EXCLUSIVE: Taking a deeper look at the Elite Amateur Series
10 Dec 2021
by Sean Melia of AmateurGolf.com
Elite Amateur Series will start in summer 2022
Last Tuesday at the College Coaches Association of America's National Conventional, the executive director of the Southern Amateur, Andy Priest, addressed the coaches to announce the launch of the Elite Amateur Series. Starting this summer, seven elite amateur events will join forces to become what Priest described as the “FedEx Cup of amateur golf.”
The seven events involved are the Sunnehanna Amateur, Northeast Amateur, North & South Amateur, Trans-Miss Amateur, Southern Amateur, Pacific Coast Amateur and Western Amateur.
Players competing in the seven events will earn points and the winner will be awarded the “Elite Amateur Cup.”
In addition, the Series secured professional exemptions for competitors.
1. The top five finishers in the 2022 Elite Amateur Cup final points classification will receive an exemption for the 2022 US Amateur.
2. The top five finishers in the 2022 Elite Amateur Cup will receive an exemption for the 2023 U.S. Open Final Qualifying (must remain amateurs).
Professional tournament exemptions:
1. Butterfield Bermuda Championship to be played from October 28 to 31.
2. Korn Ferry event: TBD (The Series organizers are hoping to secure an exemption that will not interfere with the spring college golf schedule)
Andy Priest spoke with AmateurGolf.com on-site in Las Vegas following the announcement.
What was the feedback that you received from the college coaches following the announcement this morning?
It’s quite a historic day for amateur golf to see seven organizations from all across the country representing almost seven centuries of golf come together to form this Elite Amateur Golf Series.
The feedback has been very positive from coaches. Certainly, with anything new there’s always going to be a few questions - 'How does this affect my players?' or 'How can my players get in?' But largely, a lot of those answers will come in the future. Those players at the elite level, they just keep doing what they need to do. We will find them if they are at the level that they need to be. Also, too, the players get the opportunity to play their way into several of our events via qualifying, so it’s not just purely invitational. There are multiple pathways into multiple championships that we conduct.
You mentioned today in your announcement that a rising tide lifts all boats. You also talked about the long-term impact of this series on other parts of amateur golf. How can this series positively impact amateur golf in the next 3-5 years?
Andy Priest, Executive Director of the Southern Amateur
We firmly believe that what we’re doing will help elevate all of amateur golf, not just our own events. Our events are already at the highest level. What we’re trying to do is certainly provide those opportunities for the elite players in the world to play in competition throughout the summer and be incentivized to play and have opportunities at the end of the series to earn exemptions that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
We also know that you’ve got that high class of player here, but there’s also a ton of other players that are ranked four, five, six hundred in the world that they need a place to play as well. And there are so many great events in the country that may not get the recognition that they deserve, such as the Monroe or Porter Cup. We feel like we can help guide players that may not make it into our fields and educate them on the other opportunities throughout the country.
If I am a player on the fringes of those events. What could you tell them as far as those opportunities and what they can do and what they shouldn’t worry about as far playing opportunities in this series?
Depending on where they’re from, they shouldn't forget about your local ally golf association championships. Play in your state amateur, don’t forget about those. Then you have great regional events as well - the Southeastern Amateur and Rice Planters. You’ve got places to play throughout the summer.
Also, the Golf Coaches Association of America has a summer series that they started. There are so many places to play beyond just these seven elite amateur championships. There are other things that are going on throughout the summer. You have U.S. Amateur qualifying that falls in the middle of the summer. If I was an amateur that wasn’t quite in the top five hundred in the world, I would explore other opportunities. Craft a schedule that you can play your way into other events. There are so many places you can play already that are great tournaments beyond just our seven.
Let’s talk about those players who are excited about these events. Does this announcement change the pathways into these events for them?
Most of our events have their own internal vetting processes to draft our invitation list. So those largely won’t change this year. Four out of the seven events already have pathways into the event if you’re not invited to play. You can tee it up and earn a spot in qualifying. For us at the Southern, for example, we have seventeen qualifiers throughout our southern footprint. So there are lots of opportunities beyond just waiting for an invitation to get in.
There’s nothing wrong with looking at other events while you wait for the invitation from one of us. But also, too, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to the events and expressing your interest to play. Whether it’s the player or your college coach if you’re in a college situation. Just say, “Hey, I’m interested in playing the event, what are my chances, where would I stand if I applied?”
This morning you mentioned the women’s side, and that sounded like an exciting prospect down the path. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
It’s still pretty much in its infancy stage. We’ve been working on this series for nearly two years, and the women’s effort really started at the end of this past summer. So they’re trying to work as quickly as they can to organize, but it’s going to take a little time. Rob Addington, my colleague at the Trans-Miss is leading that effort. We will be able to share out more information as soon as we can and as soon as some things are a little more clear on the women’s game. We are working on it and are excited to share this concept and hopefully elevate the women’s elite game and also the other women’s events throughout the country.