After a year at college in the US disrupted by COVID-19, Jye Pickin is glad to be back home and playing tournaments.
The 20-year-old will head a strong 13-man Hunter contingent teeing up in the NSW Amateur at Kooindah Waters and Magenta Shores starting Monday.
The NSW Medal consists of 36 holes of stroke play - 18 holes at each course - with the top 32 to progress to the match play section.
A NSW Junior champion and state team captain, Pickin spent 2020 at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the Colonial Athletic Association conference season and meant that Pickin was restricted to practice.
"The season over there is still up in the air," Pickin said. "It was a tough decision but but in terms of my golf, development-wise, I feel it's best here. It made me aware of how good it is back here with the NSW high performance squad and the coaching we have available. As a development pathway going forward, coming home was right for me.
"College was a real eye-opener. Away from the golf, it forced me to mature and do a few things I hadn't done. If I want to play professionally down the track, I have to handle those things."
Much of Pickin's preparation for the NSW Amateur has been playing rather than just practice.
"I've been shooting some good scores, practicing a bit but playing a bit more," the Charlestown right-hander said.
"I've been having a hit with [professionals] Jake Higginbottom and Blake Windred at Charlestown. It's good to mix with them. The past few weeks I have worked hard. One of my mates, Jordy Garner, lives down there and I have played both courses a few times."
Pickin is joined on the central coast by older brother Bryce as well as Harry Atkinson, Max Duffy-Smith, Jacob Dundas, Josh Fuller, Hayden Gulliver, Brij Ingrey, Corey Lamb, James Cusack, Josh Robards, Jake Riley and Luke Ferrier.
Newcastle is well represented in the NSW women's amateur with Stacie McDonald, Jane McDonald and Dom Kelly in the field.