2013 Preview: 10 storylines to watch this year
The odd-numbered years always provide a little added interest to the amateur golf
of the race for Walker Cup spots. Throw in a centennial U.S. Amateur celebration and
major championships, and it promises to be another interesting year watching top
compete on the amateur circuit:
1. A centennial U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur always highlights the summer schedule but the 2013 edition –
scheduled for Aug.
12-18 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. – promises to be extra special. Most
remember this course as the site of the United States’ comeback at the 1999 Ryder
Cup. The U.S.
Amateur is being held there to commemorate an even more historic event: the 100-
of Francis Ouimet’s unlikely 1913 U.S. Open victory at The Country Club.
2. The Walker Cup
This biennial competition returns to the United States after Great Britain & Ireland’s
2011 upset. This
year’s Walker Cup will be played Sept. 7-8 at National Golf Links of America, which
hosted the first
Walker Cup in 1922. The course was designed in 1911 by C.B. Macdonald and is No. 4
Best Classic Courses. National Golf Links is located in the Long Island town of
also is home to Shinnecock Hills. The Walker Cup’s clandestine selection process has
source of controversy and criticism, but there’s no denying that the event dominates
the thoughts of
American amateurs on odd-numbered years.
3. Decision time
This year marks the debut of the PGA Tour’s new qualifying format, which will
undoubtedly have an
impact on amateur golf, especially the U.S. Amateur and Walker Cup. The Web.com
Tour Finals will
replace Q-School as a source of PGA Tour cards in 2013. Amateur players looking to
turn pro will
have to decide if they want to turn pro immediately after the NCAA Championship, and
try to earn
PGA Tour status via sponsor exemptions, or wait until after the U.S. Amateur and
Players who choose the latter won’t have the opportunity to play the Web.com Tour
Finals, so they’ll
be relegated to Q-School, which will only offer Web.com Tour status for next season.
influence more players to turn pro earlier in the summer. We’ll find out soon.
4. The majors
Amateurs are often part of the story at the Masters, U.S. Open and Open
Championship. All eyes will
be on a 14-year-old, China’s Tianlang Guan, at Augusta National, but a player from the
older set also
will be trying to make history. U.S. Mid-Am champ Nathan Smith will be making his
appearance; he’s still trying to become the first reigning Mid-Am champ to make the
U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox, runner-up Michael Weaver and British Amateur
Dunbar hold invitations to the season’s first two majors. Washington senior Chris
Williams is in both
the U.S. Open and Open Championship. Williams earned those berths by winning the
Medal as the No. 1 player in the R&A World Amateur Ranking. It will be interesting to
see if Williams,
a Washington senior, will use those exemptions or opt to turn pro immediately after
T.J. Vogel, the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, will join the amateurs at Augusta
several amateurs will earn U.S. Open tee times by virtue of sectional qualifying.
5. The race for the McCormack Medal
There have been various amateur-golf rankings over the years, but none have carried
significance of the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking. The R&A’s ranking not only
determines the fields
for some of the world’s biggest amateur events, but also two major championships.
The No. 1 player
in the R&A rankings after the 2013 U.S. Amateur will win the Mark H. McCormack Medal
invitations to the 2014 U.S Open and Open Championship. The race for the McCormack
another storyline to the U.S. Amateur. Few people understand how the R&A rankings
work, and that
confusion has led to criticism, but their importance can no longer be denied.
6. Justin Thomas’ Walker Cup chase
Justin Thomas was on the sidelines when classmates Jordan Spieth and Patrick
Rodgers played in
the 2011 Walker Cup before beginning their college careers. Now Thomas, the reigning
player of the year, is a favorite to earn a spot on the 2013 squad. A Walker Cup berth
Thomas, an Alabama sophomore, little to accomplish in the amateur game and start
about when he would decide to turn pro. He has a chance this year to become the first
Haskins Award winner since Phil Mickelson.
7. Nathan Smith pursues history
Nathan Smith has two opportunities to make history this year. He’ll make his fourth
appearance in April, and will try to become the first reigning U.S. Mid-Am champ to
make the Masters
cut. Smith also will try to add to his record collection of U.S. Mid-Am titles. He’s already
person to win the event four times (2003, ’09, ’10, ’11). He’s hard to bet against,
having won three
of the past four Mid-Ams, and making the semifinals in the other. He’s 22-1 in Mid-Am
match play in
the past four years. Smith also is seeking a third consecutive Walker Cup berth. It
seems unlikely the
USGA will leave a four-time USGA champ off the team.
8. What about the kids?
Three incoming freshmen have been a part of the past three U.S. Walker Cup squads
2007; Jordan Spieth, 2011; Patrick Rodgers, 2011). Jim Liu was the only high schooler
invited to the
recent 16-man Walker Cup practice session. Beau Hossler’s U.S. Open performance
has him on the
Walker Cup selectors’ radar, as well (Hossler is scheduled to start at Texas in January,
but this is
actually his senior year of high school). It’s become common for top high-school seniors
to spend the
summer before college playing amateur events instead of spending one last summer
on the junior
circuit. This makes it likely some incoming college freshman will put himself in the
running for a
Walker Cup spot.
9. What’s next for Asia-Pacific Amateur?
The Asia-Pacific Amateur is little more than three years old, but it has already
introduced us to some
promising young talents. Hideki Matsuyama, the 2010 and 2011 champion, made the
cut in the past
two Masters and has already won on the Japan Tour. He’s No. 127 in the Official World
because of his success on the Japan Tour. The 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur allowed 14-
Tianlang Guan to earn a Masters invitation. The next Asia-Pacific Amateur will return to
country of China, where the inaugural Asia-Pacific Amateur was played in 2009. It’s all
guaranteed we’ll be introduced to a player we otherwise never would have met. That’s
this tournament great.
10. Good news, Bears
Sixteen players recently took part in a practice session for the Walker Cup. One
quarter of the
participants were from one college team: Cal. The Bears’ Michael Weaver and Brandon
made up half of the semifinalists at the 2012 U.S. Amateur, were there with
teammates Michael Kim,
currently No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and Max Homa. There are
only 10 spots on
the United States Walker Cup team. It seems unlikely that 40 percent of them will go
members of one college team, but it’s not impossible. The 2009 Walker Cup team
teammates: Rickie Fowler, Morgan Hoffmann and Peter Uihlein of Oklahoma State.