ROLAND, Ark.(July 26, 2013) – The future of golf will be on display at the 111th Western Amateur, July 29-Aug. 4, at The Alotian Club outside Little Rock, as 156 of the game’s top amateurs walk in the footsteps of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in an attempt to win one of the oldest and most prestigious titles in the non-professional game.
This year, the Western Amateur will feature 54 of the world’s top 100 players compared to 40 last year when the field was ranked second-strongest in the world – a fitting way for The Alotian Club to host its first major golf championship.
“The Western Amateur always gets an excellent field, but having 54 of the top 100 players from all over the world proves how highly regarded this championship is in the game of golf,” said Vince Pellegrino, vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association.
The 2013 Western Amateur will feature the world’s top five amateurs. Three have made the cut in various PGA TOUR events and four already have been named to this year’s U.S. Walker Cup Team:
· No. 1 – Cory Whitsett – rising senior and member of Alabama’s 2013 national championship team; named to 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team; 2013 First Team All-American; Champion 2013 Northeast Amateur; 2nd2013 Jones Cup; 2nd2013 Sunnehanna Amateur; 2008 Western Junior champion
· No. 2 – Michael Kim – rising junior at Cal; named to 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team; low amateur at 2013 U.S. Open (T-17); T-38 Greenbrier Classic, PGA TOUR; finalist 2013 U.S. Public Links; 2013 First Team All-American; 2013 Jack Nicklaus Award winner (best college golfer); 2013 Pac-12 Golfer of the Year
· No. 3 – Justin Thomas – rising junior, member of Alabama’s 2013 national championship team; named to 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team; T-30 2013 Traveler’s Championship, PGA TOUR; T-46 2012 Greenbrier Classic, PGA TOUR; 2013; 2012; made it to Elite Eight of the 2012 Western Amateur
· No. 4 – Bobby Wyatt – rising senior, member of Alabama’s 2013 national championship team; 2013 Second Team All-American; 2ndat 2012 and 2013 NCAA D-I South Regional; 2nd2013 Aggie Invitational; Champion 2012 Sunnehanna Amateur; posted a 57 (9-under par 26 on the front nine) in the 2010 Alabama Boys state championship
· No. 5 – Patrick Rodgers – rising junior at Stanford; named to 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team; T-15 at 2013 John Deere Classic, PGA TOUR; Champion, Southern Highlands Masters in Las Vegas; 3rd2013 Northeast Amateur; 2012-13 First Team All-American; 2010 Western Junior champion
In addition, the field includes No. 9-ranked Garrick Porteous, 23, of England, winner of both the 2013 British Amateur and Scottish Amateur. British Amateur runner-up Toni Hakula of Finland, ranked No. 40, also is in the field.
Thirteen of the world’s top 20 amateurs will compete, including No. 11 Brady Watt of Australia and No. 13 Michael Weaver of Cal. Weaver finished 64that the 2013 U.S. Open and played in the 2013 Masters as a result of finishing runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Amateur. Brandon Hagy (No. 14), Sean Dale (No. 16), Oliver Schniederjans (No. 17), Oliver Goss (No. 18) of Australia and Cameron Wilson (No. 19) round out the top 20.
The field includes winners of several high-profile 2013 amateur events: Steven Ihm, winner of the 2013 Sunnehanna Amateur; Andrew Yun, winner of the Sahalee Players; Cory McElyea, a U.S. Open contestant and winner of the California State Amateur; Michael Johnson, winner of the Dogwood Invitational; Cameron Peck, winner of the Pacific Northwest Amateur, at Bandon Dunes; Bryson DeChambeau, winner of the Trans-Miss Amateur and Hunter Stewart, winner of the Players Amateur.
Other notables in the field are teen sensation and Texas sophomore Beau Hossler, who finished T-29 at the 2012 U.S. Open; Steven Fox, winner of the 2012 U.S. Amateur, and Gavin Hall, youngest contestant in this year’s U.S. Open at age 18.
In addition to attracting international players, the 2013 Western Amateur will have a strong Arkansas flavor. Three current or recent members of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ golf team – Sebastian Cappelen of Denmark; Austin Cook, a native of Jonesboro, and Joe Doramus of Little Rock – will be competing along with 1995 Western Amateur champion Patrick Lee of Centerton.
This year, contestants hail from 10 nations – Australia, Denmark, England, Finland, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the United States, Venezuela and Wales.
“The Western Golf Association is thrilled once again to have top amateurs from all over the world playing in the Western Amateur,” Pellegrino said. “All of us are looking forward to seeing how the course plays against a field of such outstanding amateurs.”
Last year’s Western Amateur champion, Chris Williams, played the U.S. Open as an amateur but turned pro shortly thereafter.
This year will be the first time the Western Amateur has been contested in the state of Arkansas, and it is the first time since 1966 that it has been played in the South.
It also is the first time The Alotian Club, which opened in 2005 and is ranked No. 15 in the country by Golf Digest, has hosted a major competition.
Founded in the Chicago area in 1899, the Western Amateur brings with it the rich traditions of golf, symbolized most dramatically by its who’s-who of past champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ben Crenshaw and Curtis Strange.
The Western Amateur’s 156-man field consistently ranks among the top three in the world along with the British Amateur and U.S. Amateur.
The Alotian Club is ranked No. 15 on Golf Digest's biennial ranking of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses."It also was named by Golf Digest as the best new private course in the country in 2005. Widely renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio designed the course.The course measures 7,480 yards from the championship tees, plays 6,780 yards from member tees and 5,385 yards from forward tees. The course’s signature trait is elevation change, the most dramatic coming at the sixth hole with a 100-foot drop from the tee to green.
For The Alotian Club, hosting the 111th Western Amateur championship will provide a high-profile platform to showcase the course’s beauty and challenging design while also highlighting the club’s support of caddies and the WGA’s Evans Scholars Foundation, which grants college scholarships to deserving caddies.
“Caddies are an integral part of the history and tradition of golf. That's why I wanted a caddie program at The Alotian Club,” said Warren Stephens, The Alotian Club’s founder.
“Since 1930 the Evans Scholarship Program has sent 10,000 caddies to college, including three from The Alotian Club – two currently at Northwestern University and one at Marquette University. Hosting a first-class competition and supporting scholarships for caddies made the decision to welcome the Western Amateur to Arkansas an easy one."
From its inception, The Western Amateur championship has been regarded as one of the major amateur golf events in the world. Only the British Amateur (1885) and the U.S. Amateur (1895) are older.
Former PGA Tour player and golf announcer Steve Melnyk, now an Alotian Club member, won the 1969 Western Amateur. Melnyk’s unique perspective on the championship caused Stephens to appoint him co-chairman of this year’s tournament.
“Winning the Western Amateur changes your life,” Melnyk said. “Very simply, the Western Amateur is the toughest tournament to win in all of amateur golf. It is a combination of endurance and focus. The winner of this championship, if you look at the names on the trophy, have gone on to wonderful things.”
While today’s Western Amateur is among the elite events of the current era, the tournament’s rich heritage connects today’s players with many of the all-time greats of the game. With more than a century of history, the Amateur’s roster of past champions and participants reads like a “Who’s Who” of American golf.
Past champions include such venerable names as eight-time winner Charles “Chick” Evans Jr., Francis Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Andy North, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Scott Verplank, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Ryan Moore and Tiger Woods. Runners up and stroke-play medalists include such current and former PGA TOUR players as Ben Curtis, Jason Gore, Jay Haas, Tom Kite, Rocco Mediate, Gil Morgan, Mark O’Meara, Chris Riley, Camilo Villegas, and Tom Watson. The legendary Bobby Jones was stroke play medalist in 1920.