Anthony Williams has emerged the favourite to take a seventh Mount Gambier Golf Club title in 2021 after the surprise omission of defending champion Darren Bilney.
Williams shot the best score of the day in Saturday’s second and final round of qualifying, a two-under par 70, to finish second overall on 149.
That was one shot behind Bilney who had consecutive rounds of 74 for 148, but will not be available for the final on Sunday, April 18 due to a prior holiday commitment.
Williams won his first club championship at Attamurra back in 2001, backed that up with four more over the following five years and added number six in 2014.
Another former winner in Hayden Schroder, who lifted the trophy in 1999, 2008 and 2014, showed he was back for another serious tilt this year with an even-par round of 72 on Saturday.
And one player looking to win his first club championship is four-handicapper Hayden Cook.
The 37-year-old, who finished a well-beaten second behind Bilney in last year’s final, said his game was in good shape for another shot this year.
“Darren gave me a towelling last year, but I have been practicing a bit more now,” he said.
“My chipping and pitching has been pretty good and my putting has been pretty solid.
“I do not hit it as far as the other guys so I have been working hard on getting up and down if I miss the greens.”
Cook was only two shots behind Williams after the qualifying rounds with scores of 77 and 74.
He will take on big-hitting Craig Foster in this Saturday’s quarter-final while Williams will face off against Matthew Knowles.
The other two match-ups will see young gun Nicholas Moretti up against the experienced Joe Clements and Schroder faces two-marker Setio Prajogo-Shanahan.
In A Reserve Grade the top qualifier was another long hitter in Jason Mann who has been in great form, dropping his handicap from 13 to 8 in the past six weeks.
He will take on Tim Driver in the quarters, while John Shirley will face Mitch Handford, David Anderson is up against Paul Reade and Josh Knowles go head-to-head against Ken Whitehead.
The B Grade draw proved a nightmare for organisers, with 15th qualifier Peppi Pace getting elevated into the top eight thanks to a combination of higher finishers being unavailable or not nominating.
The line-up in that grade will see the top qualifier, 13-handicapper Michael Rookas, who shot an excellent round of 81 on Saturday, take on Pace, while Rob Harkness has drawn against fellow veteran Ian Ewart.
Bryan Hunt will face off against Lachie Rees while Brett Shepherdson meets Barry Brook in the last of the quarter-finals.
In C Grade the top qualifier was Rob McLellan who posted rounds of 89 and 90 to finish four shots clear of Matthew Bowering.
McLellan will square off with Graham Robinson, while Bowering faces Hayden Dow.
The other two matches in C Grade will feature Jack Jennings against Peter Buckingham and Graeme Armstrong against Max Tollner.
The lack of nominations in D Grade means the final will be played on Saturday between No.1 qualifier, 10-year-old Blake Schroder and Max Hellyer.
Meanwhile last Thursday’s stableford competition was taken out by Graham Paterson who signed for a superb 44 points.
Playing off a 19-handicap, Paterson got off to the worst possible start by wiping the first hole, but recovered with four-point birdies on the 4th and 8th holes to post 21 points on the front nine.
Five pars on the back nine helped him add 23 more points for his total of 44, one clear of the rapidly-improving Wayne Davison.
The round of the day was turned in by former club professional Craig Davis who fired a 67 off the stick for 39 points off his handicap of +2.