Top players flock to Western Am for Pebble Beach tune-up
30 Jul 2018
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Western Amateur Championship, Exmoor Country Club

The Western Am heads to Sunset Ridge (Western Amateur photo)
The Western Am heads to Sunset Ridge (Western Amateur photo)

NORTHFIELD, Ill. (July 29, 2018) – The Western Amateur is the summer event most often put in the same sentence with the U.S. Amateur when it comes to strength of the field. It’s one of the best ways to see how a player stacks up against the game’s elite.

Take, for example, 2017 U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman. He was a relative unknown until playing his way into the Western Amateur final. Fifteen days after falling to Norman Xiong in that match, Redman was a USGA champion.

This year’s kicks off July 31 at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, Ill. – on Chicago’s North Shore. The week includes 18 holes of stroke play for each of the first two days, then a cut to the low 44 scores and ties for a final 36-hole day of stroke play. Once the 16-player bracket is determined, four rounds of match play over the final two days will determine the champion.

Here’s what you need to know about the starting field of 156 players:

QUICK TURNAROUND: Summer vacation is not really a vacation at all when you’re at the top of college and amateur golf. The summer amateur tour has the country’s best flying coast-to-coast between top national events like the Western, state amateur championships, USGA qualifiers and of course USGA events. It’s not unusual to see a player in Alex Schaake’s position: win the Nebraska State Amateur on Sunday, then traverse the 500 miles between Fremont, Neb., and Northfield, Ill., for a 7:20 a.m. Tuesday-morning tee time.

By the time August rolls around, endurance is a major factor. Sometimes that translates to the best golf – there isn’t time to think or overthink, there’s only time to show up and play.

Of the 75 players who made the 36-hole cut in the Pacific Amateur – and played the final round at the Olympic Club on Friday – 39 are teeing it up at the Western Amateur on Tuesday.

HOW TO WATCH: An amateur’s best chance of garnering face time on a major network is at the NCAA Championship, U.S. Amateur or if he happens to qualify for a PGA Tour event. Now you can add the Western Amateur to that list.

Beginning this year, match play at the Western Amateur will feature live streaming at GolfChannel.com, the Golf Channel mobile app and thewesternamateur.com. Coverage will run from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. CT on Friday, Aug. 3 as the eight Sweet 16 matches finish. The quarterfinal matches will also be live streamed from 3-6 p.m. CT.

On Saturday, Aug. 4, coverage of the semifinal matches will run from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., CT followed by a live stream of the championship match.

The last live broadcast is believed to have been in 1961, when WDSU-TV captured Jack Nicklaus’ win at New Orleans Country Club.

BACK FROM LAST YEAR: The Western Amateur has made its Sweet 16 a mark of pride for amateurs. Players who have advanced to this round of the tournament have gone on to win 27 major championships since 2000. They garnered 23 PGA Tour victories in the 2017 season alone.

Only three players return from last year’s Sweet 16: Brad Dalke, Min Woo Lee and Will Gordon.

ADDING TO THE STREAK? It’s one thing to win just one major amateur event in a summer. Two is icing on the cake, but when your game is in good form, anything is possible.

Keep an eye out for Isaiah Salinda, the Stanford senior who is coming off a win at the Pacific Coast Amateur. Salinda tied the Olympic Club course record with a third-round 62 on his way to a one-shot victory over Austin Eckroat (also in the field).

Patrick Cover’s Southern Amateur victory was authored in a similar way. Cover used a second-round 62 at the Golf Club of Olde Stone to build his lead, then held on to it for a one-shot victory. Cover is in his final summer as an amateur before he tries his hand at Web.com Tour Qualifying School in the fall.

John Augenstein, a Vanderbilt senior, will play in the Western after his four-shot victory at the Players Amateur, a title that also earned him an exemption into the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Thomas Walsh was one of Augenstein’s chasers at the Players. The Virginia senior (also the ACC individual champion) finished in the top 5 at that event, then cruised to Porter Cup victory days later.

Other notable players in the field include Braden Thornberry, the 2017 NCAA individual champion who recently tied for fourth at the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic; Andy Zhang, SEC individual champion; David Micheluzzi, Masters of the Amateurs champion; and Alex Smalley, Sunnehanna Amateur champion.

ROMO WATCH: A year ago, Tony Romo made his Western Amateur debut at Skokie Country Club. The Wisconsin native has said he wanted to devote more time to golf now that his career as the Dallas Cowboys quarterback is over.

True to his word, Romo has made two notable appearances in golf tournaments in his native Wisconsin this summer. He won the Racine Tri-Course Amateur by nine shots early in July, then finished T-13 at the Wisconsin Amateur last week.

At last year’s Western Amateur, Romo missed the cut with rounds of 80-82 (the second round included a one-shot penalty for slow play), but here’s hoping he’s in better form for his return.

QUOTABLE: “The Western Amateur is a tournament I haven’t played in before but it’s definitely regarded as the next biggest one after the U.S. Amateur. It’s another stage like the U.S. Amateur where maybe it doesn’t have the perks of the Masters or the U.S. Open but you’re playing against the other best players in the world so you can really measure your game compared to the best players there. They’re almost the same in that regard.”
-Southern Amateur champion Patrick Cover on strength of field at the Western Amateur

ABOUT THE Western Amateur

Invitational event, and the most important tournament in American amateur golf outside of the U.S. Amateur. With a grueling schedule, it's quite possibly 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.

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