2023 will be a huge year for amateur golf; here are 10 storylines worth watching
26 Jan 2023
by Jim Young of

2023 will be a whirlwind year for amateur golf
2023 will be a whirlwind year for amateur golf

The 2023 amateur golf season is set to be yet another memorable one.

New champions will be crowned by the USGA, the Elite Amateur Series featuring seven of the top amateur tournaments in the nation enters its second year and the Walker Cup will be played at historic St. Andrews in September.

And that's just for starters.

As we flip the calendar from January to February, we thought it would be a good time to peek ahead and look at some of the many storylines we look forward to covering in 2023.

• • • • •

1. Old Course at St. Andrews to host 2023 Walker Cup:
One of the game's most iconic venues will serve as the host site for one of amateur golf’s most prestigious team competitions in 2023, as the 49th Walker Cup Match between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland returns to the home of golf in September. It will also be the ninth Walker Cup played at St. Andrews and the first since 1975, when the USA defeated GB&I 15½-8½ behind future U.S. Open champions Jerry Pate and Curtis Strange. We can only dream of a scenario of Caleb Surratt, Stewart Hagestad or David Ford walking intently over the Swilcan Bridge with one of GB&I's top guns such as Barclay Brown, John Gough or Matthew McClean with the Cup hanging in the balance.

2. Will the Elite Amateur Series expand to include women's events?
The Elite Amateur Series, an alignment of the seven of the top competitive amateur events for men designed to produce a year-end points champion, proved to be a great success last season. By winning the first Elite Amateur Series Cup, Caleb Surratt received exemptions into the PGA Tour’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship, a 2023 Korn Ferry Tour event of his choosing among five available and a spot in 2023 U.S. Open final qualifying.

What if the Elite Amateur Series were to expand and include women? Three of the existing men's tournaments in the series -- the Western, North & South and Southern -- also crown a women's champion. Tournaments such as the Women's Porter Cup, the Southwestern Women's Amateur, the Sea Island Women's Amateur and the South Atlantic Women's Amateur Championship, better known as the Sally, are four others to consider when rounding out the women's series.

As an alternative, why not work with organizers to introduce a women's championship connected with Pacific Coast, Northeast or Trans-Miss Amateurs or introduce a new championship altogether?

3. Will the Stanford women's team go back-to-back in Scottsdale come May?
With two of the world's top female amateurs in its lineup along with a strong supporting cast that can drop a low number on any given day, head coach Anne Walker has assembled one of the strongest teams in NCAA history. Behind Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck, ranked No. 1 and 3 in the Golfweek/ world rankings, along with the likes of Megha Ganne, Sadie Englemann and Brooke Seay, the Cardinal is a strong favorite to defend its NCAA team title this spring at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.

4. Which team will lift the men's championship trophy?
The race to the NCAA Division I Men's Championship is filled with intrigue. Vanderbilt and North Carolina, currently ranked first and fifth in the Golfweek Collegiate Rankings presented by Strackaline, are absolutely loaded with talent from top to bottom. Arizona State, Auburn, Stanford, Texas Tech and Tennessee, led by Caleb Surratt, are not to be taken lightly.

5. ANWA on our mind:
While the Masters is just around the corner, famed Augusta National will once again open its gates to some of the best women’s amateurs in the world for the fourth annual Augusta National Women's Amateur from March 29 through April 1. While the ANWA can’t match the history of the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the mystique and reverence surrounding the hallowed grounds of the Augusta National Golf Club have lent an unmistakable aura to the event that’s unequaled. Will world No. 1 Rose Zhang add the missing piece to her trophy case, or will another upstart have a Cinderella run such as Tsubasa Kajitani and Anna Davis enjoyed the last two years?

6. How will the PGA Tour University Velocity Global Rankings shake out?
Initially created in 2020 to give collegiate players a pathway to the professional ranks and to encourage high-level amateurs to complete their eligibility, the PGA Tour University raised the stakes last year by forging two different paths for collegiate golfers to earn status on various professional circuits.

Players who finish in the top five of the standings earn Korn Ferry Tour membership for the current season and will be exempt into all open, full-field Korn Ferry Tour events beginning the week following the conclusion of the NCAA Division-I National Championship through the end of the current Korn Ferry Tour regular season. In addition, the top-five players are exempt into Final Stage of the current season’s PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament and earn exemptions onto either PGA TOUR Canada or PGA TOUR Latinoamérica (as determined by TOUR) for the following year/season.

Those players who finish 6-10 earn earn conditional membership on Korn Ferry Tour along with membership on PGA TOUR Canada in addition to other playing perks.

Pierceson Coody finished first in the PGA Tour University Rankings last year and less than a month after helping Texas to a national championship, claimed his first professional win at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Maine Open in just his third start.

With the spring season right around the corner, Ludvig Aberg of Texas Tech currently leads the PGA Tour University rankings, with Austin Greaser (North Carolina), Fred Biondi (Florida), U.S. Amateur champion Sam Bennett (Texas A&M) and Adrien Dumont De Chassart (Illinois) holding onto coveted spots in the top five.

7. Will Ellen Port win her eighth USGA championship?
With seven USGA championships to her credit, the St. Louis native is tied with Anne Quast Sander and Carol Semple Thompson for second among female USGA champions, trailing only JoAnne Carner's eight titles. She will have a chance to tie Carner at the U.S. Senior Women's Amateur which will be held at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Ariz, Sept. 30-Oct. 5.

Related: A Quick Nine With Ellen Port

8. Is Gene Elliott ripe for a comeback in 2023?
Gene Elliott had a dream season in 2021, winning the U.S. and British Senior Amateur titles in a two-month span. He also won his sixth Iowa Mid-Amateur Championship at the age of 59. However, a "frozen shoulder" forced Elliott to withdraw from the British Senior Amateur and significantly curtailed his playing schedule for the remainder of the season. While rehabbing his shoulder, Elliott broke a bone in his left foot in October. He hopes to return to the course in a few weeks and eying the Senior Jones Cup at the end of February.

9. Will an amateur make history at the U.S. Women's Open at Pebble Beach?
At least one amateur has finished in the top 15 in each of the last six U.S. Women's Opens and dating back to 2000, a total of 10 amateurs have recorded top-five finishes. Just last year at Southern Pines, LSU's Ingrid Lindblad was tied for fourth heading into the final round before ultimately tying for 11th. In 2021 at the Olympic Club, Megha Ganne, then a high school junior, played her way into the final group on Sunday along with Lexi Thompson and eventual champion Yuka Saso and ultimately tied for 14th overall.

Who will step up this year at Pebble Beach in an attempt to join Catherine Lacoste as the only amateur to have won a U.S. Women’s Open?

10. Exemptions for the winners of the NCAA men' and women's individual championships.
Could Gordon Sargent's invitation to the Masters be a foreshadowing of things to come for the NCAA men's and women's individual champions? Despite annually having one of the strongest fields in amateur golf from top to bottom, the winners of the men's and women's championships are granted exemptions to the U.S. Amateur, but nothing more. In comparison, the winners of the Latin America Amateur Championships receive exemptions into seven majors, three for the men's winner and two for the lady's champions.

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