Ireland’s Conor Purcell hopes home advantage can help him overcome a stellar international field at The 124th Amateur Championship in Ireland next week (Monday 17 – Saturday 22 June).
The 20-year-old, who reached the semi-finals of the championship at Royal Aberdeen last year, is a member at Portmarnock, situated north of Dublin, which will co-host one of the biggest events in amateur golf with The Island.
Purcell, the son of Joey, the former long-serving Portmarnock head professional, is part of the 288-player field regarded as the strongest of the modern era.
At close of entries, three players sat inside the top 10 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ and 17 inside the top 50. In total, there are competitors from 37 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Africa and the United States of America.
With Alan Dunbar the last Irish player to win the title in 2012 at Royal Troon, Purcell hopes to build on a season that has seen him win the Australian Amateur Championship in January.
The Walker Cup squad member, the leading player from Great Britain and Ireland in the field, said: “I’m looking forward to The Amateur Championship. I’ve had a good build up all year and to be able to play at home is always nice.
“I joined Portmarnock as a member when I was aged 12 and I’ve been playing ever since. It’s going to be nice in a sense that I won’t need to take notes in practice and I will have family and friends around. Hopefully a few other local people will come out and support me and watch the event.
“The hardest thing to do in the championship is to probably make the cut after 36 holes. If you can do that, it’s about playing who is in front of you and going on a run.
“I’ve been playing nicely and not really been treating any one week different to the other, so I’ll look to do the same.”
Purcell defeated David Micheluzzi at the quarter-final stage last year, with the Australian returning to the event for a fourth occasion in 2019 – this time as the highest-ranked player in the field at fifth in the world rankings.
Akshay Bhatia (USA), ranked seventh in the world standings, India’s Rayhan Thomas and another leading Australian, Blake Windred, are also among those looking to succeed.
With exemptions into The Open at Royal Portrush next month, the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament, there is much at stake as the field look to emulate last year’s champion, Jovan Rebula from South Africa.
Micheluzzi, 22, said: “I’ve good vibes and feel like I’ve developed as a player, especially from last year. I’ve more experience from bigger events so hopefully I can get the job done this year.
“It would be incredible to win The Amateur and go on to have the experience of competing in major championships. The rewards are amazing.
“Conor won the Australian Amateur at the start of the year and hopefully I can win The Amateur in his country, that would be pretty cool. We know each other pretty well and have some laughs together.
“I’ve never been to Portmarnock but I played for Australia at Carton House in Ireland in the Eisenhower Trophy last year. I’m excited to have a first look at it.”
It is only the second time The Amateur Championship has been hosted outside Britain, with Portmarnock previously staging the event in 1949. The Island is co-hosting the event for the first time in its history.
Portmarnock, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, has hosted many major professional and amateur events including multiple Irish Open Championships, the Walker Cup (1991) and the Irish Amateur Close Championship.
The Island is also one of the oldest golf courses in Ireland, established in 1890, and has previously hosted Regional Qualifying for The Open.
The Amateur Championship sees the field take part in the stroke play stage on Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 June, playing 18 holes over each of the two courses. From there, 64 players and ties will advance to the match play stage at Portmarnock from Wednesday 19 to Saturday 22 June. Each match will consist of one round of 18 holes, with the Final being played over 36 holes.
Notable past champions of The Amateur Championship include major winners José María Olazábal (1984) and Sergio Garcia (1998), the current Great Britain and Ireland men’s team captain Craig Watson (1997) and, more recently, Matteo Manassero (2009) and Romain Langasque (2015).
Entry is free of charge throughout the week for all spectators at Portmarnock and The Island, while live scoring, news and video can be followed on The R&A’s website and social media platforms.