The R&A - Working for Golf

The Amateur – Featured Four

A stellar international field has gathered for The 124th Amateur Championship in Ireland this week (Monday 17 – Saturday 22 June).

Portmarnock, situated north of Dublin, is co-hosting one of the biggest events in amateur golf along with The Island, with competitors travelling from 37 countries to take part, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Africa and the United States of America.

With the action underway at both venues, here are four players to look out for in the battle for the coveted title.

Akshay Bhatia

WAGR™: 7         Age: 17          Country: USA     Hometown: Wake Forest

The teenager is making a big impression in the amateur ranks, as well as competing in professional tournaments. Bhatia won two silver medals at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Argentina in the boy's individual and the mixed team with Lucy Li. He played on the Junior Presidents Cup team in 2017 and the Junior Ryder Cup in 2018, with both teams winning.

Overall in 2018, he secured 10 top-10 finishes, including four junior victories – one of which was the Rolex Tournament of Champions. Two other wins have since come his way in 2019, the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship and the Jones Cup Invitational.

Among the professionals, Bhatia made his PGA Tour debut at the 2019 Valspar Championship on a sponsorship exemption in March, where he missed the cut. Bhatia also made his Tour debut in April at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship, where the left-hander finished in a tie for 42nd. He is now playing in The Amateur for the first time.

David Micheluzzi

WAGR: 6          Age: 22           Country: Australia         Hometown: Melbourne

The top-ranked player in the field will look to improve on his showing in last year’s Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen when he lost to Ireland’s Conor Purcell in the quarter-finals.

After a glittering junior career, Micheluzzi has eased his way into the top 10 players in the world. Playing in his hometown, he claimed the biggest title of his career in January 2018 when he lifted the Australian Master of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne. Micheluzzi finished with rounds of 65 and 64 for a five-stroke success. 

During a purple patch which also saw him win the Port Phillip Open Amateur & Victorian Amateur and finish second at the Australian Men’s Amateur, Micheluzzi went on to compete in the US Amateur Championship in 2018, as well as finishing second in the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open  and third in the Port Phillip Open Amateur & Victorian Amateur.

Micheluzzi also shone among the professionals to share an impressive fifth place at the Emirates Australian Open in Sydney last November.

Conor Purcell

WAGR: 17        Age: 20          Country: Ireland             Hometown: Dublin

On home soil over the Portmarnock links, Purcell will be out to shine at The Amateur again this year and seek to improve on his run to the semi-finals in 2018. Twelve months ago, Purcell was beaten 3&2 by Irish team-mate Robin Dawson in their last-four clash at Royal Aberdeen.

In January, Purcell – the son of Joey, the former longtime club professional at Portmarnock – again showed his rich golfing pedigree with a victory in the Australian Amateur Championship at Woodlands GC, Melbourne. The first Irishman to win the famed title, with his brother Gary on his bag, Purcell won at the first extra hole to defeat Australian Nathan Barbieri, earning the bonus of invitations into the ISPS Handa Vic Open in February and the Australian Open in December.

The Walker Cup squad member has built on the success in 2019, with second-place finishes at the West of Ireland Amateur Open and the Irish Amateur Open Championship and a fifth-place showing at the South African Stroke Play Championship. Purcell also enjoyed six top-10s in 2018 and played in the St Andrews Trophy team. 

Rayhan Thomas

WAGR: 14        Age: 19           Country: India               Hometown: Dubai, UAE

One of the brightest young talents on the Dubai sporting scene. A victory on home turf in the Dubai Creek Men’s Club Championship in 2015, as a 15-year-old, put Thomas in the spotlight. He followed that up by winning the Omega Emirates Amateur Open just a week later.

He became the youngest player to ever lead a MENA Tour event later that year, before impressing at the RAK Classic in early 2016. Victory at the Scottish Boys Open Stroke Play and becoming the first amateur winner on the MENA Tour with the Dubai Creek Open title rounded off an incredible 2016. 

Thomas then became the first Indian to reach the US Junior Amateurs semi-finals in 2017, before playing in the Junior Presidents Cup and the Bonallack Trophy in 2018. He then tied second at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Singapore and won the King Hamad Trophy, another pro event, in Bahrain. Thomas, who studies at Oklahoma State University, has played in The Amateur Championship the last two years.