For nearly seven decades, the Sunnehanna Amateur
Tournament for Champions
has been one
of the brightest stars in the constellation of elite amateur golf
When it debuted in 1954 the tournament was unique because
it was the first national-level amateur event to be conducted at
medal play. Last year’s event also stood apart simply because it
was played in a year when many major amateur events were
called off in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tournament’s list of past champions includes Allen Doyle
(who won this tournament four times), Jay Sigel (three times),
Bill Hyndman (twice), John Cook (twice), Scott Verplank (twice),
Nathan Smith, Ben Crenshaw, and Rickie Fowler.
And that list doesn’t include the host of future PGA Tour
players who competed in the tournament before going on to
success in the professional ranks, including Jack Nicklaus, who
played in the tournament in 1956 as a 15-year old and tied for
fifth. Thirty-seven years later Tiger Woods, who was 16 at the
time, placed fifth. He tied for 12th the next year.
The 64th edition of the Sunnehanna will commence on
Wednesday and conclude on Saturday at Sunnehanna Country
Club in Johnstown, Pa., an hour east of Pittsburgh.
This year’s field is headlined by defending champion and 2019
U.S. Junior Amateur champion Preston Summerhays
the tournament scoring record a year ago when he completed
the 72 holes at 14-under par 266 to equal the mark established
by Doyle in 1992. He’ll be joined by Travis Vick
, last year’s
The field also includes 2021 Australian Amateur champion Louis
, fresh off a win at the Dogwood Invitational
Four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and three-
time Walker Cupper Nathan Smith
(who won this tournament in
2011) is also in the field, as are 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Sean Knapp
2021 U.S. Palmer Cup players Ben Shipp
, Jacob Bridgeman
, Ryan Hall
, and Trent Phillips
, the 2020 Pennsylvania Player of the Year, has
played in the tournament half a dozen times. “Golf is a game of
history and tradition,” he said. “and all you have to do is walk
down the one hallway inside the clubhouse, and you’ll realize
who’s who that’s been there and won that. Tiger, Rickie, Dustin
Johnson, you go back to Fuzzy Zoeller and Ben Crenshaw.
“You don’t realize how good you have it until you step in the
clubhouse and look at the wall of who’s been there and who
Stimmel has played in an abundance of elite amateur events in
his career. He speaks to how well the Sunnehanna is organized
and run. “From start to finish you really feel like you’re
welcome,” he said. “I hope that some of the young kids don’t
take that for granted. I think 1996 was my first one and I don’t
think I realized how good it was until I left. It was almost like a
The golf course, an A.W. Tillinghast design, opened for play in
1923 is not overly long by modern standards, playing to a
maximum of 6,680 yards and a par of 70. But John Klinchock,
Sunnehanna’s head golf professional, says it will test the
tournament’s elite field.
“I believe the greens are the hardest part of the golf course,”
he said. “They are very large, they are very undulating, and with
the green speeds up and a little bit of dry turf, they can be very,
Klinchock noted that while the fairways are generous, there
will be a stiff price to pay for not finding the fairway off the tee.
“I think the fairways are generous,” he said. “It’s an old
Tillinghast course and it allows you to drive the golf ball.
“It also allows you to bounce golf ball in, which is what you
have to do on a couple of the greens.”
Klinchock is a fan of the par-5 ninth which plays uphill to a
maximum of 617 yards. “It keeps you on your toes,” he said.
“The rough is very high on both sides. It tilts a little bit (from
left to tight) and the whole thing climbs.
“Right in the middle it climbs up over a hill and if you hit a
second wayward shot up in there it will catch you.”
ABOUT THE Sunnehanna Amateur
The Sunnehanna Amateur was inaugurated in
1954 -- it was the first country club
sponsored 72-hole stroke play competition for
in the United States. The
tournament is played on a classic A.W.
design. Only one other amateur
tournament in the United States can list the
Chick Evans, Arnold Palmer, Julius
Boros, Art Wall, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson,
Woods, and Rickie Fowler as
contestants: the United States Amateur. Its
format has been emulated by
countless amateur tournaments across the
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