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High stakes at amateur championship

Kerry Mountcastle in action during the New Zealand Stroke Play Championship. PHOTO/FILE

JAKE BELESKI

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An opportunity to contest two of the biggest golf tournaments in the world is at stake, but Masterton’s Kerry Mountcastle is refusing to look that far ahead.

Mountcastle has been selected as one of 10 amateur golfers from New Zealand to take part in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Wellington in October.

It will be the first time the event has been played in New Zealand since its inception in 2009.

The winner will receive an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament at Augusta in 2018, while the winner and runner-up will gain entry into The Open Qualifying Series for The Open Championship.

It had been a long build-up to the tournament, Mountcastle said.

“It was about two years ago that we found out it was going to be in New Zealand, and it’s been building up since then.

“I’ve just been trying to get ready for it over the last couple of years.”

He will be in familiar surroundings when the tournament starts at the Royal Wellington Golf Club, as he is a member there as well as at the Masterton Golf Club.

Adapting to the conditions in Wellington would be a challenge for everyone in the field, he said.

“The weather is definitely the biggest factor down there, especially the swirling winds.

“It’s the windy time of year as well, because the end of October is usually a very windy time for New Zealand.”

Mountcastle hasn’t been happy with his recent form, but was hopeful things would fall into place over the next couple of months.

“To be honest, I haven’t been playing that well . . . I just haven’t had quite the time I’ve wanted to practise, and I’ve been struggling a bit with my swing and that sort of thing.

“I’m starting to get back on track and doing some more practise now.”

Before the amateur championship Mountcastle will contest the Wellington Stroke Play Championship in September, as well as a couple of other tournaments at the beginning of October.

It was impossible to describe how it would feel to win the amateur championship and earn the chance to play at two majors, he said.

“I wouldn’t even be able to describe it yet — that would be something that would happen afterwards.

“I think you have to win this first and then you can think about that.”

But Mountcastle did say the majors were viewed as “the top of the golfing world”.

“If you could play in two majors as an amateur that would be very special.”

New Zealand Golf’s high performance manager, Gregg Thorpe, is looking forward to the prospect of New Zealand hosting the event.

“The last week in October will represent a fantastic opportunity for these 10 men.

“Having the chance to win a major amateur championship in your own back yard, that comes with the chance to play at Augusta National as well as in an Open Championship is about as exciting as it gets.”

If a Kiwi was to win the amateur championship it would be for the first time, with the best performances in the past coming from Peter Spearman-Burn, Ben Campbell and Luke Toomey.

All three have previously finished third in the event, in 2009, 2011 and 2016 respectively.

The championship runs from October 26-29.

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