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Can Australia Claim a Second US Junior Amateur Title?

Karl Vilips with an already impressive record in US based events. (Photo: USGA)
Australian golf is well represented at this coming week’s US Junior Amateur Championship at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, a total of five playing an event restricted to players under the age of 19.

Karl Vilips, Elvis Smylie, Josh Greer, Terry Yoon and Kuangyu Chen are all playing under the Australian flag in an event won on only one previous occasion by an Australian golfer, that coming in 2016 when Perth’s Minwoo Lee defeated American Noah Goodwin.

The Inverness Club has played host to four US Opens previously, the last of those coming in 1979 when Hale Irwin won the second of his three US Open titles.

The Inverness Club was also the scene of two of Greg Norman’s agonising near misses in major championship, the Australian losing PGA Championships to Bob Tway and Paul Azinger in 1986 and 1993 respectively at the venue. Tway holed a bunker shot at the 72nd hole to defeat Norman by two shots while Azinger won in a playoff.

In 2019, the course becomes the first club to ever host the U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur championships.

Vilips is an Indonesian born but Perth raised Australian who even at his young age of 17 has established a remarkable record in amateur events in the US. He is currently attending high school in the US but is scheduled to join Stanford's collegiate programme in 2020. 

Vilips reached the Round of 32 in last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur and has played in two U.S. Amateurs (2016, 2017). He tied for sixth (best finish by a junior player) in the 2019 Northeast Amateur and matched the course record of 61 in the third round.

In 2018, he won the Wyndham Invitational and was the runner-up in the Western Junior. In 2017, he captured the Southern Amateur title, matching Bob Jones (1917) as the youngest champion in the tournament's history.

Vilips currently leads the standings for the International Junior Presidents Cup team and as such will be in Melbourne later this year to further showcase his outstanding talent when his side takes on the Americans ahead of the Presidents Cup.

Gold Coast’s, Smylie, recently won the Australian Boys Championship to earn his way into the event. The 17-year-old won by five strokes with a 72-hole score of 271 (13-under), including a third-round 63.

The tall left-hander, who also reached match play in the Australian Amateur, is the son of former professional tennis players (Pete, Liz).

Liz won four grand slam doubles titles, including Wimbledon in 1985. His godfather, Tony Roche, is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

In 2018, Smylie was the runner-up in the Queensland Amateur and Aaron Baddeley International Junior.

Elvis Smylie with his Australian Junior trophy in May.

West Australian, Greer, advanced to the Round of 32 in the Australian Amateur and was a semi-finalist in the Western Australian Amateur. He also finished ninth in the Australian Boys Amateur.

Greer, who was born in Glasgow, Scotland and played pro youth junior soccer for St. Mirren FC, was the runner-up in last year’s Scottish Boys Amateur. In 2018, he captured the South Australian Junior Masters and the Western Australian Junior. He is a member of the Western Australian Interstate Team.

Yoon is a Gold Coaster while Chen is Melbourne based.

Another Perth based golfer with Australian connections but who will represent his native Scotland is Connor McKinney who advanced to match play in The Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A, and the Australian Amateur.

McKinney, who lives in Perth, Australia, also reached the semi-finals of the Western Australian Amateur and tied for 11th in the Australian Boys Amateur. In 2018 at age 15, he became the youngest medalist in the history of the Australian Amateur and made the Round of 32. He helped Great Britain and Ireland capture the Jacques Leglise Trophy and was a quarterfinalist in the Scottish Amateur. He tied for fourth in the English Boys Open Amateur Stroke Play.

The event gets underway on Monday US time with the first of two rounds of stroke-play following which the leading 64 players will face off in a series of 18 hole knockout matches to determine the finalist for the 36 hole final on Sunday July 21st.  







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