Aussies set for US Amateur

Jason Scrivener, Matt Smith, Jin Jeong and Ryan McCarthy are set to compete in the field of 312 other hopefuls for this year's US Amateur Championship to be played at Chambers Bay in Washington commencing Monday August 23rd.

Scrivener was sectional medalist for the 36-hole qualifier at Meadville in Pennsylvania, finishing three strokes clear of his nearest rival, American Brinson Paolini, at 11-under-par. Ryan McCarthy finished the second qualifier at Indianapolis Country Club last Monday. Jeong gained automatic entry via his win at the British Amateur. This is the first US Amateur for both Scrivener, Jeong and McCarthy.

Last year at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Texan based Smith was the sole Australian to qualify for the championship, progressing to the top-32 in a marvellous display of grinding golf. The US based Aussie qualified locally last month in Texas and Smith is set to play in his second US Amateur.

The Aussies have been preparing all week for the challenge and enter the tournament knowing that it will be a true test of character and golf.

"This is sure to be a challenge," says Scrivener, winner of two events back in Australia last season.

"Just to qualify and be in the field was itself a major accomplishment in itself. I'm looking forward to the challenge both competing against the best players in the world and playing a truly challenging layout."

At 7,742 yards, Chambers Bay will be the longest course ever to host a USGA national championship. It will be 99 yards longer than Torrey Pines' South Course was for the 2008 US Open. The second stroke-play course, The Home Course, will be set up at 7,420 yards and will play to a par of 36-36"”72.

"It's as tough out there as anywhere that I've played," says McCarthy about the Chambers Bay layout.

"I had a practice round this morning and you really get a feel for how hard the Chambers Bay course is. There are a few opportunities on some of the par-5's, provided you get a good drive away. All the par 4's are tough and it will be a great venue to play match-play. The Home Course is a little easier, but still a challenge. I'm looking forward to this event, as it's the biggest that I've played in by far."

Chambers Bay, just outside Seattle, will be put to its first true test beginning Monday US time when the opening stroke qualification round of the US Amateur gets underway. The course, which opened in 2007, will also be hosting the US Open in 2015.

Eighteen holes of stroke play are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, August 23 & 24, after which the field will be cut to the low 64 scorers. Six rounds of match play begin on Wednesday August 25 and the championship concludes with a scheduled 36-hole final match on Sunday August 29.

Jin Jeong will be seeking to become the first player since Robert Dickson in 1967 to win both the US Amateur and British Amateur in the same year. Jeong has been preparing with his fellow Aussie mates this week in Chambers Bay and is refreshed following a small break from the game. I'd expect Jeong to play well here mainly because he's a wonderful driver of the ball and has the ability to stay focused irrespective of what's going on around him. Should Jeong make the match-play bracket, he'll feature well.

Others to follow include 20-year-old Bud Cauley, a member of the winning 2009 US Walker Cup team, with the junior at the University of Alabama having won numerous collegiate titles leading into this event, most recently winning the 2010 Linger Longer Invitational and the 2009 Isleworth Collegiate Invitational.

David Chung is another to keep an eye on having won twice this summer in the US with the Western Amateur a few week's back in Chicago and the week before that, the Porter Cup. The junior at Stanford University has also won the North & South Amateur and was instrumental in the United States team victory over Europe at the 2010 Palmer Cup. Chung was runner-up at the 2004 US Junior Amateur.

Emiliano Grillo is a promising 17-year-old player from Argentina that's making a few waves in the US and should not be discounted this week either. Grillo was a quarterfinalist at the 2008 US Junior Amateur and won the PING Invitational and Junior World Golf Championship in 2009.

In events like the US Amateur, experience should never be underestimated. Russell Henley was the top amateur at the US Open this year finishing in a tie for 16th. Henley was named the 2009-10 Player of the Year by Golfweek, having won the SEC Championship and the NCAA South Central Regional in 2010. Like Chung, he was instrumental in United States team's victory at the 2010 Palmer Cup. I tend to favour his chances this week to win his national title.

Morgan Hoffmann is another to closely follow with the 2009 Walker Cup player being a quarterfinalist at the 2008 US Amateur and in 2009, won the Big 12 Conference Championship. He earned the 2009 Phil Mickelson Award as the top freshman after winning three individual collegiate titles in his first year with the Oklahoma State University team.

There are many other worthy notables you could mention as this US Amateur field is littered with talent representing fifteen foreign countries including Canada, England, Italy, Japan, Korea, South Africa and China.

Since 2003, when Australia's Nick Flanagan became the first Australian in over 100 years to win this coveted championship after the Novcastrian accounted for Casey Wittenberg on the first play-off hole at Oakmont Country Club, the US Amateur title has fallen into foreign hands on five of the last seven occasions, with Colt Knost the last American to win the title in 2007.

Among the benefits enjoyed by the US Amateur winner are an exemption from local and sectional qualifying for the next US Open, an exemption from qualifying for the next 10 US Amateurs, should the winner remain an amateur, an exemption from qualifying for the next British Open Championship and a likely invitation to the next Masters Tournament, again should the winner remain an amateur.

Throughout its history, the US Amateur has been the most coveted of all amateur titles. Many of the great names of professional golf, such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Craig Stadler, Jerry Pate, Mark O'Meara, Hal Sutton, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, have their names etched on the Havemeyer Trophy.

In 1996, Tiger Woods, attracted huge interest at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, when he won a record third straight US Amateur, having registered 18 consecutive match-play victories. In 1994, Woods, at 18, had first entered the record books as the youngest ever to win the Amateur Championship, following his three consecutive Junior US Amateur titles (1991-93).

That record has since been broken twice, first by 17-year-old Danny Lee in 2008 at Pinehurst No. 2 in the Village of Pinehurst, and then last year when 17-year-old Byeong-Hun An won at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, with a 7&5 victory over Ben Martin. An has returned to defend his title this year in Seattle.

Anthony Powter
About The Author : Anthony Powter

Anthony brings a vast array of experience having covered the world's biggest golf Tours. An experienced photojournalist, his aim is to bring golf to life with articles of interest coupled with stunning photography.

More Articles from Anthony Powter