• Alistair Tait

Rory belongs to popular Amateur club


Those who lose their opening matches in the Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale today should take heart: better players have fallen at the first hurdle in the game’s oldest national amateur tournament.

Many have gone on to considerable professional success.

Just ask major winners Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell. Ask European Ryder Cup players Paul Broadhurst, David Gilford, Steve Richardson, Phillip Price and Colin Montgomerie. All have suffered on the opening day of head-to-head play, against opposition who never came close to matching their exploits in the professional game.

McIlroy was the talk of the 2007 championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. Not many had heard of the player the wunderkind from Holywood drew in his opening match: Danny Willett. Yet Willett advanced to the next round after a 2&1 win.

At least McIlroy lost to a player who would become a major champion. The same can’t be said for Els and co. Ernie bowed out in the opening rounds of the 1987 and 1989 championship. No real shame in losing to future European Tour winner Gary Orr in 1987. He lost in 1989 to Hunstanton member Neil Williamson, who has probably dined out on that victory ever since. As he should.

Harrington lost his opening matches in 1991 and 1995. In 1991, he lost to Ganton’s Michael Kelly. He perhaps can’t be faulted for his 1995 loss. Three-time Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards handed Harrington a 2&1 defeat.

Rose lost to Scotland’s James Bunch in 1998 at Muirfield. Bunchie’s a good friend of mine. I know for a fact he’s dined out on his victory over the 2013 U.S. Open champion.

England’s Paul Bradshaw was too good for McDowell in the 2001 championship at Prestwick. McDowell went on to Ryder Cup fame and the 2010 U.S. Open. Bradshaw tried and failed to make it as tour pro.

Sam Broadhurst made it through to today’s opening match play rounds at Birkdale. He’ll have to go a long way to beat father Paul’s record of opening day losses in the Amateur. The 1991 Ryder Cup player and six-time European Tour winner lost in his opening matches in 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1988. Fellow Ryder Cup (1995) player Gilford was a first day loser in 1985. Richardson, who played with Broadhurst in the 1991 Ryder Cup, lost his opening round in the 1986 Amateur at Royal Lytham.

A certain Colin Montgomerie was an opening day casualty in 1986. Two years after finishing runner-up to Jose Maria Olazabal at Formby, the future eight-time European Tour order of merit winner lost to Welshman Keith Williams.

Throw in the stat I highlighted yesterday about future European Tour winners Nick Dougherty (2001), Stephen Gallacher (1994), Simon Dyson (1999) and Richard Finch (2002) entering the match play rounds as number one seeds but losing their opening matches, and you can see why those who lose today have nothing to be ashamed of.

Oh, the vagaries of match play golf. Whisper it quietly, it’s the reason the Amateur doesn’t always produce world class winners.

#JustSaying: “Match play’s the thing. Stroke play’s no more than rifle shooting.” Freddie Tait

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