As COVID-19 continues to alter the amateur golf landscape, the USGA is coming up with creative ways to give amateur golfers the opportunity to compete in its biggest amateur championship.
Case in point: A four week stretch of golf will award a handful of exemptions into the U.S. Amateur.
Preceding the championship in mid-August are four of amateur golf’s biggest and deepest major tournaments. Kicking off the mad dash to Bandon Dunes is the North & South Amateur
at Pinehurst, beginning Tuesday with a champion being crowned on July 4.
Next, Maridoe Golf Club will once again be at the center of amateur golf as they play host to the Southern Amateur
(July 15-18). Maridoe previously hosted two COVID-19 relief tournaments and the Maridoe Junior as golf "reopened".
Forced to move from its original date, the Sunnehanna Amateur
tees off in Pennsylvania on July 21-24. Wrapping up the PGA Tour-like schedule is the Western Amateur
hosted by Crooked Stick Golf Club July 28-August 1.
Each of the four tournaments is expecting their deepest field ever as amateur majors across the world have been cancelled due to the pandemic. And with the USGA cancelling U.S. Amateur qualifying, these events offer the chance for players to play their way into the championship.
"I don't think there's any question it only enhances the reputation of these events," said Sunnehanna co-chairman John Yerger. "I think within the golf community, these tournaments are very well known, but to those on the periphery, I think it's an eye-opener."
The USGA will be exempting the winners and runners-up of the four majors into the 2020 U.S. Amateur field.
The Road to Bandon Dunes:
Since the Sunnehanna and Southern Amateur are stroke-play events, there will be no limit on exemptions for T-2 finishes. If three players tie for second, all will qualify for Bandon Dunes. The North & South and Western Amateur are match play, so only two players from each will receive the exemptions.
Many top players will already be exempt, including the top 225 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) and all match play qualifiers from last year's U.S. Amateur. But for everyone else, this is their chance to get in.
"This [move by the USGA] was done for those who may not be exempt," Yerger said. "I think it puts the onus on our tournaments to, not necessarily provide opportunities to guys that may be exempt, but to guys that may just be outside of the present number.
Last year, both A.J. Ott
and Noah Woolsey
were outside the top 225 when they arrived at Chenal Country Club for the Southern Amateur. Ott went on to beat Woolsey in a playoff.
Since neither was exempt for the U.S. Amateur, both had to enter qualifying. Ott made it, Woolsey didn't. Had it happened this year, both would have been exempt into the championship.
"Every player that we try to invite from here on in, those invitations are enhanced because we understand the implications for some guys," said Yerger. "It's really important for them in terms of this year."
Yerger went on to say that "every opportunity matters" in terms of who benefits the most from the USGA's decision.
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
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 14 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online in the spring
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