3 Things to Know for Stroke Play
August 11, 2019 | PINEHURST, N.C.
By Greg Midland, USGA
When the oldest championship in the U.S. comes to a place that has helped shape the legacy of golf in America, it has all the makings of a special week. That is the feeling here in the North Carolina Sandhills, as Pinehurst Resort & Country Club hosts the 119th U.S. Amateur – its 10th USGA championship – on the iconic Course No. 2 and refreshed Course No. 4.
As it does every year, the field of 312 includes the best amateurs from around the globe. Of the top 50 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), 49 are competing. Yet an essential part of the U.S. Amateur is not just the top-ranked players but those who survived 36 holes of sectional qualifying to earn their place in the field. They know that if they make it through two rounds of stroke play to become one of the 64 seeds for match play, their dream of hoisting the Havemeyer Trophy is alive.
To watch the U.S. Amateur is to watch the game’s future stars. The 2018 champion, Viktor Hovland, turned professional after this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and is working his way toward the PGA Tour. Recent champions Bryson DeChambeau (2015) and Matt Fitzpatrick (2013) are tour mainstays. The U.S. Amateur champion and runner-up earn exemptions into the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot – and for the first time, the champion won’t have to remain an amateur to take advantage of that opportunity.
Here are three things to know for stroke play:
No, we’re not talking about Carolina barbeque. There are 16 players in the field who hail from North Carolina, including U.S. Mid-Amateur champions Kevin O’Connell (2018) and Scott Harvey (2015), 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Brett Boner and 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Akshay Bhatia. In addition, 34 players in the field competed in this year’s North & South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2. This is a venue that demands patience and strategy to navigate the famed plateau greens and native sandy areas that are mainstays of the property. Because of that, the likelihood of someone with tournament experience here making a deep run are as high as the humidity.
No. 4 Spotlight
While Pinehurst No. 2 is a marquee star, Pinehurst No. 4 has the inside track for best supporting actor. Originally designed by Donald Ross in 1919, Course No. 4 went through several iterations in the middle of the century before a highly acclaimed redesign by Tom Fazio in 1999. Yet the folks at Pinehurst were not content to let No. 4 rest on its laurels, particularly after the restoration of No. 2 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw prior to the back-to-back 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. They hired Gil Hanse to breathe new life into No. 4, and his renovation brought the course’s character much closer to that of its famed sister. The clearest sign of approval of the new work is its role in determining the U.S. Amateur champion: For the first time, the 36-hole championship match will be played over two courses.
Walker Cup Watch
This is a Walker Cup year, and the U.S. Amateur will go a long way in determining which players are named to fill out the teams representing the USA and Great Britain & Ireland at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, on Sept. 7-8. Three U.S. Amateur competitors – Cole Hammer, Akshay Bhatia and Stewart Hagestad – already played their way onto the USA Team by virtue of being the top three Americans in the WAGR on July 24. As part of changes made to the USA team selection process, the U.S. Amateur champion and McCormack Medal winner, if American, will also earn spots on the team. But there are dozens of players representing both sides who hope that a strong showing at Pinehurst will give them the opportunity to play for their countries in one of the most celebrated events in amateur golf.
Greg Midland is the USGA’s director of content. Email him at email@example.com.