Golf: Southern amateur takes aim at winning Open

Vaughan McCall
Vaughan McCall
Collins Maps will tell you that the tiny town of Waikoikoi has a population of less than 1000 people.

One of their residents happens to be New Zealand's No 1-ranked male amateur golfer.

His name is Vaughan McCall and the 21-year-old, who practises at the nearby Tapanui club and plays out of the Gore Golf Club, is eyeing another solid outing at this week's New Zealand Open at Clearwater in Christchurch.

With a handful of promising young Kiwi players having turned professional recently, McCall's name has risen up the amateur rankings as he has registered a collection of useful results during the past 12 months.

The right-hander finished 13th in the individual standings at this year's Eisenhower Trophy in Turkey as New Zealand finished a disappointing 24th.

McCall made the cut at Clearwater last December when he finished in a tie for 45th and this year he made history when he became the first player to win the New Zealand Stroke Play and New Zealand Amateur titles in the same year.

"I made the cut last year and I definitely feel like I'm an improved player from one year ago. So I feel like I can achieve high here," McCall said after he finished practice today. (mon)

"I'll be looking to win, but to mainly get myself in to contention for the opportunity to win."

Like any amateur player, McCall has to fund his golfing aspirations with a day job and he spends between six and eight hours a day working on a local dairy farm.

"It's mainly tractor driving and odd jobs that the other workers don't complete so I just do the tidy up stuff and there's always things to be done on a farm," he said.

"It's about finding a balance. It's great going away jet-setting and travelling the world playing all these great tournaments but coming back to the farm, the cows, they don't know who you are so it keeps you very grounded."

One of the most common questions an amateur golfer fields is when they will make the step up to the professional game and McCall said he still had things to prove in the unpaid ranks yet.

"A lot of people as me why I'm not going now but I just feel I've got a bit more to achieve as an amateur yet."

The next Eisenhower Trophy tournament will be held in Japan in 2014 and McCall said that would be a likely send-off event before he turns pro.

McCall will lead a field of promising amateurs at Clearwater this week, as a Kiwi bids to become the first New Zealander to win the Open since Mahal Pearce triumphed at Middlemore in 2003.

A few players who will tee it up in Christchurch on Thursday just enjoyed a decent weekend at the Australian Masters in Melbourne, including Lower Hutt pros Gareth Paddison and Mark Brown who finished in a share of third place, while Michael Hendry was tied for sixth.

There's also a collection of other Kiwis who could etch their name on the trophy, including former European Tour player Greg Turner, one-time PGA Tour winner Phil Tataurangi and rookie professional Ryan Fox.

- Daniel Richardson, APNZ

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