Scott Gregory launches Aussie charge
The second helping of Christmas turkey was barely served on the plate at his Waterlooville home before Amateur Champion Scott Gregory was heading to Heathrow '“ bound for Australia where he will compete in the top four amateur events Down Under over the next five weeks.
And where better place to start for the amateur golfer ranked No. 6 in the world then at Royal Melbourne GC, one of Australia’s famous sand belt courses, graced the game’s greats down the years.
As well as a very short Christmas celebration, there was no extravagant New Year celebrations for the England quartet - also featuring Golf at Goodwood’s Marco Penge - as they began their preparations for the Australian Master of the Amateurs, which Scott teed off in during the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Although Gregory played his last competitive rounds back in late October, he has been busy working with his coach Simon Andrews, of the Portsmouth Golf Centre, and spent time in November with the England squad in Portugal at their winter training camp at Quinta de Lago.
But it did not take long after touching down in Melbourne for Gregory to get a feel for the course and conditions he will be experiencing over the next month.
Scott said: Royal Melbourne is a great course. The greens are firm and fast and the presentation very nice to say the least.
‘It’s a tricky course, not long but you have to be in the fairway so I don’t think it will be a low scoring tournament.
‘The grasses are very similar to home as it’s a bit burnt out. Putting will be key round here as you’ll face a lot of long putts and probably be putting from off the green too as the lies are so tight.
‘It’s very links like around the greens. I expect it to be a tournament similar to the amateur events in England, somewhere in the region of three to six-under par for the four rounds.
‘Obviously it’s my first time competing for a while so an under-par total for the week would be great and hopefully give myself a chance to win in the last round on Saturday.’
Royal Melbourne, which has hosted the Australian Open 16 times and the Presidents Cup in 1998 and 2011, is the warm-up for this month’s Australian Amateur Championship being played at the city’s Yarra Yarra and Penninsula Kingswood Country Club, starting on January 17.
A week later the action switches to the Avondale Amateur, north of Sydney, followed by the New South Wales Amateur, at Terrey Hils and Killara from January 30-February 3.
The last Englishman to enjoy real success in Australia was Northamptonshire’s Ryan Evans, who won the Australian Strokeplay title in 2014. before going on to win the Lake Macquarie Amateur, which is not on the England squad’s itinerary this time.
Helping England seal the silver medal in the Eisenhower Trophy when he competed for England at the World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico, in September, will have boosted Gregory’s belief in his ability to repeat his Amateur Championship-winning form far from home.
Having also reached the final of the Spanish Amateur just under a year ago, Scott knows he can get his game into shape early in the season - although he is fully aware of the risks of peaking too soon and/or risking burn out.
His big goal as an amateur for 2017 – after making his debut in The Masters, at Augusta, in April – is to be on the Great Britain and Ireland team that faces America in the Walker Cup at the Los Angeles Country Club, in September.
Then he will be fully focused on winning a full card for the European Tour in 2018.
The last Hampshire player to feature in the full Ozzy amateur swing was another Corhampton ace in the shape of Neil Raymond, who claimed the New South Wales Medal in a play-off during his third trip Down Under in 2012.
Raymond funded a trip Down Under with Hayling’s Toby Burden in 2010 before playing for England against Australia in a special Ashes match in 2011, and returning as a member of the full England squad 12 months later.
Rowlands Castle’s Darren Wright – one of just nine players to win both the English Strokeplay at both junior and men’s level – finished seventh in the Australian Masters of the Amateur at Royal Melbourne, in 2011.
Gregory is competing against 77 other top amateurs, including 42 Australians, from a dozen countries and was paired for the first two rounds with Scotland’s Robert McIntyre, who he beat in the final of the British Amateur, at Royal Porthcawl.
Scott added: ‘I spoke to Neil Raymond about playing in Australian conditions but some of the courses we are playing are different. He did warn me that you needed to stay on the short stuff at Royal Melbourne, and luckily we are both pretty straight drivers.
‘Firm, fast and tricky set ups are good for me – the trickier it is the better it tends to be for me.
‘I’m very good at plotting my way round a course so I like the set up here.
‘But I would also like for a couple of the events out here to be shoot-outs with low scoring – just to get some low numbers under my belt early in 2017.’