Rules Blog - Australian Amateur Championships

Golf Australia’s Championships Manager Therese Ritter reflects on her fourth time in charge of the Australian Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships….

My position as Golf Australia’s Championships Manager has me refereeing at the Men’s and Women’s Australian Opens, and also for the Australasian PGA Tour at the Australian Masters and the Australian PGA Championship. However, my role at the Australian Amateur Championship is not so much Rules focused, it is more about all of the other aspects that go into directing an event. This includes overseeing all items such as signage, player services, volunteers, and Championship functions, through to applying the conditions of play, determining the final field, finalising pairings, confirming local rules, and looking after our international players.

This year’s championships were played in Melbourne from 17-22 January, and we had international teams representing Japan, New Zealand, Fiji, Ireland, England and Germany. This gave the event a great international feel and it was certainly the largest contingent of international players who had contested the championships in my time at Golf Australia.

Our first task was the unfortunate one of having to ballot out about 40 men from the event. This too was a “first” in my time as Manager. It wasn’t a nice experience having to advise players they were balloted out, especially those younger competitors who were obviously very disappointed.

Leading up to the championship, our Japanese players arrived a couple of days prior to the event, so we met them at the airport on arrival, thankfully, along with an interpreter. The four players spoke very little English, so communicating with them over the week was all about hand signals and pointing, however, we managed successfully and I am sure they enjoyed their time Down Under.

The venues of this year’s championships were two courses on Melbourne’s sandbelt – Woodlands Golf Club and Huntingdale Golf Club. We were in the fortunate position that we had used them for last year’s Australian Amateur, so course setup was essentially a matter of reviewing last year’s documentation. We had experienced good weather in the months leading up to the event, so the courses were in the condition you would expect of championship sandbelt courses. Fortunately, from a Rules point of view, the two courses are very “clean” so there were very few water hazards, GUR or out of bounds to be refreshed.

Golf AusThe day immediately prior to the 1st round is always the busiest. Whilst managing the practice round to ensure players abide by the practice conditions (i.e. they are not permitted to hit more than one ball from the tee or into the green unless they miss the fairway or the green), are carrying a sand bucket, and are keeping up with the group in front, we were also finalising the draw. After approximately six draft draws we were ready to release it, after having catered for player’s travel requests as well as National Squad member requirements. Additionally, we were registering players, and producing the final local Rules, hole placements, and carrying out a last inspection of the course.

Finally, our two qualifying rounds were underway giving the players the chance to experience Melbourne’s unique weather, with a hot and strong northerly on the first day (34 degrees Celsius and gusts at 47 mph), with this switching to a stiff southerly by 10am the following day.

Unfortunately I rarely see the golf course once the event starts. My time is consumed by scoring and collating results, managing volunteers and player services, and attending to any other anomalies or situations that arise. Thankfully we have a dedicated group of referees to manage Rules issues and pace of play, so I am only required should a major issue arise. Fortunately there was only one disqualification and that was for a player using a distance measuring device (these are not permitted in Golf Australia Championships).

After completing the 36-hole qualifying, the challenge was to finalise the match-play pairings. Any tournament organiser is always grateful when there is no play-off required for the last positions, and the women’s draw proved simple in this regard – an even 32 players (therefore no play-off for the last position) and very few countbacks to determine the pairings. The men’s draw for the top 64 players however, was not quite so straightforward.

After receiving the last card at 6.30pm, a play-off was underway for the last positions. Twelve players teed off to fight it out for the last seven positions. After four holes, and an hour and 45 minutes later at 8.55 pm (just before dark), the match play qualifiers were settled. In the meantime, while the referees were conducting the play-off, myself and two other GA staff were matching cards to determine the pairings. For players tied after 36-holes, the condition had us combining players’ last nine holes at Huntingdale with their last nine holes at Woodlands to determine their 18-hole score. If players were still tied, cards were matched on their last six holes from both courses, and then three holes, and so on. In one case, the players were tied to the point where we had to work back hole-by-hole from the 18th.

So, after having to match cards for every position with the exception of the first qualifier (that was the only position where there were no tied players), the draw was completed at 9.45 pm!

We know we are on the home stretch once the match play rounds begin. Sadly we lose half the field after each round, however, from my point of view the manageability of the event becomes so much easier.

At each event there is always one moment or story you remember. At this event, it was a situation that arose between a player and his father who was caddying for him. It just so happened that the father caddying for the player was former Australian Open champion Craig Parry (and his son Ryan). On playing a short par 4 at Woodlands Golf Club, Craig recollects:

“My son’s just pulled driver on this hole. I tried to talk him out of it but he knows best. He proceeds to hit it right into the rubbish and I said ‘You just can’t put an old head on young shoulders.’ “

So, finally, after 194 holes of official practice rounds and competition for Germany’s Marcel Schneider (the men’s champion), and 167 holes for New Zealand’s Lydia Ko (the women’s champion and World Number one), and over 100 hours at the course for myself over the preceding eight days, the titles of both of Australia’s oldest golf championships left our shores for 2012.