BLAKE Windred was excited to have earned a start at the US Amateur at the famed Pebble Beach last year.
Twelve months on, Windred is confident he now has the game and experience to contend for the biggest prize in amateur golf.
The Charlestown right-hander is among six Australians in the 312 man field teeing it up at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, starting Tuesday.
"I feel like I'm a better, more experienced golfer than this time last year," Windred told Down the Fairway. "I'm confident in my ability to compete at this level but at the same time it doesn't guarantee that I'm going to breeze through to the match play. It's going to take a lot of patience and a lot of good golf if you want to be playing at the end of the week."
Windred was ranked outside the top 50 and survived a three-way play-off in a 36-hole qualifier in Pennsylvania to earn a ticket to the US Amateur last year. At Pebble Beach, he finished equal 24th after two stroke rounds to progress to the match play, where he went down to Chinese Tapei's Chun An Yu in the round of 64.
Now ranked 11th in the world, the 21-year-old has spent the past four days in North Carolina and played both the No.2 and No.4 courses which will be in use.
"The No.2 golf course is probably the toughest, most demanding course I have ever played," he said. "The No.4 is no snack either. They have turned a few pars-fives into par-fours. Every green is crowned which leaves difficult chip shots up six foot slopes. Most of my preparation has been around the greens. I feel like my game is in good shape "
Windred plays the No.4 course in the first round and is in the second last group alongside American and world No.8 Brandon Wu and Spaniard Alvaro Mueller-Baumgart.
* Defending champion Bruce Hill will play No.1 seed Chris Turnbull in the quarter-finals of the Newcastle club championships. Turnbull (145) added a 74 in brutal conditions last Saturday to an opening-round 71 to qualify in top spot for the match play section, which starts on August 25. Hill (164) qualified eighth. NSW junior representative Jacob Dundas (149) qualified second and will meet good friend and seventh seed Jake Riley (162). Others to progress were Daniel Terry (150), Luke Ferrier (152), Tom De Witt (158) and Jeff McCarthy (161).
* Belmont's Hamish Ellison carded a six-over 75 in gale-force conditions to win the Singleton Junior Open on Sunday. Pyper Hollis (Kew) shot 85 to win the girls event.
* Waratah's Justin Ely will be out to better his three-under 67 when he competes in the Bulahdelah Course Record Challenge on August 24. Ely set the mark in October last year. The event sponsored by Steve Sharp Painting, has more than $1000 in prizemoney. Tee times are still available.
* Corey Lamb will lead the charge for Concord against Pymble in the semi-final of the Eric Apperly Shield at Glenmore Heritage Valley Golf Club on Sunday. Concord are the defending champions.
* Newcastle-born Asquith-based Brayden Petersen is in good form approaching the NSW/ACT trainee championships to be played at Riverside Oaks, starting August 27.
The second year trainee fired a three-under 67 to be the join winner of the Concord trainee event last week.
* Charlestown-based Andrew Dodt will play in the Sarwak Championship in Malaysia, starting Thursday, in his return to the Asian Tour after a back injury.