By Sean Martin, Golfweek
Follow Sean on Twitter: @Golfwee
There was plenty to write about in the amateur game
this year. Amateurs, most notably Patrick Cantlay,
starred in professional events across the globe. The
Walker Cup always adds intrigue, for reasons both
good and bad. Here are the top 10 storylines from the
past year in amateur golf:
1.) Patrick Cantlay’s summer success: Cantlay started
the summer as a rather anonymous freshman. He was
the top player in college golf but known only to the
aficionados who follow the amateur game. How
quickly that changed. He was low amateur at
the U.S. Open
, then shot 60 at the next week’s
Travelers Championship. The quiet kid from Southern
California became one of the game’s hotly-debated
topics after four top 25s in four PGA Tour starts, with
pundits calling for him to ditch class for the pro game.
He’s still at UCLA, for an undetermined amount of
2.) Amateurs take on the pros: Cantlay was just one
of several amateurs to have success against the
pros this year
. Amateurs finished in the top 30 in
all three major championships. They won pro events
across the globe, from the Nationwide to Japan tours.
Time will tell whether this was the start of a trend, but
one thing was certain: It was fun to watch.
3.) Radical amateur-status changes: Rules changes
rarely receive much attention, but amateur status
underwent an extreme
makeover this year
. New rules allow an amateur
who is at least 18 years old to enter into a contract
with an agent or endorsers, as long as the player does
not receive financial benefits while an amateur.
Another new rule will allow amateurs to receive living
expenses from their national golf unions. The rules are
in violation of NCAA rules, so student-athletes cannot
take advantage of them, but will drastically change
the game abroad.
4.) Tom Lewis’ memorable Open moment: Lewis, the
son of an English driving-range pro, beautifully
displayed at the Open Championship the lessons his
father, Bryan, had taught him. Tom Lewis’ first-round
65, capped with late-afternoon birdies at Nos. 14-17,
left him tied
for the 18-hole lead
. It was the lowest round by
an amateur in tournament history. He went on to
finish 30th. Lewis turned pro later this year and won
the European Tour’s Portugal Masters in just his third
5.) United States’ upset loss at the Walker Cup: The
United States came to Royal Aberdeen with a star-
studded team that featured the top four players in the
R&A’s World Amateur Rankings. The team featured
Cantlay, two U.S. Amateur champions (Kelly Kraft,
Peter Uihlein) and two players who had won on the
Nationwide Tour (Harris English, Russell Henley).
overtake a Great Britain & Ireland team
Lewis, though. GB&I won, 14-12, snapping the United
States’ three-match winning streak.
6.) Kelly Kraft’s U.S. Amateur victory: Kraft remained
amateur this summer with hopes of making the U.S.
Walker Cup team. He won the Trans-Mississippi
Championship and Texas Amateur, but still was a long
shot entering the U.S. Amateur, the last event before
the team was finalized. He was 1 down with four holes
remaining in the final match with Cantlay, but won
three of the final four holes to claim the Havemeyer
Kraft, who will turn pro after the
Masters, also earned low-amateur honors (T-19) at
the Australian Open in November.
7.) Georgia’s Nationwide Tour winners: Two amateurs
won on the Nationwide Tour in 2011. They weren’t
just college teammates but former roommates at the
University of Georgia. Russell Henley won first
, claiming the
Stadion Classic at UGA in May. English, who earned
his PGA Tour card at the recent Q-School, followed
with his victory
at the Nationwide Children’s
Hospital Invitational. Henley missed at Q-School’s
second stage, but will be exempt on the Nationwide
Tour in 2012.
8.) Hideki Matsuyama, Japan’s rising son: The Asian
Amateur Championship was created in 2009 to
encourage aspiring players in the region. That goal
was met early, thanks to Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.
He won the 2010 Asian Am, then finished
27th at this year’s Masters
, not long after the
earthquake that devastated his country Matsuyama
successfully defended his title at this year’s Asian
Amateur, setting up a return trip to Augusta. He then
won the Japan Tour’s Taiheiyo Masters to become the
first amateur since Ryo Ishikawa to win on that tour.
9.) John Peterson’s Walker Cup snub: Peterson had
one goal for 2011: make the Walker Cup team. He
seemed to do everything to merit a berth, winning the
NCAA Championship and Jones Cup and finishing
second to English
at the Nationwide Children’s
Hospital Invitational. Few players had a better season.
omitted from the Walker Cup team, though – one of
the worst snubs in recent memory. Theories abound
regarding his omission, but only one fact was
confirmed: The USGA will do as it pleases when
selecting the team, even if that means leaving a
deserving player at home.
10.) Corbin Mills comes on strong: By all accounts,
Mills was a solid college player before the start of this
summer. He finished the 2010-11 season ranked
116th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. A
putting fix turned Mills into one of the nation’s top
won the U.S. Amateur Public Links
Amateur in a two-week span, earning starts in next
year’s Masters and the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.