Amateur top 10 moments in 2015: DeChambeau's U.S. Amateur win; Schmitz' timely ace
By Kevin Casey for Golfweek Magazine
Bryson DeChambeau, shown at the 2015 U.S. Amateur
Golfweek photo by Tracy Wilcox
10. The 2015 Walker Cup certainly wasn't much of a contest, but there were positive occurrences on both sides to note. For the Great Britain & Ireland team, Jimmy Mullen (4-0) and Cormac Sharvin (3-0) winning all of their matches gave the pair some much deserved recognition. While the Americans were crushed, 16 1/2 - 9 1/2, the fact that Hunter Stewart and Denny McCarthy had made it onto the squad was a nice boost, as both had fiercely sought a spot and even delayed their pro careers precious months to do so.
9. The Latin America Amateur Championship commenced in 2015 with a Masters invite on the line. And Matias Dominguez took advantage. The then-senior at Texas Tech held on for a one-shot victory and earned a coveted trip to Augusta National for the 2015 Masters because of his win. The folks at Augusta have been vocal and active in their attempts to try to grow the game worldwide. First the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (which also gives a Masters spot to the winner) took hold, and now the tentacles have stretched to Latin America. More opportunities for players like Dominguez to shine.
8. It was a banner year for Sierra Brooks, one of the country's top juniors. The Wake Forest signee did win a junior tournament in 2015, but it was really her performances in amateur tournaments that shot her forward. Brooks won the prestigious South Atlantic Amateur (the Sally) and the Women's Southern Amateur, not to mention her runner-up showing at the U.S. Women's Amateur. For her efforts, the soon-to-be college student is already the No. 5-ranked female amateur in the world and put everyone on notice about her being a potential future star.
7. Mid-amateur mavens Nathan Smith and Todd White captured the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball with a dominant finals win. It was a 7-and-5 victory in the championship match that got it done for the duo. But it wasn't the drama that made this moment particularly special. Rather, it was the characters involved. Mid-amateur golf tends to get short-changed on attention in the amateur game, so it was nice to see two mid-ams who were former Walker Cup members earn the trophy. Smith in particular is a four-time U.S. Mid-Am champion. White earned his overdue first USGA title with the triumph.
6. In a crazy Western Amateur week for Dawson Armstrong, he somehow ended it with the most shocking moment of all. On the second extra hole of the championship match, Armstrong dunked his bunker shot for an outrageous eagle that earned him the victory when Aaron Wise couldn't roll in his 30-foot putt to match. Despite a strong freshman season at Lipscomb and a win earlier in the summer at the Dogwood Invitational, Armstrong entered the event as a virtual unknown. Then, he nearly won medalist in stroke play, moved through the match play bracket, mowed down Alabama star Robby Shelton in epic fashion and eventually secured the title over Wise. To make matters weirder, Wise just had to two-putt from 25 feet on 18 in regulation to win the final outright. He couldn't, and some end-of-week magic earned Armstrong a breakout win.
5. Diana Murphy was nominated in November as president of the USGA, putting her in line to become the second female head of the organization. The USGA covers many areas of golf, but it retains a powerful leadership over the amateur game. Announcing another female (inevitably to be) in charge, the first since Judy Bell in 1996, was a big moment. And Murphy is certainly qualified, with her five years on the USGA's executive committee and her current vice presidential role. Oh, and her husband was a past USGA president, too.
4. The legend of Sean Crocker was truly born during U.S. Amateur week, as the bold, cocky and just downright fascinating USC player fist pumped his way to the semifinals at Olympia Fields Country Club. Of course, that's not to diminish Crocker's actual golf game, which is equally bold and exciting. In fact, Crocker was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2014-15, so in a way, the attention was overdue. And he garnered much of it during the Round of 16 and quarterfinals, with his play and antics that sometimes strayed into deep controversy (poor etiquette was the charge). Regardless, Crocker was always himself, and while he fell in the semifinals at the U.S. Am, he gained a greater following with his big attitude and his big game.
3. Sammy Schmitz may have produced the shot of the year anywhere in golf with his ace-albatross heard round the world in the final of the U.S. Mid-Amateur. Schmitz was 2 up through 32 holes in the 36-hole championship match when he arrived at the 260-yard par-4 15th. Looking to close in on the trophy, Schmitz roped a driver left of the flag and watched the ball roll around the hilly putting surface until it dropped right into the cup for a hole-in-one. It wasn't exactly a walk-off ace, but it's as close as one can come. To do it in the finals of a USGA event was even more remarkable. Schmitz closed out the match 3 and 2 a hole later, earned the U.S. Mid-Am crown and will be at the Masters in 2016.
2. Hannah O'Sullivan ended a phenomenal 2015 with the U.S. Women's Amateur title. O'Sullivan, a USC commit, beat out Brooks for the "junior player to win the Am" in a 3-and-2 triumph in the closing match. Some of O'Sullivan's 2015 accomplishments, three junior wins and a Symetra Tour victory, were outside amateur golf. But she did dominate the amateur game as well. On top of her U.S. Women's Amateur win, O'Sullivan almost captured the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball as well with partner Robynn Ree. The duo lost in the finals but had a stellar week that included a 10-and-8 victory in one match. The Women's Am win was an inspiring victory from such a young, determined player, and Sullivan has already moved to the No. 2 spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
1. Bryson DeChambeau capped off a groundbreaking 2015 with a dominant U.S. Amateur victory. In a match play format, the winner isn't always the golfer who performed the best that week. This was not the case with Bryson DeChambeau in 2015. The Clovis, Calif. product was clearly the best player all week in match play at Olympia Fields Country Club, and he sealed his winning U.S. Amateur performance with a 7-and-6 victory in the finals over Derek Bard. Quirky. Unique. Intelligent. All words that describe DeChambeau, but his peculiar methods have sometimes been questioned. Well, his NCAA Championship victory shooed away some doubters and his U.S. Amateur win took care of the rest (for now). It was a mesmerizing display of golf all week from a man confident in his own methods, and a man who rose to the top of the amateur game despite an avalanche of naysayers.