5 amateur records that will never be broken (and 5 that might be)
21 Jan 2024
by Chris Brauner of AmateurGolf.com

Tiger Woods the amateur (USGA photo)
Tiger Woods the amateur (USGA photo)

With Nick Dunlap becoming the first amateur PGA Tour winner in 33 years, we thought it was a good time to revisit (and update) an article we wrote several years ago.

Dunlap has just accomplished a feat that no one had accomplished since Phil Mickelson in 1991. Lydia Ko won back-to-back Canadian Women's Opens as a teenager. And of course Tiger Woods had his USGA streak. So once again we ask: what are the most impressive records of amateur golf, which ones are still in play, and which ones will never be broken? Let’s start with the ones that are untouchable:


Before Tiger Woods, there had been 10 instances of a successful U.S. Amateur title defense (most recently Jay Sigel in 1982-83), and two golfers had done it twice: Bobby Jones and Jerome Travers. All of those previous attempts at a three-peat fell short, but Woods completed the feat in 1994-96, defeating two future USGA champions (Trip Kuehne, Buddy Marucci) in the three finals. Combined with his three straight U.S. Junior wins in 1991-93, it meant six straight years with a USGA championship. No one has repeated at the U.S. Amateur since, and given the depth of the amateur game today, we’re betting that Woods’ record of three straight U.S. Ams is safe.


Bobby Jones (USGA photo)
Bobby Jones, at left (USGA photo)

Gone are the days when an amateur could be the best player in the world (although Tiger Woods was as close as it gets, given his 12-shot Masters win less than a year after turning pro), and certainly gone are the days when the best player in the world would choose to remain a career amateur. When Bobby Jones won five U.S. Amateurs from 1924-30, the latter en route to winning the Grand Slam, the tournament was one of the four biggest in golf, a true major. Today it is the biggest major of amateur golf, but the depth of fields and the pull to capitalize on a U.S. Amateur win by turning pro mean that this record might be the safest in amateur golf.


Carol Semple Thompson (USGA photo)
Carol Semple Thompson (USGA photo)

For most amateur golfers, a victory in their state amateur would be the crowning achievement of their golf career. In the state of Pennsylvania, Carol Semple Thompson was crowned 22 times. Semple (who became known Semple Thompson once married) first won the Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur in 1969 as a 20-year-old. Over the course of her career she would have winning streaks of six, five, four and three in the event. Her final win came as a 57-year-old, 37 years after her first. She was a seven-time USGA champion, and while that feat has since been matched, her record of 22 state amateur wins will not be.


Joe Carr and Carol Semple Thompson
Joe Carr and Carol Semple Thompson

Joe Carr was one of Ireland’s great amateur golfers, winning three British Amateurs, becoming the first Irishman to play in the Masters, and becoming the first non-American to earn the Bob Jones Award. He represented Great Britain & Ireland on a record 11 Walker Cup teams from 1947 to 1967. Carol Semple Thompson, in addition to her 22 state amateur titles and seven USGA championships mentioned above, is one of only eleven players to have won both the U.S. and British Women’s Amateurs, and she too would go on to earn the Bob Jones Award. Semple Thompson made a record 12 Curtis Cup teams, and clinched the U.S. team’s win in 2002 (at the age of 53) with a 27-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Both Carr and Semple Thompson are World Golf Hall of Famers, and both will likely hold their records in perpetuity.


Charlie Coe (AP photo)
Charlie Coe (AP photo)

Charlie Coe played in what was probably the last era of the truly great career amateur, right around the time that the popularity of the professional game was exploding with the arrival of Arnold Palmer and televised golf. Coe, twice a U.S. Amateur champion, made 19 Masters appearances, and still owns practically every significant Masters amateur record, including most rounds played (67), best finish (runner-up to Gary Player in 1961), lowest 72-hole score (281), most top-10 finishes (3), most top-25 finishes (9), most cuts made (15), most times low amateur (6), and lowest third-round score (67). Of these records, the low total of 281 and the low third-round score of 67 are most likely to be broken, but the others won’t be.


Some of amateur golf’s greatest accomplishments might be in play to be repeated, although some have stood for decades. Here they are, along with the year last achieved:

2016 – The last time a player won two USGA individual championships in the same year.
Eun-jeong Seong
Chick Evans and Bobby Jones each won the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur, Ryan Moore and Colt Knost won the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Public Links, Pearl Sinn and Jennifer Song won the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Public Links, and Jay Sigel won the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur. Eun-jeong Seong was the latest to do it, winning the U.S. Girls Junior and U.S. Women’s Amateur. With the elimination of the Public Links, the feat become has much more difficult.

1993 – The last time a mid-am won the U.S. Amateur.
John Harris
John Harris won the 1993 U.S. Amateur at Champions Golf Club in Houston at the age of 41. Tiger Woods would win the next three, and since then every winner has been of college age or younger. Mid-amateurs have had their chances along the way -- three mid-ams were among the 8 quarterfinalists at Oakmont in 2003 and Austin Eaton III made the semifinals two years later -- but since 2006, only Nathan Smith in 2014 has made it as far as the quarterfinals.

1991 – The last time an amateur won a PGA Tour event.
UPDATE: Nick Dunlap matched this feat in 2024 at The American Express
Phil Mickelson
It has now happened nine times, first by Frank Stranahan in 1945 (he would repeat the feat in 1948) and, before Dunlap, most recently by Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open while he was a student at Arizona State University. Fred Haas, Cary Middlecoff, Gene Littler, Doug Sanders and Scott Verplank were the others. (On the LPGA Tour, Lydia Ko won back-to-back Canadian Opens in 2012-13, the latest of five women amateurs to do it.)

1967 – The last time a player won the U.S. and British Amateurs in the same year.
Bob Dickson
Harold Hilton was the first to do it in 1911, Bobby Jones followed in 1930 during the year of his Grand Slam, and Lawson Little did it two years in a row in 1934 and 1935. Bob Dickson was the last to win both in the same year in 1967, and since then only three players have won both tournaments in the same career. If it’s going to happen again, it’ll either have to be done by an international player, or Americans will have to start playing in the British Amateur as much as they used to.

1933 – The last time an amateur won a men’s professional major.
Johnny Goodman
Johnny Goodman won the U.S. Open as an amateur at North Shore in Illinois, and while several amateurs since then have had runner-up finishes (though none since 1961), none have repeated the feat. In 2015, Paul Dunne of Ireland became the first amateur to take the 54-hole lead in the British Open in 88 years, and his third-round 66 was the lowest shot by an amateur at St. Andrews in its 142-year-old history of hosting the championship. He would fade in the final round, but not before threatening to duplicate a feat that many felt unrepeatable. (In women’s golf, Catherine Lacoste of France won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1967 and 50 years later 17-year-old Hye-Jin Choi of Korea actually led the championship on the final day before ultimately finishing second.)

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