Kyriacou win further blurs line between amateur and pro golf
Stephanie Kyriacou’s outstanding victory in the Australian Ladies Classic is yet another reminder that the line between amateurs and professionals is growing ever thinner.
The 19-year-old Sydney native didn’t just win, she practically lapped the field. She posted four rounds in the 60s – 69, 63, 69 and 65 – for a 22-under 266 at Bonville Golf Resort. Korea’s Ayean Cho took the silver medal as low professional with a 14-under 274 to finish second. She also took the €36,000 “winner’s” cheque.
“I’m lost for words and still on cloud nine. I think everything was going my way today. I was pretty confident going into the last round,” Kyriacou said.
Kyriacou’s victory is all the more impressive when you consider she’s not even Australia’s highest ranked amateur. She’s Australian number three at 90th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking behind 17th ranked Gabriela Ruffels and world number 58 Grace Kim.
“It’s very impressive to see such a strong performance from an amateur,” said Sweden’s Linnea Strom, who finished third. “I thought it was very impressive to go out as an amateur in the final group and to start off with birdies so early in the round. It is very impressive to be able to control your nerves like that.”
Kyriacou faces a decision on whether to turn professional and take up a winner’s category of membership on the Ladies European Tour and Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tours. She will discuss that opportunity with her father Nick, who caddied her to victory. It seems a fairly easy choice for someone intent on a career as a tournament professional.
The win does not surprise those of us who keep a keen eye on amateur golf. I’ve been suggesting for years that the possibility of an amateur winning a major is stronger now than at most times in recent history.
The line between the top amateurs and top professionals is as thin as it’s ever been. We’ve seen that in recent years with many top ranked amateurs making an easy jump to the pro game. Take your pick of Lydia Ko, Minjee Lee, Leona McGuire, Bronte Law, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland, to name a few, who have all made seamless, successful jumps to the professional ranks.
Many who turn pro have been professional in all but name for a good few years thanks to golf associations around the world supporting them financially. The U.S. college system is a perfect feeder system to the professional tours too. These players are competitive, been prepared properly for the rigours of pro golf and have the best equipment suited to their game. The only barrier they have to face is the psychological aspect of competing on the world’s biggest stages.
No male amateur has won a major since Johnny Goodman did so in the 1933 U.S. Open. Catherine Lacoste is the last woman to win a major, with her 1967 U.S. Women’s Open victory. Ireland’s Paul Dunne gave the unpaid ranks hope in 2015 when he was joint leader after 54 holes of the Open Championship at St Andrews.
I’m not saying an amateur will win one of this year’s majors – I’m not discounting it either – but don’t be surprised if it happens sooner rather than later. As Kyriacou proved, that line between the amateur and pro game is growing ever thinner.