Over winter break, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Melbourne, Australia. I was invited as part of Team USA to participate in the Australian Master of theAmateurs. The tournament was held at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, the host site of the 2011 President’s Cup and a top golf course in Australia with worldwide accolades. I had an excellent eight-day experience as I learned about Australian culture and faced the challenge that is golf is Australia.
We flew directly from Los Angeles to Melbourne on the 15 hour flight that was the longest flight of my life on one of the commercial planes in the world. The challenge is to avoid jet lag upon arrival so we had to stay up until around 6 am ET and sleep for about 8 hours in order to be ready for a full day in Australia. A few movies and books kept me entertained and comfortable seating allowed me to sleep soundly.
On the first day we had the opportunity to explore the city of Melbourne. I was surprised at the size of Melbourne. It is a city similar in size to San Francisco and had many neat cultural experiences to offer. The beautiful Yarra River meandered through the city creating many scenic views and many great spots to eat and spend time along the river. The city is very modern with unique skyscrapers and businesses that make for a awesome skyline. Of course the city also offered many American businesses such a McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks (Burger King), and 7/11.
After a day in the city we played our first round at Royal Melbourne Golf Club on day 2. It was the summer down in Australia so the golf course played extremely firm and fast. Drives were running out some 40-50 yards and each approach shot needed to land 10-15 yards short of the flag. The greens are known as some of the best in Australia and at tournament time were running 12.5 on the stimp meter. Royal Melbourne is also known for the whipping wind that makes it hard for the ball to stay at rest at times. The fairways were forgiving but if they were missed, the bushes and dangerous wildlife of Australia awaited. All in all it made for a very difficult test of golf.
Sports are a big part of the culture in Australia and their sports are very different from the states. Rugby and soccer or football as they call it down under are extremely popular and the national team is followed very closely. Cricket is also a huge part of the national culture in a similar way to baseball in the United States. We knew almost nothing about sport heading into the trip but grew accustomed to the game throughout the week. It is a game in which a bowler, similar to a pitcher in baseball throws a bouncing ball at the batter who is protecting rods behind him called the wicket. The circular field is defended by the outfielders and the batter is trying to hit the ball outside of the boundary or far enough to run back and forth between two wickets before the defense gets the ball back into play. It is a fun game to watch and we watched a professional game between the Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder. I enjoyed the experience and will continue to follow cricket from the states.
I began the tournament feeling confident in my game and ready for the challenge of a new style of golf. Each round offered a new challenge as the wind varied in direction and intensity, the golf course continued to get firmer and the weather changed rapidly. We experienced 105 degree heat as well as 60 degree days that offered a unique challenge. I played consistently over the four days but not quite my best golf and after rounds of 72-73-71-70 finished in 6th place at 2 under par. My last round was memorable as I played my best round of the week in the most difficult conditions playing my last 7 holes in 4 under par. In the team competition, Brandon Hagy (Cal) and I made up 9 shots in the final round to tie for 1st in the World Cup that included 11 teams.
Stanford golf supporters have a lot of reasons to be excited for the future. A 2013 recruit and the number one junior player in Australia Viraat Badwhar took homethe individual title with a 9 under par total. He comes to Stanford in September and his impressive play will be greatly welcomed to the farm. The 2012-2013 team is really excited about the spring season to come and feel that with hard work and consistent improvement we can achieve our goals at the end of the season.