HAYDEN Gulliver has learnt a lot about his game, moreso the mental side, since his debut at the Australian Amateur Championships in Perth 12 months ago.
The Maitland right-hander fired rounds of 72,70 to be at two under and qualify equal-19th for the matchplay section. He beat Curtis Lawrence 3 and 2 before going down to Owen Joseph in the round of 32.
Gulliver is one of four Hunter golfers, alongside Blake Windred, Jye Pickin and Corey Lamb, teeing up in the 2019 Australian Amateur starting tomorrow at Melbourne sandbelt courses Spring Valley and Woodlands.
“Last year was a really good result,” the 22-year-old said. “I hadn’t been in that situation before. Hopefully I can better it this year.”
Since his breakthrough performance in Perth, Gulliver has played in the NSW Open (against professionals) and won the Tasmanian Amateur to improve his Australian amateur ranking to No.14.
“At the start of the week, you just want to make the 64 (matchplay cut),” Gulliver said. “It is one-on-one after that and anything can happen. If I can shoot around even-par for the stroke rounds that would be good.”
Gulliver “didn’t play the best” during the stroke rounds in Tasmania before his game clicked in the final against Paul Read.
“The final was 36 holes and in the opening 18 holes I played the best golf I had in ages," Gulliver said. “Everything clicked and I cruised home to get the win 5 and 4.”
Although missing the cut at the NSW Open in November, Gulliver said the experience helped him down the stretch in Tasmania.
“I felt like I played decent at the NSW Open but a few mistakes cost me,” he said. “You compare yourself to the pros a little bit. I also played a practice round with James Nitties and Nick Flanagan, which was a great experience. To see how they go about it and get around the course. I learnt a lot from them.”
Gulliver played practice rounds at Sugar Valley and Woodlands on Sunday and Monday.
“You have to really focus on the short game around these courses,” he said. “Hit it straight and wedge close. The greens are the trickiest part. They are lightning quick.”
* Blake Windred gained more than confidence after finishing third at the Australian Master of the Amateurs at Royal Melbourne last week.
The strong finish in the highest ranked amateur event in Australian moved the 21-year-old to No.2 in the national rankings and earned an invite for the revamped Victorian Open at 13th Beach from February 7-10, which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour and worth $1.5million.
“I am very excited for that,” Windred said. “It’s another chance to play alongside the professionals.”
First for Windred is the Australian Amateur.
“I gained a lot of confidence from last week but it was also pretty draining mentally,” he said. “I had to concentrate so hard. But I have had a couple of days’ rest now and I am in a really good place with my swing. You want to finish the stroke rounds as high as you can. At Woodlands there a few holes you can hit driver to the green. But if you get too aggressive you can easily make a couple of bogeys which can hurt with it being only two rounds. You just have to play smart. You will make birdies, but pars are OK as well.”
Windred qualified equal fourth for the matchplay last year only to be knocked out by 2017 winner Mathias Sanchez in the round of 64.
“That is what can happen,” Windred said. “You can finish top five in the stroke play and still draw a really good player. Once you make it through to matchplay, it is another tournament.”
* Hunter members of the Jack Newton Junior Golf foundation have been starring in recent weeks.
Harry Cleare (Nelson Bay) carded a three over 76 to win the Commonwealth Junior Open.
Brij Ingrey (Newcastle) also had joy on the sandbelt courses in Melbourne, shooting one over to take out the Kingston Heath Junior Open, while Josh Fuller finished eighth at the Southern Junior Classic.
Closer to home, Caleb Bromley (Waratah) went even for the card to win the Newcastle Junior Classic on Sunday.
Last week, Harry Atkinson (Kurri Kurri) helped steer NSW JNJG to a 20-10 victory over Golf Queensland in the annual State of Origin, which was played at Newcastle.
Atkinson, playing in the 12-years division recorded a win, two draws and a loss over the two days.
* Newcastle juniors will play-off for third in the Encourage Shield (handicaps above seven) at Fern Bay on Tuesday after going down to Moore Park in the semi-final. Moore Park will meet Northern Rivers in the final. In the NSW Junior pennants final, Toukley will tackle Kiama.
* Twenty-nine golfers from the Hunter Academy, Central Coast Academy and Northern Inland Academy are at a two-day at Newcastle Golf club under the tuition of NSW PGA game development professional of the year Jason Laws.
* Charlestown duo Jake Higginbottom and Andrew Dodt open their Asian Tour campaign on Thursday at the $1million Singapore Open.