Kelly Chinn (Western Amateur photo)
While Kelly Chinn's
opening round of 63 (-8) at the Western Amateur on Tuesday was certainly commendable, the Duke sophomore knows the road to one of the most coveted titles in amateur golf is an arduous one.
A grueling combination of 72 holes of stroke play over three days followed by four rounds of match play make the Western one of the most demanding events in golf.
In other words, there's still a lot of golf to be played at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Ill.
Birdies were plentiful on Tuesday at Exmoor, one of the most historic clubs in the Chicago area which is hosting the Western for the fourth time. A total of 40 players broke par on the first day, with Chinn setting a furious pace by bolting out of the gates with a course-record tying 63.
Chinn, who enjoyed top-10 finishes at the Sunnehanna (t-2) and Northeastern Amateur (t-8) earlier this summer, had eight birdies on bogey-free card to open a three-shot lead over Argentine Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira
, who plays collegiately at Arkansas.
With his mother Eiko on his bag, Chinn broke fast by collecting four birdies over his first nine holes and picked up four more on his inward nine for his 8-under round of 63.
"From eight until 18, I was just on autopilot just processing through each shot,” the Great Falls, Va. native said. “It was incredible.”
Chinn tied the course record held by Jake Higginbottom, set during an event before the 2012 Western Amateur at Exmoor, the last time the club hosted the championship. It’s tied for the third-lowest stroke play round at the Western Amateur since 2014.
“This is just the first day,” said Chinn, who missed the match play cut by two shots a year ago. “I’ve just got to stay focused and make good decisions and keep playing this kind of golf.”
de Oliviera, the 2022 South America Amateur Champion, nearly kept pace with Chinn, making five birdies on in a bogey-free round for a 66.
Three players - William Paysse
, Neal Shipley
and Derek Hitchner
-- turned in 4-under rounds of 67.
North & South Amateur champion Luke Clanton
, who is headed to Florida State in the fall, NCAA champion Gordon Sargent
of Vanderbilt and defending Western Amateur champion Michael Thorbjorsen
of Stanford are among a large group at 2-under par.
Elite Amateur Series points leader Caleb Surratt
, who is coming off a runner-up finish at the U.S. Junior Amateur last weekend at Bandon Dunes, shot a 75.
Wednesday's second round will precede the grueling 36-hole day on Thursday. Quarterfinals will be contested on Friday with the semifinals and championship match taking place on Saturday.
The match-play competition will be streamed live on GOLFChannel.com, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, with more than 12 hours of coverage over Friday, Aug. 5, and Saturday, Aug. 6. Powered by WGA proud partners Peter Millar and Titleist, the stream will be available on GOLFChannel.com and thewesternamateur.com, with replays streaming on Peacock and GolfPass.com.
The Western Amateur contributed to this report.
ABOUT THE Western Amateur
Invitational event, and the most important
tournament in American amateur golf outside of the
U.S. Amateur. With a grueling schedule, it's quite
hardest amateur tournament to win.
156 invited players come from across the
globe to play one of the toughest formats in
amateur golf. The tournament starts with 18
holes of stroke play on Tuesday and
Wednesday after which the field is cut to the
low 44 scores and ties. Thursday it's a long
day of 36 holes of stroke play to determine
the “Sweet Sixteen” who compete at Match
Play on Friday and Saturday (two matches
each day if you're going to the finals) to
decide the champion.
View Complete Tournament Information