By Sean Martin
Amateur golf’s summer season is a
special time in a player’s development.
Longtime pros look back fondly on those days,
when they would tour the country with
friends, playing for golf’s purest pursuit:
a trophy. There’s no CEO to present a
seven-figure check at the end of an amateur
event. The events are held on many of the
country’s finest layouts, from major-
championship tracks to hidden gems tucked
away from the PGA Tour spotlight. More
importantly, traveling, practicing and playing
together allows strong relationships to build
among these elite amateurs.
“We’re competitors and
we’re trying to beat each
other’s brains out, but when the
round’s over, we’re practicing
together and hanging out,,” said Blayne Barber, a member of
last year’s U.S. Walker Cup team.
“The relational aspect of it is something
that sticks out for me.”
It won’t be all fun and games,
though. There will be plenty of competition
when the summer schedule kicks off.
Six members of last year’s U.S.
Walker Cup squad – Barber, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Rodgers, Nathan Smith, Jordan Spieth and Chris Williams – are
still amateurs. Many eyes will be on Cantlay
this summer. He is No. 1 in the
R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking
and recently was low amateur at the Masters
(T-47). He finished in the top 25 of four
consecutive PGA Tour events last year.
Rodgers and Spieth are Nos. 2 and 3 in
the world, respectively, and contenders to
win national Player of the Year honor in their
freshman college seasons, as Cantlay did last
year. And fellow freshman Justin Thomas of
Alabama also is a top player to watch. In
February, he won the Jones Cup, one of
amateur golf’s biggest prizes; he added
a Southeastern Conference individual crown
The amateur season will get off to a
special start on the West Coast this year,
with the NCAA Division I
Men’s Championship May 29-June 3
at historic Riviera Country Club near Los
Angeles. The U.S. Open follows June 14-17 up
the coast at San Francisco’s Olympic
Club. Cantlay is exempt by virtue of his 2011
U.S. Amateur runner-up finish, and several top
amateurs usually earn Open spots through
Players will go from the Open to the Northeast Amateur,
set for June 20-23 at Wannamoisett Country
Club, a Donald Ross design and a rare par-69
course. Don’t let that fool you, though.
Wannamoissett is among the summer’s
best tests. The Dogwood Invitational, typically
a low-scoring affair will be held the next week
at Atlanta’s Druid Hills Golf Club.
The schedule gets packed in midsummer,
giving players more top-notch events than
they can handle. A couple of major-
championship venues on opposite coasts,
Pinehurst and Sahalee Country Club, will play
host to events the first week of July, the North & South
(July 3-7) in Pinehurst, N.C., and the Sahalee Players
Championship (July 4-6) in Sammamish,
The U.S. Amateur Public
Links, golf’s everyman event, will
be held July 9-14 at Soldier Hollow Country
Club in Utah. The Players
Amateur, whose winner receives an
exemption to the PGA Tour’s 2013 RBC
Heritage, will overlap, being held July 12-15 in
South Carolina. The overlap will keep Corbin
Mills, who won both events last year, from
defending his titles.
Those tournaments will be followed by the
Porter Cup near
Niagara Falls, N.Y., and the Southern Amateur at
Chenal Country Club in Arkansas, both of
which will be held July 18-21. The
Southern’s winner traditionally
receives a sponsor exemption to the PGA
Tour’s Arnold Palmer Invitational the
next spring. The Pacific Coast Amateur,
scheduled this year at one of
America’s premier golf resorts, Bandon
Dunes, follows July 24-27.
The summer culminates with two
challenging match-play tests, the Western Amateur
and U.S. Amateur. The
Western, considered by many to be the
nation’s second-most prestigious event
because of its demanding format (72 holes of
stroke-play qualifying, followed by a Sweet 16
of match play contested over two days), will
be played July 30-Aug. 4 at Exmoor Country
Club in Highland Park, Ill.
The season culminates with the U.S.
Amateur (Aug. 13-19) at Cherry Hills Country
Club. Phil Mickelson won the 1990 U.S.
Amateur there on the 30th anniversary of
Arnold Palmer’s historic U.S. Open
triumph at the suburban Denver layout.
“To win the U.S. Amateur . . . is
such a great feeling and feat because
it’s really the epitome,”
Mickelson said. “It’s the one
major (amateur title) that you shoot
for.”Its past winners include so many
of the game’s greats, from Bobby
Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Palmer to Mickelson
and Tiger Woods, a three-time winner. Claiming
the Havemeyer Trophy also requires
endurance – 36 holes of stroke play are
followed by six rounds of match play,
culminating with the 36-hole final.
It’s a grueling test to cap off what
promises to be a special summer