The top 20 amateur golf moments from 2022: Willett's emotional win at Mass Am is #1
31 Dec 2022
by Jim Young of

see also: Conner Willett Rankings

From national championships, course records, outstanding performances and improbable shots, there was no shortage of memorable moments in 2022.

A pair of freshmen won NCAA individual championships, a rising star captured the inaugural Elite Amateur Series Cup and a battle-tested veteran won his first USGA championship.

The top-ranked female amateur in the world set a course record at famed Pebble Beach, an 18-year-old turned in an unforgettable performance at Seminole, the Curtis Cup was successfully defended at Merion and the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open produced two inspiring champions at Pinehurst.

There were also moments that changed lives, moved us to tears and delivered countless memories as only golf can. Such was the case at the 114th playing of the Massachusetts Amateur at Concord Country Club in suburban Boston which produced an emotional story that was equally tragic, triumphant and remarkable.

- New England Golf Journal photo
Five days after the unexpected death of his father, Rick, Conner Willett, a 19-year-old from Wellesley, Mass., delivered one of the most inspiring and emotional moments of the year by winning the Bay State's most coveted championship.

After Willett rolled in the clinching birdie putt on the 16th hole to win one of the longest-running amateur championships in the United States, the tears that flowed from a large gallery of family and friends were filled with joy and sorrow, the long embraces were both congratulatory and consoling.

“It was one of the more emotional things I’ve ever seen on a golf course,” said Ethan Whitney, Willett's close friend who served as his caddy in the championship match. “It’s amazing how great people can be.”

As golf oftentimes offers a brief escape from the challenges of everyday day life, Willett dealt with heartbreak the only way he knew how: by playing with passion and joy, just as his father had taught him from the time he first put a plastic club in his hands as a little boy.

“That was the best day of my life,” said Willett, who played 138 holes over five days to win the Arthur G. Lockwood trophy. “That was by far the happiest I’ve ever been."

Conner's triumph at the Massachusetts Amateur has been selected by our editorial panel as the most memorable moment of the year in amateur golf.

Here are some of the other moments in amateur golf that caught our eye from 2022, listed chronologically in their respective categories.

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The Top-10

Anna Davis wins Augusta National Women's Amateur
Anna Davis, a relatively unknown 16-year-old high schooler from Spring Valley, Calif., defeated the game’s top collegians to capture the 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. The left-hander shot a final-round 69 to finish at 1-under for a one-stroke victory over LSU teammates Latanna Stone and Ingrid Lindblad. “I'm speechless. I can't even fathom what just happened," said Davis, who entered the ANWA ranked 100th in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking and as one the youngest players in the field.

Texas' "comeback tour" ends with a NCAA Championship
The Texas Longhorns overcame injuries to two of their top players to win the 2022 NCAA Men's Golf Championship over Arizona State at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Playing without the services of Parker and Pierceson Coody for much of the season, the Longhorns got healthy at the right time and rode a heater all of the way to Scottsdale, where they won a pair of tightly contested matches against Big 12 rival Oklahoma State and top-seeded Vanderbilt before downing the Sun Devils to secure the program's fourth national championship.

Ingrid Lindblad makes history at the U.S. Women's Open
Playing alongside her idol and fellow Swede Annika Sorenstam, Ingrid Lindblad, a 22-year-old junior at LSU, shot an opening round 6-under 65 at the U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, which was the lowest round by an amateur in any USGA championship. She was tied for fourth entering the final round before ultimately finishing tied for 11th to claim low medalist honors.

Lee and Moore win titles at the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open
There were no losers at the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open, the 15th championship in the USGA's portfolio open to males and females, professionals and amateurs, with either physical impairment, sensory impairment (vision), or intellectual impairment. The inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open held at Pinehurst produced two inspiring champions, Simon Seungmin Lee of the Republic of Korea and Kim Moore of Portage, Mich. Lee, who was born with congenital autism developmental disorder, defeated Felix Normann of Sweden after the pair tied at 3-under-par 213 for 54 holes, while Moore, the head women’s golf coach at Western Michigan University who was born without a right foot, posted an eight-stroke victory in the women's overall competition.

Saki Baba rolls to U.S. Women's Amateur title
Saki Baba's 11-and-9 victory over Monet Chun in the championship match of the U.S. Women's Amateur held at Chambers Bay culminated in one of the most dominating performances in the history of the championship. She played 106 match-play holes during the championship, which were tied for the second-fewest by a champion since 1973, matching Morgan Pressel (2005) and behind only Carolyn Hill (103) in 1979. From the sixth hole in her quarterfinal match, the 17-year-old from Tokyo won 28 of the last 49 holes she played, losing only four in that span and in match play, her cumulative score was 24 under par, including 9 under in the championship match. Baba became the first Japanese player to hoist the Robert Cox Trophy in 37 years, since Michiko Hattori won it in 1985 at 16.

Sam Bennett: Top dog at the U.S. Amateur
“They’re great players, but I’m a better player. I’m the dog in this race.” Those were the words of Sam Bennett after his quarterfinal win at the U.S. Amateur over Stewart Hagestad, who was one of a slew of highly-ranked players that Bennett left in his wake en route to the title. Bennett's road to the championship took him through a gauntlet of highly-touted players, as the No. 3 amateur in the world from Texas A&M recorded five wins against players at No. 27 or better in the world rankings, including three opponents ranked in the top-10. The dog ultimately had his day at Ridgewood, as Bennett defeated Ben Carr, 1 up, to claim the Havemeyer Trophy.

Rusty Strawn's two weeks of glory
Rusty Strawn had a month of September he'll never forget, as the Georgian won both the U.S. and Canadian Senior Amateur championships in consecutive weeks. Nine days after defeating fellow Georgian and longtime friend Doug Hanzel, 3 and 2, at the U.S. Senior Amateur at The Kittansett Club, Marion, Mass. for his first USGA championship, Strawn claimed the Canadian Senior Amateur with a three-stroke victory over Mike Lohner at Red Deer Golf and Country Club.

Irish eyes were smiling at U.S. Mid-Amateur
In an all-Irish final, Matt McClean, a 29-year-old optometrist from Belfast, out-dueled his fellow countryman Hugh Foley, 3-and-1, to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Erin Hills. With the win, McClean joined Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open 2010), Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open 2011) and Pádraig Harrington (U.S. Senior Open 2022) as Irish golfers to have won a USGA championship.

Semikawa makes history at the Japan Open
Taiga Semikawa, the world's No. 1 ranked amateur, made history when he became the first amateur to win the Japan Open in the 95-year history of the tournament. It also marked the 21-year-olds third professional victory in as many starts after wins at the Panasonic Open Golf Championship and Japan Create Challenge prior to his home open title.

Emotional win for Willett at Massachusetts Amateur
Just days after his father passed away unexpectedly, Conner Willett, a 19-year-old from Wellesley, defeated Ryan Downes in the 36-hole championship match of the Massachusetts Amateur, 4&2 at Concord Country Club. Only needing to tie the 16th to win the match, Willett made a 15-foot birdie putt to close out the match to complete one of the most inspirational runs in Massachusetts Amateur Championship history.

• • • • •

The Second 10

Two aces get Parker Coody through U.S. Open Qualifying
Making a hole in one in a round is incredible, yet the odds are estimated at a "reasonable" 5,000 to 1. The odds of making two aces in one in a single round, however, are a mind-blowing 67 million-to-1. No problem for Parker Coody, as the Texas Longhorn made two aces in the same round in 18-hole U.S. Open local qualifying at Forest Creek Golf Club in Round Rock, Texas. The rare feat helped Coody avoid a 7-for-3 playoff by a single shot.

Kynadie Adams concession worth $4,000 to spring professional
One of the feel-good stories of the year took place at the Lake Jovita Women’s Championship, a East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour event in Dade City, Fla., where Kynadie Adams, now a freshman at Alabama, shot a final-round 67 to force a playoff with 21-year-old Therese Warner, a former University of Arizona golfer who turned professional a month earlier. To the shock of Warner and everyone else, Adams then conceded the playoff, giving Warner her first professional win. Importantly, it also allowed Warner to keep the entire $10,000 first-place prize. Had Adams won the playoff, Warner would have earned around $6,000.

Clemente Monday-qualifies for three straight LPGA events
Gianna Clemente knows how to make the most of her Mondays. The high school freshman earned her way into three consecutive LPGA events held in her home state of Ohio, becoming the youngest player ever to accomplish the feat. Only one other person has successfully Monday qualified for three consecutive events on Tour: Hee-Won Han in 2001, at the LPGA Takefuji Classic, Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open and Welch's-Circle K Championship.

Record-setting title defense for Menante at Northeast Amateur In one of the most dominating performances of the year, Dylan Menante won the 60th Northeast Amateur with a 19-under 257 at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I. When he birdied his last hole for a final round 67, Menante had established a new 72-hole scoring record at 19-under par to win his second consecutive Northeast Amateur title by nine strokes over Karl Vilips of Stanford, shattering the previous 72-hole record of 15 under which was reached by Oklahoma State University’s Peter Uihlein (2011) and the University of Southern California’s Justin Suh (2018).

Holy Cross teammates accomplish rare feat; two albatrosses on the same hole
What Holy Cross teammates Christian Emmerich and Owen Egan accomplished during a practice round at Blackstone National in Sutton, Mass. was a feat that may have been a first in golf -- and one that will likely not be repeated anytime soon -- as both players made double eagles on successive shots on the par-5, 494-yard eighth hole.

Aaron Jarvis LAAC wins the Latin America Amateur for Cayman Islands
With a comeback victory at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, Aaron Jarvis instantly became a national hero and a trailblazer for the tiny island nation of Cayman Islands. The UNLV freshman won the Latin America Amateur Championship to become the first player in history from the Cayman Islands to play in The Masters and Open Championship. Pretty remarkable considering that the population of the country is just 66,000 and it has just one golf course.

Caleb Surratt wins the inaugural Elite Amateur Series Cup
Caleb Surratt posted four top-five finishes in seven Elite Amateur Series events, including the Sunnehanna (T4), Northeast Am (3), Southern Amateur (T4) and the Pacific Coast Amateur (T2). He also reached the final 16 of the North & South Amateur. Though he did not reach the match play portion of the Western Amateur. Surratt's play earned him 75.5607 points, well ahead of second-place finisher Jiri Zuska (59.5319 pts).

Related: VIDEO: Making their mark at the Elite Amateur Golf Series

After beating cancer, Ian Gilligan wins the NCGA Amateur
Following his freshman year in high school, Ian Gilligan was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. He'd end up spending 50 days in a hospital and lost over 50 pounds. Four years later and cancer-free, Gilligan defeated 33-year-old Bobby Bucey 3 and 1 to win the 119th Northern California Golf Association Amateur Championship at Spyglass Hill.

U.S. Senior Women's Amateur tackles the Last Frontier
While she wasn't the most recognizable name in the field, Pamela Chesla made history when she struck the opening tee shot at the 60th U.S. Senior Women's Amateur on July 30th at Anchorage Golf Club. With her opening drive, the state of Alaska officially became the 50th state to have the honor of hosting a USGA championship, fulfilling former USGA CEO Mike Davis’ long-held vision. Shelly Stouffer defeated Sue Wooster, 4 and 3, in the 18-hole final to become the fourth Canadian to win the title.

David Ford lights up Seminole with eight consecutive birdies
North Carolina freshman David Ford accomplished a feat that perhaps had never been seen before in the long and distinguished history of Seminole Golf Club. Ford reeled off eight consecutive birdies on hole Nos. 9-16 en route to carding a 10-under 62 in the second round of the Jackson T. Stephens Cup played at the esteemed course in Juno Beach, Fla.

• • • • •

Honorable Mention

Yana Wilson eagles her way to ANNIKA Invitational title

Chacarra siblings pick up their first collegiate wins in the same week

Harrison Crowe wins the Golf Challenge New South Wales Open

Crowe wins Australian Master of the Amateurs and the New South Wales Amateur in a two-week span

Teenager Ratchanon "TK" Chantananuwat makes history with Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup victory

Emilia Migliaccio returns to competitive golf and wins North & South Women's Amateur

The McCoys win British Senior Amateur and Iowa Amateur in the same month

U.S. retains Curtis Cup in resounding fashion

Alice Zhao, 13, fires first-round 67 at U.S. Women's Amateur

Sargent becomes ninth freshman to win NCAA Men's individual championship

Rose Zhang completes record-setting year with NCAA Women's individual title

Zhang wins third consecutive McCormack Medal

Zhang sets Pebble Beach course record in Carmel Cup

SMU's Christian Clarke scores his first ace on the iconic 16th hole at Cypress Point

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