Ranked Player Survey: top amateur golfers share what they think...and what they know
20 Mar 2023
by Staff

- Grant Halverson/USGA photo
- Grant Halverson/USGA photo

This is the first of a series of Ranked Player articles, using information gathered by surveys from players listed in our various rankings.

Since 2006, has teamed with Golfweek to rank the top competitive amateurs in the game. What started out as a U.S. men's player-of-the-year points race has grown into world rankings and POY points races for men and women, and the addition of rankings for mid-amateurs, seniors, and super seniors.

In the early days of the web, a librarian famously coined the phrase "surfing the internet" to reference how users navigate from link to link, website to website. Navigating our rankings goes much the same way: from a world ranking list, click on any player's name and you will be taken to a list of tournament finishes for that player; from there, click on any tournament to see scores from the field in that year; from there, click on any other player's name to repeat the process. From any player's page their world ranking is listed with a link to the current ranking list, and his/her finishes in past player-of-the-year points races are linked as well. It can be a lot of surfing.

But while surfing in the sea of names and numbers, it can be easy to overlook the fact that every name in every list of ranked players represents a real person, one who has dedicated a good chunk of his/her life to pursuing competitive amateur golf.

- Southwestern Women's Amateur photo

So who are these ranked players?

They come from all over the country, from all over the world, from a variety of backgrounds. The range in age from juniors, to college players, to mid-ams, seniors, and super seniors. Some are on the path to turning pro, others were pros and have since been reinstated, and others are lifelong amateurs.

From public players to country clubbers, from students to business owners, from club champs to USGA champs, young and old, men and women, these players took up the game at different ages and for different reasons.

But they have one thing in common: they are dedicated to playing tournament golf. These are some of the most dedicated amateur golfers in the game, and they structure their lives so golf can be an important focus. Some juggle class and social lives, others work and family, to fit competitive golf in (or vice versa). They spend a lot of their time, and in many cases a lot of their money, playing competitive amateur golf.

So who are these players and what can we learn from them? Quite a lot, as it turns out, and this series takes a look at who they are, how they raised their games to this level, what they’ve experienced and their views about the competitive amateur game.

- Stocker Cup photo

The Ranked Player Survey

We surveyed ranked players about a variety of topics, and divided the survey into two sections. The first section taps into how they play the game, how they prepare and how they handle pressure, their role models and some of their experiences. Players could choose to remain anonymous, or allow us to use their names when referencing their answers in this Ranked Player series of articles.

The second section is marked CONFIDENTIAL and allows the players to tackle edgier topics and offer their opinions anonymously. We will not use their names for this section, and they were instructed not to “name names” in their answers to these questions either.

The response we received was terrific, and these players were clearly ready to talk. The respondents ranged in age from 15 (born when Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam were ranked #1) to 74 (born before pro rankings but when Ben Hogan and Babe Zaharias were consensus #1).

Here are a few of the get-to-know-you questions.

Q: How old were you when you played in your first golf tournament?
Most started young, as young as 3 but many before the age of 10. We suspect that this number has gone down over the years as junior golf has expanded its reach. The median was 13 years of age. Note that the graph is not to scale; the older age groups are compressed into two categories for easier viewing. A surprising number of mid-ams and seniors didn't play their first tournament until college or adulthood, perhaps "discovering" the game later than others after playing other sports at younger ages. If you are reading this and fall into one of those older age categories, you still have time -- one of our respondents played in his first tournament at the age of 41.

Q: Who is your #1 golf role model, the player you have tried to take the most from into your own game?
The answer to this question varied quite a bit, although one name came up more than any other: Tiger Woods. Jack Nicklaus was a strong second, and then a large group of players spanning in time from Ben Hogan to Collin Morikawa. For the women, Nelly Korda was the top vote-getter followed by Lydia Ko. The most popular players appear in the image below.

L-R: Woods, Nicklaus, Palmer, McIlroy, Korda, Couples, Watson, Hogan, Thomas, Morikawa, Ko, Johnson, Spieth, Mickelson, Rahm

Some players mentioned family members and fellow amateur golfers. But a surprisingly large number of players gave a different answer: "No one". Here are some of the others:

"Arnold Palmer, I love his 'swing your own swing' philosophy. I have my own swing I’m very proud of as I’m my own coach." - Bella Dovhey, 15, Orlando, Fla.

"Ben Hogan - the ultimate perfectionist." - Craig Davis, Chula Vista, Calif.; 2019 British Senior champ, 2021 U.S. Senior Amateur semifinalist.

"Jack Nicklaus." - Gene Elliott, W. Des Moines , Iowa; 2018, 2021 Senior Player of the Year.

"Seve Ballesteros." - Corey Weworski, Carlsbad, Calif.; 2004 U.S. Women's Mid-amateur champion, three-time California Women's Senior champ.

"My mom. SHE LOVES THIS GAME!!" - Craig Hurlbert, Magnolia, Texas; 2020 Senior Player of the Year.

"Rory McIlroy." - anonymous women's college freshman from Canada.

"Adam Scott for his swing and demeanor/class." - anonymous mid-am from Florida.

"Webb Simpson." - Paul Tesori, Ponte Vedra, Fla.; Webb's Simpson's caddie on the PGA Tour for 12 years.

Q: What is the longest shot you have ever holed in competition?
Of those who responded, the average was 183 yards and the median was 185, but the longest was 349 yards and was claimed by 38-year-old Colby Harwell (San Antonio, Texas), the two-time Carlton Woods Invitational winner. The various hole-outs resulted in numerous holes-in-one and double eagles (albatrosses). Here are a few of the answers:

"219 yards for an albatross." - Jaden Dumdumaya, Fairfield, Calif.; 2022 State Fair Amateur champion.

"115 yards, but it was a hole-in-one at Ballyneal and I was playing with and against [the course's designer] Tom Doak." - Gary Albrecht, Denver, Colo.

"215 yards." - anonymous women's college player in the top 10 of the 2023 player-of-the-year points race.

"121-yard hole out to win the Michigan Amateur." - Kevin VandenBerg, Naples, Fla.; current #3 ranked senior.

"320-yard par four." - Blaise Vanitvelt, Fenton, Mich.

"230-yard shot for albatross in the NCGA Mid-Am to tie (won in playoff)." - Dan Sullivan, Pasadena, Calif.

More in the Ranked Player Survey series

Be sure to visit as we share the expertise and experience of our group of ranked player survey respondents in a series of articles. It is sure to be informative, entertaining, and maybe a little controversial. This article will be the "anchor page" where all articles are listed. Stay tuned!

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