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Top amateur golf moments of 2018, No. 5: Forging history
Cole Hammer (Photo illustration)
Cole Hammer (Photo illustration)

At AmateurGolf.com, we admit to loving the amateur sector of this game for the stories, the depth of the players, the remarkable courses, the history of the tournaments and the sheer love of the game displayed by amateur golfers. As 2018 comes to a close, we’ve gathered the year’s best stories for a countdown to the end of the season. Be sure to come back each day to relive the moments that made amateur golf great this year.

Click here to see the whole list as it is revealed

Over the course of the summer, one player usually gets on such a hot streak that he stands out from the rest. His name pops up over and over in the elite events, and he contends week in and week out.

In 2018, that player was Cole Hammer. It’s not a new name – nor is it a forgettable one – considering that Hammer made perhaps his first national headline in 2015 when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., as a 15-year-old. But in the summer leading up to his freshman season at Texas, Hammer seemed to be everywhere.

The breakthrough victory came at the Azalea Amateur in May, when Hammer blew his five-shot lead with eight holes to play then won in a three-man playoff.

“I truly believe that was the biggest day of my golf career so far,” Hammer memorably said later in the summer. “To win it [the Azalea] this year gave me a lot of confidence, and it kind of carried through into the summer.

“It was just great to go from the lowest of lows pretty much to the highest of highs, I guess, because I hadn't won a tournament in a couple years, and to pull that off was huge for me and gave me some momentum.”

A U.S. Amateur Four-Ball victory followed with partner Garrett Barber later that month, making Hammer a USGA champion. Chances are good it won’t be his only USGA title.

Hammer logged notable yet low-key finishes at the Terra Cotta Invitational (T-6), Northeast Amateur (13th) and Sahalee Players Championship (T-4). He played all the way to the semifinals at the U.S. Junior at Baltusrol Golf Club in July.

If there was one thing that made people take notice, it was Hammer’s performance at the Western Amateur later that month. He posted a 10-under 61 in the third of four stroke-play rounds at Sunset Ridge Golf Club outside Chicago, setting a new course record in the process. He easily made the 16-man bracket, then prevailed in four rounds of match play contested over two days. It’s possibly the most grueling amateur event of the summer, but the win goes a long way in establishing street cred.

Not that Hammer was short on that.

During Western week, a devoted amateur fan-base got glimpses of Hammer’s powerful move when the tournament set up a live stream for the week. Golf writers used no shortage of smooth language to describe the week’s Hammer show. (Our favorite, courtesy of the Fried Egg’s Will Knights: He can move the ball right to left or hit a heavy ball that just falls right, it’s very tour-esque.)

“Everybody realizes that having a great week at the Western can change your summer and your amateur career for the better,” Hammer said.

We agree, and true to that point, golf fans watched with interest when Hammer teed it up at the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach later in August, again playing his way to the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Viktor Hovland.

“I'm not mad about the way I played,” Hammer said about the day. “I'm just disappointed that I kind of ran into a buzz saw.”

If you’re looking for a truly mouth-dropping stat, Hammer finished the year an impressive 17-2 in stroke play, his only losses coming in the semifinals of both the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur. It begs the question, what will 2019 bring?

Results: Western Amateur
WinTXCole HammerHouston, TX150065-68-61-67=261
Runner-upMSDavis RileyHattiesburg, MS120066-68-63-72=269
SemifinalsNYBrandon WuScarsdale, NY90066-69-67-64=266
SemifinalsFLTyler StrafaciDavie, FL90066-68-66-67=267
QuarterfinalsGASpencer RalstonGainesville, GA70063-66-69-70=268

View full results for Western Amateur

ABOUT THE Western Amateur

Invitational event, known to many as the 'Masters of Amateur Golf.' Quite probably the hardest amateur tournament to win.

156 invited players come from across the globe to play one of the toughest formats in amateur golf. The tournament starts with 18 holes of stroke play on Tuesday and Wednesday after which the field is cut to the low 44 scores and ties. Thursday it's a long day of 36 holes of stroke play to determine the “Sweet Sixteen” who compete at Match Play on Friday and Saturday (two matches each day if you're going to the finals) to decide the champion.

View Complete Tournament Information

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