California looking to end U.S. Amateur victory drought
Maverick McNealy
Maverick McNealy

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — For a state as storied in amateur golf success as California, it's surprising to note the 13-year drought for Californians in the winner's circle at the U.S. Amateur. Not since Stockton native Ricky Barnes defeated Hunter Mahan at Oakland Hills Country Club in 2002 has a native of the Golden State hoisted the Havemeyer Trophy.

Since Barnes' triumph, there have been three near-misses. As recently as 2012, Fresno's Michael Weaver lost in heart-breaking fashion on the 37th hole after his potentially match-winning putt on the previous hole hit a spike mark halfway to the cup, eventually lipping out. The year before, Patrick Cantlay of Long Beach lost 2-down to Kelly Kraft at Erin Hills. And back in 2005 at Merion, Woodland's Dillon Dougherty lost 4-and-3 to Edoardo Molinari of Italy.

Now, with three California kids inside the top-10 in the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com World Rankings, all headed to the championship next week, maybe this year The Bear Flag will fly high at Olympia Fields in Illinois.

Here's a look at the top-4 most-likely Californians to win the 2015 U.S. Amateur:

Maverick McNealy — The 2015 Pac-12 Player-of-the-Year destroyed golf courses this spring, winning four times in major college events, including the Pac-12 Championship and the NCAA Southeast Regional. He finished runner-up at the Pacific Coast Amateur two weeks ago, and is the No. 2 ranked amateur in the world, behind only Jon Rahm of Spain and conference rival Arizona State.

Bryson DeChambeau — The Southern Methodist senior won the medal play portion of the NCAA Men's National Championship, putting him beside names like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Luke Donald. Though the win at The Concession Golf Club is his only victory thus far in 2015, the Clovis native has a slew of top-5 showings including fifth at the NCAA Central Regional, tied-for- fourth at the Southern Amateur, and tied-for-third at the Australian Master of the Amateurs.

Beau Hossler — Hossler was likely disappointed with his follow-up performance at the Western Amateur, where he was looking to become the first back-to-back winner since fellow Texas Longhorn Justin Leonard did it in 1993. Hossler missed the 36-hole cut at Rich Harvest Farms, and will return to the Chicago suburbs with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. The Mission Viejo native won the John Hayt Collegiate in the spring and recently tied for second with McNealy at the Pacific Coast Amateur.

Aaron Wise — The Lake Elsinore native will enter next week's event as the hottest player in amateur golf. Imagine if Wise won both the Pacific Coast Amateur and the Western Amateur in consecutive weeks. Well, he almost did, losing to Dawson Armstrong's hole-out eagle on the second playoff hole at Rich Harvest Farms a week after beating out both McNealy and Hossler at the Pacific Coast Amateur. The University of Oregon sophomore also finished runner-up to McNealy at the Pac-12 Championship.

Here are 11 more Californians who we'll be watching closely at Olympia Fields:

Jake Knapp — Costa Mesa
Joanthan Garrick — Atherton
Rico Hoey — Rancho Cucamonga
Shotaro Ban — San Jose
Corey Pereira — Cameron Park
Collin Morikawa — La Canada Flintridge
Byron Meth — San Diego
Austin Smotherman — Loomis
Alex Franklin — San Rafael
Jonah Texeria — Northridge
Robert Salomon — Marina

ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur

The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA championship, was first played in 1895 at Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent amateur competition in the world. Applications are typically placed online in the spring at www.usga.org.

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