Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Rich River classic tees off today

PGA trainees take to the Rich River fairways for the 2014 Trainee Classic.

LUKE MCMANUS February 4, 2014 4:30am

Rich River and PGA professionals Steven Loader and Richard Caiolfa with the Rich River Trainee Classic trophy.

Australia’s next crop of top golfers will descend on Rich River Golf Club for the 2014 Trainee Classic.

About 130 entrants from the PGA’s traineeship program will square off across four rounds of competition, each vying for a chance to win a share of the $32,000 prize pool.

The tournament is one of only two events of its kind in Australia and offers players of either gender a chance to compete for the same prize.

Rich River professionals Steve Loader and Richard Caiolfa have been involved in the renowned eventeither as a caddie, player or organisersince its inaugural year and lauded the championship as a kickstarter for many golfers’ careers.

‘‘(The tournament) is set up as close to a national event as possible, just like the ones you’d watch on television,’’ Loader said.

‘‘It’s a great chance for players to test themselves on whether they’re ready to play for a living.

‘‘If you’re winning here against 130 other trainees of similar age or standard, then you’re not far away from competing on a bigger stage.’’

Echuca’s own Jack Wilson is a former trainee whose career has progressed rapidly since his triumph in 2011.

A first-year trainee then, Wilson has gone from strength to strength, achieving an incredible third at the Australian PGA Championship in November.

‘‘It’s one of the best events on the schedule and kicks the year off in such a positive way,’’ Wilson said.

‘‘It’s a proper golf tournament, run exceptionally well by Richard and Steve, on a quality golf course...

‘‘I’m actually sad I won’t be able to come back this year.

‘‘It gave me a great stepping stone and gave me confidence knowing that I could win an event.

‘‘It’s something I will always look back on a lot.

‘‘I’m sure the trainees playing will have the same feeling.’’

Among the favourites to win this year’s classic is defending champion and 2013 performance rankings winner Richard Gallichan (NSW).

Victorian trainees Deyen Lawson and Luke Hickman have also been tipped to feature among the leaders all the way through to Thursday’s final round.

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