As the golf world turns its attention to Pinehurst for the U.S. Open this week, fans of the amateur game have one eye on the Sunnehanna Amateur kicking off Wednesday.
The Sunnehanna, one of the summer competitive season's top events, was first played in 1954 and is held at Sunnehanna Country Club, one of A.W. Tillinghast's classic designs. The event annually features one of the year's best fields and with the sound mix of collegiate stars and highly-competitive mid-amateurs, the 2014 Sunnehanna field is no exception.
Defending champion Steven Ihm of the University of Iowa returns with the hopes of becoming the first player to win two straight Sunnehanna titles since PGA Tour star Rickie Fowler did so in 2007-2008.
Since his victory last June, Ihm has played well. He logged Top 5 finishes at the Big Ten Championship and ASU Thunderbird Invitational and won two events -- the Boilermaker Invitational and Hawkeye Invitational -- this school year.
Among the host of potential contenders are recent winners Nicolas Echavarria, Grady Brame, Jr., Kyle Jones and Will Murphy.
Echavarria, who plays at Arkansas but calls Columbia home, rolled over the competition this past weekend at the Mexican National Amateur, winning by 12 shots.
Brame, Jr. and Jones also won last weekend. Brame, Jr. , who plays at LSU, won the Louisiana State Amateur title while Jones won the Southwestern Amateur in dramatic fashion. The Baylor University golfer rallied in the final round before eagling the 72nd hole to win by two shots.
Murphy, who plays at the University of South Carolina, won the prestigious Azalea Amateur in March.
The college demographic isn't the only one with contenders, though, as a host of mid-amateurs and junior-aged golfers have the game to win at this key early-season invitational.
For the mid-amateurs, Missouri's Skip Berkmeyer, Patrick Christovich of Louisiana and Iowa's Gene Elliot could play well enough to contend. Christovich, of course, won the Coleman Invitational last month before helping the U.S. to a win at the Concession Cup alongside Elliot.
Reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Mike McCoy is also in the field and sure to be in the mix with his steady game. Bill Williamson, who McCoy beat in last year's Mid-Am finale, could also be a name to watch. Four-time Mid-Amateur winner Nathan Smith, who resides in Pennsylvania, is undoubtedly a contender given his impressive resume. Smith's resume, of course, includes two straight Walker Cup appeareances.
Rounding out the mid-am contingency at the Sunnehanna is South Carolina school teacher Todd White, who joined Smith on last year's winning U.S. Walker Cup team.
Golf's future is well-represented, too, at the Sunnehanna.
Reigning U.S. Junior Champion Scottie Scheffler leads a group of youngsters with the game and pedigree to win even at this high level of amateur golf.
New Year's Invitational champ and Florida Gators signee Sam Horsfield, Virginia-area standout Zachary Bauchou and Oklahoma commit Brad Dalke all join Scheffler as contenders entering the first round of action Wednesday at Sunnehanna.
The Sunnehanna Amateur runs through Saturday's final round and will feature a cut to the low 50 and tied following Friday's third round.
AmateurGolf.com will have full coverage throughout the tournament. For a full look at the field, please follow the results link below.