ten days. It is a great week to look back to. I like match play and I hope to keep that going. It's fun. I look forward to it.”
Story courtesy The R&A
ABOUT THE British Amateur
This championship, along with the US Amateur Golf
Championship, is considered the most important in
The first stage of the Championship involves 288
players each of whom plays two rounds of 18 holes,
one to be played on each of the two courses. The 64
lowest scores over the 36 holes and ties for 64th
place will compete in the match play stage of the
Championship. Each match will consist of one round
of 18 holes except the Final which will be over 36
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