Skinner man to beat
WHEN the Coffs Harbour Office Supplies North Coast Amateur Open is played at Coffs Golf Club this weekend the memories will flood back to the first professional event in 1951.
Legendary Kel Nagle claimed a princely one hundred pounds for his winning round before backing up to win the event a further three times.
Billy Dunk became another four times winner while South African Gary Player won it twice, hinting at the enormous force in golf he would soon become.
"The tournament went amateur in 1975," club pro Matt Allan said yesterday.
"Keeping up the prizemoney became too difficult.
"But the prestige and desire to win the event is still as strong as in the early days."
Leading amateurs Paul Sheehan and Scott Gardiner were winners before turning professional and Matt Allan believes many in the field of 72 could follow the same path.
"There's some hot talent in the field," Allan said jokingly.
"If they were racehorses they'd be starting in the Melbourne Cup."
Allan, with an eye to the horse sports has settled on a core group of six players most likely to hit the line in first position.
Run in conjunction with the North Coast Amateur Open is the D.& R. Recruiting Ladies Classic, part of the calendar since 1982.
"We probably have the equivalent of Makybe Diva in this field," Matt Allan said.
"Emma Bennett is the star attraction from Kingston Heath in Victoria and is the current cup holder.
"She's in outstanding form and will take some beating off scratch."
While Bennett may hold favouritism, Allan gives local Emma de Groot a big chance.
"She is still young but has enormous potential," he said.
"A big event like this will soon come her way and if the Victorian slips up, this could be it."
Three Queenslanders will also be in the firing line.
"Sophie Jang, Michelle Ting and Min Yean Tan are from the Hills Golf Academy and we have great reports of their ability," Allan said.
Tee off times both Saturday and Sunday are from 8.30 with winners to be known around 5pm Sunday.