16 Amateurs Playing in the US Open


Jun 15, 2014; Pinehurst, NC, USA; General view of the 18th green leader board with “Happy Father

Despite Francis Ouimet’s brilliant defeat of Harry Vardon at the 1913 US Open in an edge-of-the-seat playoff, and despite the contemporary eligibility guidelines that annually bring the best of golf’s amateurs into the field, the odds of an amateur winning the 2015 US Open are very slim.  Still, 16 amateurs are in the field at Chambers Bay.  Could one of them beat the odds and become the 6th amateur in the history of the US Open to hoist the trophy?  

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The last time an amateur won the US Open was 1933, the year Johnny Goodman held off Ralph Guldahl by a stroke at the North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois.

Between Francis Ouimet and Johnny Goodman there were three other amateur winners:

Bobby Jones, who crammed US Open, Open Championship, US Amateur and British Amateur victories into a single year, 1930, a feat that remains unequaled and sets Jones apart from all subsequent amateur golfers who have taken and will take the field at the US Open.

Chick Evans brought to a close the run Frances Ouimet started in 1913 when he won the US Open in 1916.  Evans also won the US Amateur that year and became the first to win both events in the same year.

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  • Jerome Travers won the US Amateur four times, including back to back in 1912 and 1913 and in 1915 became the second amateur to win the US Open, after Frances Ouimet.  Interestingly, not only did Travers choose not to defend, he never played another US Open.

    Twelve of this years sixteen amateurs are US Open rookies and while few of them are likely to play the weekend at Chambers Bay all of them will have taken a critical next step in their golf career, one they won’t soon forget.

    There are among these young golfers some who have already shown that they can compete on the largest golf stage and who have the potential to not only play the weekend but to be in the mix on Sunday.

    We saw 22-year old Brian Campbell strut his stuff at the 2015 NCAA Golf Championship.  Campbell helped Illinois go into the national championship with a top seed and he helped keep the Illini in the game until the semifinals.

    Campbell’s just completed his senior season at Illinois and he qualified for his 2nd US Open with a 6-under 137 at Newport Beach (Calif.) Country Club and Big Canyon Country Club.

    Will his experience last year at Pinehurst #2 and his standout collegiate golf career set him up to get in the mix at Chambers Bay?  Look for Campbell to make the cut.

    Bryson Dechambeau outplayed Brian Campbell at the NCAA Golf Championship last month when he took the individual stroke play national championship with an 8-under 280 on the Concession Golf Club track, and I’m looking for him to do it again at Chambers Bay.

    Dechambeau earned a spot in his first U.S. Open through sectional qualifying thanks to a card of 66 at The Lakes Golf and Country Club and 67 at Brookside Golf and Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, but he’s bringing some important international competition experience to Chambers Bay as well.

    The Payne Stewart look-alike shot a second-round 61 in helping the USA win the World Amateur Team Championship in Japan last fall, was a quarterfinalist at 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links, and reached Round of 16 at 2014 U.S. Amateur.

    Dechambeau will almost certainly play the weekend and based on the game I watched him deliver at Concession, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him in the mix on Sunday.

    The 15-year old Cole Hammer from Houston is the youngest player in the 2015 U.S. Open field and the third-youngest to ever play in the U.S. Open behind Andy Zhang and Tadd Fujikawa.

    Hammer shot an impressive 64-68 at Northwood Club in Dallas to earn his spot through sectional qualifying.  He’s committed to attend and play golf for the University of Texas in 2018 and I’m fairly certain that this won’t be Hammer’s only US Open appearance, but this debut appearance is probably going only 36 holes.

    Nick Hardy, Brian Campbell’s Illinois teammate, is another promising young collegiate golfer.  The 19-year old Hardy posted four top-20 finishes in 2014-15 as a freshman on the University of Illinois golf team and has also cut his teeth on the Concession Golf Club track at the 2015 NCAA Golf Championship.

    Hardy’s also been dipping his toe into the amateur circuit.  He was a semifinalist at 2014 Western Amateur, where he lost to eventual champion and 2015 U.S. Open qualifier Beau Hossler, and he also qualified for 2014 U.S. Amateur.  He earned his spot at the 2015 U.S. Open, his first, by carding 68-66 at the Springfield (Ohio) Country Club sectional qualifier. 

    Chambers Bay will be a growing experience for Hardy but I don’t look for him to be playing the weekend.

    18-year old Sam Horsfield survived a 2-for-1 playoff for the final qualifying spot at the Jupiter, Fla., sectional held at The Bear’s Club, shooting rounds of 72-69 and then edging out fellow amateur and future in-state college rival Cristobal Del Solar of Florida State with a birdie on the second playoff hole.

    Horsfield is bringing a victory at the 2013 Florida State Amateur (by 11 strokes) to Chambers Bay.  He also shot a 61 in a U.S .Amateur Public Links qualifier in 2013 and advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur and quarterfinals of the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur, so competition on a big stage isn’t a novelty to the young Englishman.

    Horsfield also has the distinction of having defeated fellow English native and Florida resident Ian Poulter in a friendly nine-hole match when he was 14, although I don’t know if that will help him at Chambers Bay.

    Will Horsfield play the weekend?  Not likely.

    This big Texas boy is one to watch.  Beau Hossler qualified for his third U.S. Open by shooting 65 at Newport Beach Country Club and 71 at Big Canyon Country Club in the Newport Beach, Calif. sectional qualifier.

    He helped Texas qualify for match play at the recent NCAA Golf Championship and he’s won 2014 Western Amateur.  A member of victorious 2014 USA World Amateur Team Hossler just completed his sophomore year at Texas, where he was the Big 12 Player of the Year.  He was also a medalist at 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur and a member of victorious 2012 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team.

    Hossler briefly held the outright lead in the second round of the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club, where he would eventually finish tied for 29th.  I’m looking for the Texan to be in the mix on Sunday at Chambers Bay.

    Kyle Jones is a 21-year old Baylor senior who, like Bubba Watson, claims never to have had a golf lesson.

    Jones qualified for his first U.S. Open by shooting rounds of 65 and 69 in sectional qualifying at Northwood Club in Dallas.  He advanced to the Round of 16 at 2014 U.S. Amateur and qualified for 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur.  He recorded a hole-in-one en route to winning 2014 Southwest Amateur.

    Jones was invited to an informal USA Walker Cup practice session last December, but I don’t think that’s going to help him get to the weekend at Chambers Bay.

    Jake Knapp, who’s playing his collegiate golf at UCLA is another 2015 NCAA Golf Championship alum.

    Knapp shot a 7-under 64 at Newport Beach (Calif.) C.C. and followed with an even-par 72 at Big Canyon to qualify for his first U.S. Open and although this is his first US Open it isn’t his first attempt to qualify.

    Knapp’s a determined and competitive golfer but I’m thinking his lack of experience on a big competitive stage is a major disadvantage.  He probably won’t play the weekend, but this won’t be his only chance to play the Open.  He’ll be back.

    Jack Maguire was in the group that included Sam Horsfield who earned their US Open spots at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida.

    Maguire won Florida State 2A High School Championship and led the highly ranked Florida State University men’s golf team in scoring average for 2014-15 season at 70.60.  His 10-under 62 in the third round of the 2014 USF Invitational is the lowest 18-hole score in school history and it led to his first college victory.

    This is Maguire’s first US Open, and I look for him to be in that 36-hole group who’ll sit out the weekend at Chambers Bay.

    Denny McCarthy qualified for his first U.S. Open by shooting a 6-under 138 at Woodmont Country Club’s North Course in Rockville, Md., to share medalist honors with PGA Tour player Billy Hurley III.

    McCarthy helped USA to a 2014 World Amateur Team title last fall in Japan by shooting a first-round 64. He was a semifinalist at 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club and the first University of Virginia golfer to be a four-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.  He was a second-team All-America for 2013-14 season but lost in Round of 64 at 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.

    That Chambers Bay round may play to McCarthy’s advantage this week.  He’s survived the course and has a feel for how it plays in competition.  If he made good use of that experience we may see him playing on the weekend.

    Georgia Bulldog Lee McCoy helped his team reach the match play semi-finals at the NCAA Golf Championship last month.  The first-time All American won 4 tournaments in the 2014-15 season, tying a school record, and was a co-medalist at 2014 U.S. Amateur.  Like Kyle Jones, McCoy was invited to informal Walker Cup practice session last December.

    McCoy posted rounds of 65-66 for a 13-under total of 131 at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga., to earn his first U.S. Open start.  I’m thinking McCoy will be in that 36-hole group who sits out the weekend.

    One of 3 international players among the 16 amateurs, Scot Bradley Neil claimed the 2014 British Amateur title at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland with a 2-and-1 victory over Zander Lombard of South Africa to earn U.S. Open spot.  Neil also won the 2013 Scottish Boys Championship and represented Scotland in the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship in Japan.

    Will Neil make the cut and play the weekend?  Who better than a Scot to take control of the Chambers Bay track?  I think there’s a good chance we’ll see Neil go 72 holes.

    Matthew NeSmith is coming to the 2015 US Open with an impressive credential.  He posted the lowest 36-hole total among any of the 12 sectional qualifying sites by shooting 63-64 for a 17-under total of 127 at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Georgia.

    The 21-year old University of South Carolina junior won the 2015 Southeastern Conference individual title and led the Gamecocks to the NCAA Championship.  NeSmith was named SEC’s co-Freshman of the Year in 2013 and the previous year received Byron Nelson International Junior Golf Award.  In 2012 he also claimed the Rolex Tournament of Champions and Footjoy Invitational, both major events on the American Junior Golf Association circuit.

    Does NeSmith’s impressive 63-64 sectional qualifying score set him up to survive the cut at Chambers Bay?  It’s important to remember that Hawks Ridge, while a lovely golf course, is not Chambers Bay.  I look for NeSmith to sit out the weekend, but on this one I could be wrong.

    Davis Riley found a fairly spectacular way to kick off his collegiate career when he posted 6-under 136 at the Memphis, Tennessee sectional held at Ridgeway Country Club (67) and Germantown C.C. (69) to earn his first U.S. Open start.

    The 18-year old who’s signed with Alabama and is scheduled to start this fall has already claimed a runner-up finish at 2013 and 2014 U.S. Junior Amateurs and has been a member of the victorious 2014 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team.

    Will it be enough to get Riley to the weekend at Chambers Bay?  Probably not, but it’s going to look mighty good on his collegiate resume!

    Oliver Schniederjans earned his spot in the US Open field by winning the 2014 Mark H. McCormack Medal, awarded to the No. 1 amateur in the World Amateur Golf Ranking following the 2014 U.S. Amateur, an event Schniederjans lost to eventual champion Gunn Yang.

    Schniederjans and Yang are going to meet again this week at the US Open.  That rematch resonates with potential.

    One of three international players among the amateurs, Gunn Yang stands above this group of 16 talented young golfers.   He defeated Corey Conners to win the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club, becoming the second player from Republic of Korea to win the title, following Byeong-Hun An in 2009.  Yang competed in 2015 Masters (and missed the cut) and has taken a one-year leave from college golf at San Diego State to focus on playing elite amateur and professional events.

    Will Yang deliver on his potential at Chambers Bay?  He’s played several PGA events this year and should be beyond the big stage jitters that probably impacted his play at Augusta National, and have the companionship of An, who’s also in the field may work to Yang’s advantage as well.  I’m looking for Yang to play the weekend.

    Next: Top 5 Asian Players in the US Open Field