DAVID HAGUE’S maiden trip Down Under showed he is ready to dine at the top table of amateur golf.
During his month-long tour, which took in four high-ranking events against top quality international fields, the Malton & Norton youngster was beaten by a shot in the prestigious Avondale Amateur and went down by one hole in the quarter-finals by the eventual winner Keita Nakajima in the Australian Amateur.
He also made it to the last 16 in the New South Wales Amateur and challenged after two rounds of the Master of the Amateurs before falling ill.
Hague was suitably pleased with his bonzer month. He said: “It was a really nice trip. The weather was good and more importantly the golf was good.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system as we were on the go pretty much all of the time, so managing my energy levels was a bit of a challenge as the heat was difficult to adapt to, and I also picked up ’flu.
“It was the first time I had played four big events in four weeks. The amateur schedule in the UK is much more spread out and you have time to rest and prepare between events.
“I also learned a few tricks like standing in the shade as much as possible and walking down the sides of the fairways or in the rough under the trees to keep cool, which definitely helped me to acclimatise.”
But he fell ill with ‘Aussie ’flu’ after two rounds of his first event, the Master of the Amateurs in Melbourne, which boasts former US PGA winner Jason Day on its list of past champions.
“I was in the top 10 after two rounds, but then went down with the ’flu and eventually finished 36th after shooting 12 over for the last two rounds. I really struggled. I think I picked it up on the plane on the way over there.”
He singled out the East course at Royal Melbourne - which was designed by Normanton born course architect Dr Alister MacKenzie - as the hardest he played during his Antipodean adventure.
“Visually it is stunning with bunkers everywhere. For me it was definitely the most memorable and the toughest course I played,” he said. The course he liked best was Perth’s Lake Karrinyup, which recently hosted the European Tour’s Super 6 event.
Clearly it suited his eye, and despite still battling the lingering effects of ’flu he made it through to the last eight of the Australian Amateur.
“I tied 27th in the 36-hole strokeplay to comfortably make it through to the knockout stages before going out.
“I lost at the last, but to be honest I struggled all the way round and didn’t deserve to beat Keita. But I loved the course, it was quite hilly with kangaroos bounding about everywhere. Another wonderful experience.”
Hague was part of a four- man squad representing England Golf and the party headed straight from Perth for an overnight flight to Sydney.
“We didn’t get to Sydney for the Avondale Amateur until Monday morning and the tournament started Tuesday, so we had to get a quick couple of rounds in that day and didn’t complete the second round until 7.30 pm,” said Hague.
The hectic preparations may have tainted his chances to go one better as his closing 67 - which included five birdies on the back nine - left him just one short of Australia’s Blake Windred, who got up and down for par from a bunker on the 18th to win by a shot on six under for the four rounds. In his final event, the New South Wales Amateur Championship, Hague cruised into the match-play stages. Having opened with a two- under-par 70 at Gungahlin Lakes, he went lower still at Royal Canberra. His four- under-par round of 68 contained seven birdies leaving him in a tie for fourth as the top 32 advanced to the final stages, and he made it through to the last 16 in another creditable display.
When he left England on New Year’s Day Hague was ranked 96th in the World Amateur Rankings, but by the time he boarded the plane home he had risen to 54th thanks to his golden month Down Under.
“Making the top 50 by June is one of my goals at the start of the year as that will get me into the US Amateur at Pebble Beach in August,” he said. “My performances in Australia moved me up the rankings, but I would like to be comfortably inside the top 50 when we go into June.”
The North of England champion and 2017 Lagonda Trophy winner highlighted consistency as the key to his good run of results.
“I felt like my game was very consistent and didn’t deteriorate like it can when you play four big events straight after each other, and my take away was that I was able to compete at a level which was higher than I had ever experienced.
“Again, it was a great learn-ing experience that I will never forget, dealing with a very different climate and other factors, like playing at 2,000 feet above seas level so the ball flew further, and that was another challenge that we had to adapt to.”
Hague is looking to move up the rankings at the Spanish Amateur in La Manga, where he admits to having ‘home advantage’ as his parents had a holiday home overlooking the fifth tee on the North course for 28 years before selling it last year.
“I have played a lot of golf there over the years and know all the courses pretty well, so it will feel like going home,” he said. “We sold the house a few months before they announced the Spanish was going to be played there so we are renting our old house for the week from the new owners.”
As for the future, the level headed 21-year-old is taking one year at a time, but acknowledges the influence of his coach Steve Robinson. They have worked together since Hague was 13 and he added: “We are keeping it simple at the moment. We have worked hard to get my swing to where it is now, and this is pretty much where we want it to be, so we will see what happens this year.”
Hague was introduced to the game by his grandfather, who was a member at Malton & Norton, which was also the breeding ground for six-time European Tour winner Simon Dyson.
Could Hague be the next Dyson? “I have only met Simon a couple of times at the club as he lives over in Manchester now, but he’s definitely one of my favourite players,” said the Yorkshire county player.
Dyson’s from a family of bookmakers, and there’s a good chance they will be laying odds on for Hague to follow in his footsteps.