The top 20 memorable moments in amateur golf from 2021
23 Dec 2021
by Staff

After the game shut down along with the world around it in 2020, golf came back with a roar in 2021, with amateurs offering some indelible moments that will surely stand the test of time.

Who will ever forget Megha Ganne's memorable run at the U.S. Women's Open at the Olympic Club? Stanford's Rachel Heck announced her presence on the collegiate scene by winning six consecutive tournaments as a freshman, including the NCAA individual championship. Gene Elliott won senior majors on two continents, Cinderella found her slipper in a castle at the Westchester Country Club while Michael Thorbjornsen and Matt Parziale staged a duel for the ages in the finals of the Massachusetts State Amateur.

Two amateurs won professional events, 14-year-olds set course records, the Ole Miss women's team made history at the NCAA Championships and the USGA added a 15th championship tournament to its portfolio.

The list goes on.

Here are some of the most memorable moments in amateur golf that caught our eye from 2021, listed chronologically in their respective categories.

The Top 10

History is made at Augusta National Women's Amateur
One week prior to Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at the Masters, 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani prevailed over Wake Forest's Emilia Migliaccio to claim the Augusta National Women's Amateur, becoming the first Japanese player to win on the famed course.

One Heck of a year
Stanford freshman Rachel Heck went wire-to-wire to win the individual NCAA Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale for her sixth victory of the season. The ANNIKA Award winner became just the third player in Division I history to win a conference championship (PAC-12), an NCAA Regional and the NCAA Championship in succession. She is just the ninth freshman in NCAA history to win the individual championship.

USA wins Walker Cup at storied Seminole Golf Club
The United States team had more to deal with than just the Great Britain & Ireland side at the 48th edition of the Walker Cup played at esteemed Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. With both teams afflicted by a nasty stomach ailment, the U.S. led by only one point entering the 10-match singles session on Sunday but won that decisive final session, 5½-4½, to complete a two-point, 14-12 victory. Ricky Castillo, a Florida sophomore from Yorba Linda, Calif., led the Americans by winning four points. Cypress Point will host the Walker Cup when it returns to American soil in 2025.

Ole Miss wins their first national championship
Seeded fourth among the eight teams which advanced to the match play portion of the NCAA Championships, Ole Miss disposed of No. 5 seed Texas, 2018 national champion Arizona and No. 3 Oklahoma State to earn the first women’s national championship in school history.

Megha Ganne thrills U.S. Women’s Open crowd at Olympic
Amateur Megha Ganne's opening round 68 gave the 17-year-old from Holmdel, NJ a share of the first-round lead at the U.S. Women’s Open held in June at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Ganne played in the final group on Sunday alongside Lexi Thompson and eventual champion Yuka Saso and though she fell out of contention early in the round, she capped a dream week by earning low amateur honors and winning the hearts of the crowd at Olympic.

Gene Elliott wins two majors on both sides of the pond
After three near misses and five days locked down in quarantine, Gene Elliott won the R&A Senior Amateur Championship, defeating David Mulholland of Northern Ireland by a single stroke at venerable Ganton Golf Club. Less than a month later, the world’s top-ranked senior won his first USGA championship when he clipped Jerry Gunthorpe to win the 66th U.S. Senior Amateur at the Country Club of Detroit.

Piot lands Havemeyer Trophy with epic comeback
James Piot rallied from a three-hole deficit with the help of three birdies over the final eight holes to capture the 121st U.S. Amateur Championship at demanding Oakmont Country Club. Piot, a native of Canton, Mich. who plays collegiately at Michigan State, became the first player from his home state to lift the Havemeyer Trophy.

Walk-off eagle lands John Peters Pennsylvania Amateur title
Trailing by one shot heading to the final hole, 18-year-old John Peters from Carlisle, Pa. who plays collegiately at Duke, holed out an eight iron on the last hole for an eagle to claim the 108th Pennsylvania Amateur at Merion Golf Club.

Cinderella finds her slipper at Westchester Country Club
Jensen Castle, the 63rd seed who survived a 12-for-2 playoff just to reach match play, completed one of the most improbable runs in U.S. Women’s Amateur, defeating Yu-Chiang (Vivian) Hou, 2 and 1, to lift the Robert Cox Trophy at Westchester Country Club.

Rose Zhang wins her second USGA title at U.S. Girls' Junior
Less than a year after winning the 2020 U.S. Women's Amateur, Rose Zhang picked up her second USGA title by winning the U.S. Girls' Junior at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md. She is the eighth player to have won both championships and the first to have won the Women’s Amateur first.

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The Second 10

Two amateurs score wins in professional events
Less than a month after 19-year-old Caitlyn Macnab won the Sunshine Ladies Tour’s Jabra Classic, Lucie Malchirand, an 18-year-old amateur from Carmoux-en-Provence, France, birdied the last two holes to win the LET’s Italian Open in May at the Golf Club of Margara in Piedmont, Italy.

A royal comeback for the ages
Laird Shepherd produced one of the greatest ever comebacks to win The 126th British Amateur Championship at Nairn Golf Club. In an all-England 36-hole final with Monty Scowsill over the renowned Highland links, the 23-year-old remarkably fought back from eight down after 17 holes and from four down with four to play to triumph at the 38th hole in an extraordinary match.

The course record is in the Banke
There was no shortage of course records shot by amateurs this year. A day after carding an 8-under 64 in the first round of the California State Amateur at The Preserve in Carmel, Christian Banke followed up with a 9-under 63 on the second day to earn medalist honors with a 36-hole score of 17-under 127.

Sometimes it’s not how you start but how you finish
USGA qualifiers can be excruciatingly nerve-wracking. Just ask Kelly Sim. The Northwestern standout was the talk of the U.S. Women’s Amateur qualifier held at Oak Grove Golf Club in Harvard, Ill. when she birdied holes 15, 16 and 17 and ended with an eagle on the par-5 finishing hole to earn a trip to the Westchester Country Club.

Michael Brown holds three different state amateur titles at the same time
In a span of two weeks, Michael Brown won the Delaware and New Jersey State Amateur championships, giving the 48-year-old the distinction of holding three state amateur titles at the same time, following his triumph at the Pennsylvania State Amateur in 2020.

Battle of USGA champions at the Massachusetts State Amateur
When Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 USGA Junior Amateur champion, defeated Matt Parziale, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion in the finals of the Massachusetts State Amateur, it marked the first time two USGA champions went head-to-head to decide a state amateur championship. And what a show they put on. The two players combined to make 28 birdies and an eagle during the 30 holes completed. Thorbjornsen’s score through the first 18 holes was 62, but was not considered a competitive course record because of the match play format. Despite shooting 5-under-par on the first 18, Parziale trailed by six.

Another great showing for an amateur in a major
Louise Duncan was not satisfied with simply making the cut the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie Golf Links. The 21-year-old native of West Kilbride began the final round just two shots off the lead before ultimately finishing tied for 10th in her major debut.

Arkansas’ Brooke Matthews shatters NCAA 54-hole scoring record
Rarely does the performance by the medalist upstage a team victory, but Arkansas’ Brooke Matthews was the story of the Cougar Classic held in September at Yemans Hall Golf Club in Charleston, South Carolina when she won the individual title with a 25-under score of 191 on rounds of 63-64-64, breaking the NCAA record for a 54-hole event.

Once, twice, three times the lady
In a much-anticipated championship match between two longtime friends and rivals, Lara Tennant won her third consecutive U.S. Senior Women's Amateur title by defeating the seven-time USGA champion Ellen Port, 2 up, on Lakewood's Dogwood Course in Point Clear, Ala. With the win, Tennant became the first player in 20 years to win three consecutive U.S. Senior Women's Amateurs. Carol Semple Thompson was the last golfer to achieve the feat, winning four straight from 1999-2002.

Hagestad doubles down at U.S. Mid-Amateur
Stewart Hagestad won his second U.S. Mid-Amateur championship, withstanding a charge from Mark Costanza to emerge with a 2 and 1 finals victory at Sankaty Head Golf Club in Siasconset, Mass. It was a dominating week for Hagestad, who trailed for only one hole in his six match wins.

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Ludvig Aberg takes matters into his own hands at the Jones Cup
The 2021 Jones Cup came down to the final hole and final putt for Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg, who sank a seven-foot birdie putt on the 18th to break a four-way tie and win by one stroke.

Honoring one of amateur golf's all-time greats
Robert C. Lewis Jr., a veteran of six Walker Cup Matches who was renowned for his sportsmanship and integrity, was named the recipient of the 2021 Bob Jones Award, the United States Golf Association’s highest honor. Past recipients of the distinguished award include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Mickey Wright, Nancy Lopez, President George H.W. Bush and Se Ri Pak. Lewis passed away a little over a month after receiving the award.

ASU’s Linn Grant runs her college unbeaten streak to over a year
Arizona State sophomore Linn Grant captured her fifth consecutive tournament over a two-year stretch at the Clover Cup held at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz.

Club 57 has a new member
Macy Pate, a 14-year-old sophomore at Reagan High School in Plafftown, NC, fired a 14-under 57 to win the Central Piedmont 4-A individual title at Bermuda Run Country Club, a par-71 course that played at 4,800 yards.

Age is just a number to Gene Elliott and Bob Royak
Sometimes Gene Elliott and Bob Royak refuse to act their age. The two 59-year-olds picked up mid-amateur titles in their home states of Iowa and Georgia, respectively. Elliott won his record-tying sixth Iowa Mid-Amateur title at Finkbine Golf Club in Iowa City and on the same day 50-year-old Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at Kiawah, Royak defeated Taylor Smith on the first playoff hole to capture the 40th Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship at Country Club of Columbus.

Paul Simson adds to his legend in North Carolina
The North Carolina Senior Amateur has been played 35 times and Carolina's Golf Hall of Fame member Paul Simson has won 10 of them. Simson, 70, picked up his 10th trophy in May at River Landing (Landing Course) in Wallace, N.C. with a 4-under-par, 212 total finish -- four strokes clear of the senior field. In September, the North Carolina legend won his third North Carolina Super Senior title by seven strokes at Cedar Rock Country Club in Lenoir, besting his age twice with rounds of 66 and 68.

Pepperdine’s national title was well worth the wait
The Waves took care of some unfinished business at the Grayhawk Country Club in Scottsdale, winning their second-ever national title by defeating top-ranked Oklahoma in the final. Pepperdine and Oklahoma were the top-two ranked teams in the country when the 2020 season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it was a fitting matchup for the 2021 title.

Down goes Nairn
Matthew Clark, a 39-yard old manager with TBS Bank who has previously captained Scotland in the Men’s Home Internationals, carded nine birdies on the championship course at Nairn en route to a course record 62 to earn medalist honors at the British Amateur.

This record may stand for a while
Davis Hartwell, a 13-year-old from Klamath Falls, posted a 14-under par 58 in the final round of the Klamath Basin Junior Championship played at Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls, Ore. He won the Boys 12-13 division by 16 strokes.

Ellen Port makes history at Met Senior Amateur
It seems like every time Ellen Port picks up a club in a tournament she has a chance to add another chapter in her storybook career. On August 25, she made history in her own backyard of Sunset Country Club in Sunset Hills, Mo. by becoming the first female to win the Met Senior Amateur, the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association's premier senior men's championship.

Curtis Cup comeback
The USA, captained by Sarah Ingram, recovered from a three-point deficit after the opening day to surge to a convincing 12½-7½ victory over Great Britain and Ireland held at Conwy Golf Club in Wales. The Americans won six of the eight singles matches on the final day to capture their first win abroad since 2008.

Familiar names take Crump Cup titles at Pine Valley
Winning never gets old, especially at Pine Valley, where Michael Muehr and Mike McCoy captured Crump Cup titles in September. Muehr defeated Stewart Hagestad to earn his fourth Crump Cup title, while McCoy made history by winning the Senior Division title to become the fifth player to win both the open and senior titles. He previously won four Crump Cup crowns in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2010.

Benedetta the birdie machine
Alabama’s Benedetta Moresco, a sophomore from Caldogno, Italy, enjoyed a dream week at Old Waverly, where she posted rounds of 63-66-68 to finish 19-under 197 to claim the individual championship and lead Alabama to the team title at The Ally. Moresco birdied 18 of her first 36 holes of the tournament en route to a six-stroke victory.

Rose Zhang opens her collegiate career with three straight victories
Rose Zhang, the world's top-ranked female amateur and two-time USGA champion, began her collegiate career by doing something Tiger Woods didn’t accomplish during his Stanford career -- winning three consecutive tournaments to begin her collegiate career. Her third win came at the Stanford Intercollegiate, where she shot 16-under par 197 on her home course.

USGA adds a 15th national championship for adaptive golf community
In December, the USGA established the U.S. Adaptive Open Championship, a new national championship that will showcase the world’s best golfers with disabilities. The inaugural competition will be conducted on Course No. 6 at historic Pinehurst Resort & Country Club on July 18-20, 2022.

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