Matthew McClean (USGA photo)
After a year that saw him take on top amateurs all over the world before coming to America and taking the biggest mid-amateur prize, Matthew McClean
is the AmateurGolf.com Mid-Amateur Player of the Year.
The AmateurGolf.com Mid-Amateur Player of the Year is awarded based on a point system earned through performance in major amateur events throughout the course of the year. This year, McClean topped the points list by winning the biggest mid-amateur event of them all, and racking up top finishes against international amateur fields.
McClean was well-traveled in 2022, earning points in his native Northern Ireland, as well as in Ireland, England, Scotland, South Africa, and the United States. He is the first international to earn AmateurGolf.com Mid-Amateur POY honors.
Players of the Year
|2022 ||Matthew McClean|
|2021 ||Stewart Hagestad|
|2020 ||Stephen Behr|
|2019 ||Stewart Hagestad|
|2018 ||Matt Parziale|
|2017 ||Stewart Hagestad|
The 29-year-old optometrist from Belfast started 2022 by traveling to South Africa to compete in some of the top tournaments in the southern hemisphere alongside many of his fellow top GB&I amateurs.
He finished T12 and T14 in the African Amateur Stroke Play and the South African Stroke Play, both times being the only mid-amateur to finish in the top 20.
The early-season reps sharpened McClean's game for the late spring and summer majors in Great Britain and Ireland. After a quarterfinal finish in the West of Ireland Amateur, McClean finished a strong 6th in the Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
McClean then nearly won the Irish Open Amateur, losing in a playoff to his countryman Colm Campbell, and then finished 3rd in the English Amateur (Brabazon Trophy), behind only Christiaan Maas
of South Africa and the University of Texas, and Arron Edwards-Hill
of the initial GB&I Walker Cup squad.
As the summer began, he finished T12 in the St. Andrews Links Trophy and then returned to Royal Lytham & St Annes where he made the Final 16 in the British Amateur.
Next he headed home for the North of Ireland Amateur at Royal Portrush, where he finished runner-up by a single stroke to Irishman Hugh Foley
(remember that name). He then played in the Irish Challenge on the Challenge Tour and finished as the low amateur.
At the Irish Amateur Close Championship, McClean made a run to the semifinals before getting eliminated by Foley. But the disappointment for falling short was alleviated by getting the chance to represent Ireland in the World Amateur Team Championship (Eisenhower Trophy) in France.
But the crowning moment of McClean's year (and career) would come two weeks later. Making his first trip to compete in America, McClean played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. After qualifying for match play as the 7th seed, McClean won five matches, including a 20-hole thriller against Casey Carnes
of San Antonio, to reach the final match.
Incredibly, his opponent would be the only other Irishman to make the trip to Erin Hills, and his roommate for the week, Hugh Foley. Perhaps it was good karma for the two that the word "Erin" is the poetic name for Ireland in Gaelic. It would be the third time in two months that the two would battle for a trophy, although this one would also mean invitations to the Masters and U.S. Open.
McClean finished the morning round 2 up, and extended his lead to five holes with six to go. Foley would win three holes in a row to get within two, but McClean would hang on to win the match
3&1, joining Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington as USGA champions from Ireland.
Final Mid-Amateur Ranking, 2022
McClean heads into 2023 with a lot to look forward to. He will head to Augusta National in April, and to L.A. Country Club in June for the U.S. Open. His goal will no doubt be to represent Great Britain & Ireland at the Walker Cup in St. Andrews, and he is off to a good start, being named to the initial squad
of 19 players from which the final team will likely be chosen.
The runner-up in the points race was James Leow
of Singapore, who completed his college career at Arizona State as a 25-year-old, winning the ASU Thunderbird Invitational before graduating and the Pacific Coast Amateur after.
Foley finished No. 3 in the standings, followed by last year's
(and three-time) AG Mid-Amateur Player-of-the-Year Stewart Hagestad
and Harry Bolton
of Australia. All but two of the top ten spots were taken by international players, while the two Americans -- Hagestad and Evan Beck
of Virginia Beach -- recently received invitations
to attend the first U.S. Walker Cup practice session in Florida.