Yorkshire golf: Jamie Bower has US Amateur in his sights after successful South African campaign

Meltham GC's Jamie Bower with the Southern Cape Open, one of two victories he achieved during a six-week tour of South Africa with England Golf men's squad.
Meltham GC's Jamie Bower with the Southern Cape Open, one of two victories he achieved during a six-week tour of South Africa with England Golf men's squad.

YORKSHIRE champion Jamie Bower heads to Portugal on Thursday for warm weather training with England Golf men's squad.

And he hopes his work practising at Quinta do Lago alongside the Atlantic Ocean will lead to him journeying across 'The Pond' this summer to compete in the US Amateur championship.

A hugely successful six-week tour of South Africa produced two victories - in the Gauteng North Open and Southern Cape Open - that helped propel the Meltham GC man into the world's top 50 amateurs.

Staying within that elite level come the end of June would earn him an exemption to play in the US Amateur at Oakland Hills, Michigan.

He was as high as world No 40 after his South Africa excursions - which also included him reaching the quarter-finals of the South African amateur championship - and he currently sits at No 44.

"I have dropped a bit after the last couple of events, but I'm inside the top 50 and I'm looking to maintain that as it makes you exempt for the US Amateur championship," he said.

"The cut off line is the end of June so I will be looking to improve my position and stay in the world's top 50. Playing in the US Amateur is one of my big goals this year.

"Being in the top 50 in the world is something I'm quite proud of, but I'm not resting on my laurels or trying to think too much about that.

"I am just trying to go forward now and get even higher and I want to get another win as soon as possible as I don't want to have to fall back on what I've done so far. I will put that behind me now and try to push on."

His South African victories saw him temporarily hold the position as England's No 1 male amateur, but Scott Gregory, now world No 35, and Bradley Moore, world No 38, have pushed him down to third.

It is typical of the eminently likeable Bower that he both enjoys his England team-mates' success and sees it as a challenge to get back to being the country's top-ranked player.

"I am not too worried about losing my position as No 1 because it is good to see some of the England lads playing good golf as well," he commented.

"We want to get as many English lads up there (in the world rankings) as possible and it is nice to see the other lads pushing on and giving some competition."

Bower, who helped Yorkshire win the EGU Northern Counties title last summer, won the first event he played in South Africa - which he admits came as something of a surprise.

"I did not really go out there with too many expectations," he explained. "I knew I had put a good shift in over the few months leading up to it, but you don't really know what to expect when you haven't played competitively for a while.

"I had a feeling I would play well, but I wasn't really thinking that I would win; the plan was just really to try to do the best that I could.

"To come out and win the first one was a little bit of a shock to me, but I knew as soon as I got there, in the practice round, that I was hitting the ball nicely so I guess at that point I knew I would have a decent chance.

"It was brilliant because it took the pressure off me for all the other events really. I then came third (in the South African stroke play championship) at Leopards Creek as well and that's when people really started to take notice."

Bower's fine play continued into the last of six events, the match play championship, and it looked as if he might improve on his excellent showing in the 2015 English amateur championship, when he reached the last four at Alwoodley GC, only losing his semi-final in a sudden-death play-off.

However, Switzerland's Loris Schuepbach got the better of him, three birdies in five holes just after the turn pointing him towards victory.

"I was very disappointed to lose my match play quarter-final because I had been playing really well that whole week," reflected Bower. "It was the kind of course where you needed to shoot two or three under to be in a match really. If you were around par you were probably going to get beaten.

"I was well under par in my first three matches that I won, but I was about one over par in the one that I lost. I just had a bad day and the other guy didn't.

"But when I looked back a few days later and reflected on it, I guess it was a good result in the end.

"In South Africa I had two wins, a third place finish at Leopard Creek, plus I reached the last eight in the match play. I was 17th and 24th in the other two, so a couple of iffy results but nothing drastic."

After his week in Portugal, Bower will spend three weeks in Melbourne visiting his Australian girlfriend Olivia and gaining more warm weather practice.

Then two weeks after his return home he will play in his first big event of the year on English soil, in the prestigious Lytham Trophy from April 29-May 1.