There are few consistently great tournaments in the world of golf; The Masters, The Open Championship and some others readily spring to my mind.
It may surprise some people that I regard The Western Amateur as one of those great tournaments.
It therefore seems timely, with the 2019 edition to be played next week in Michigan, to reflect back and explain why I hold it in such high esteem.
There are a two main reasons for my affection:
- It contains a 72-hole stroke play test and is thus a truly helpful indicator of future pro tournament readiness / skill than any other amateur event and;
- It always showcases most of the best up-and-coming amateurs, from North America and beyond, and is thus an exciting element of golf’s constant rejuvenation.
The Western Amateur traces all the way back to 1899 and this year will be the 119th edition.
This year’s host course, Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club, Benton Harbor, echoes that long heritage, having hosted from 1971-2008, during which time the winners included future Major champions: Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton (twice), Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard (twice) & Tiger Woods!
The trophy is ultimately decided by a few rounds of head-to-head match play, but it’s the 72-hole stroke play precursor on which I will focus here because my interest lies in future stroke play tournaments and betting on their outcomes!
My approach to this article has been to examine the (72-hole) stroke play results since 2011 (as far back as my d’base goes for this event) and the players finishing Top20.
I’m hoping these data will both support the case for my claimed significance of this tournament and also assist bettors and fantasy golf afficionados trying to identify emerging players who will grace professional tournaments with distinction in the months and years ahead.
Here are some selected names and their placings from recent years’ stroke play over 72 holes:
2018: Cole Hammer (1); Collin Morikawa (4); Brandon Wu (5); Min woo Lee (5).
2017: Norman Xiong (1); Doc Redman (6); Cameron Champ (9); Joaquin Niemann (14); Min Woo Lee (14).
2016: Sam Horsfield (1); Doug Ghim (6); Dylan Meyer (12); Joaquin Niemann (12); Cameron Champ (18); Wyndham Clark (20).
2015: Robby Shelton (1); Jordan Niebrugge (3); Sam Horsfield (3); Aaron Wise (3); Ryan Ruffels (8).
2014: Doug Ghim (1); Bryson DeChambeau (2); Xander Schauffele (3); Dou Zecheng (7); Lucas Herbert (7); Scottie Scheffler (10); Beau Hossler (10); CT Pan (13).
2013: Patrick Rodgers (1); Carlos Ortiz (2); Jordan Niebrugge (3); Sebastian Cappelen (7); Robby Shelton (7); Keith Mitchell (13); Beau Hossler (13); Talor Gooch (13).
2012: Justin Thomas (3); Abraham Ancer (3); Zac Blair (9); Brandon Stone (10); Mac Hughes (13); CT Pan (13); Max Homa (13);
2011: Patrick Rodgers (2); Jordan Spieth (3); Emiliano Grillo (4); Derek Ernst (6); CT Pan (7); Peter Uihlein (7); Mac Hughes (9); Andrew Putnam (11); Patrick Cantlay (16); Russell Henley (18).
As you can see, the further back we go the better the talent looks; of course. This is because sometimes it takes a while to mature into the professional ranks.
Some amateur stars never even try while others, such as Jordan Niebrugge (mentioned twice above), don’t make an early impact and perhaps never will.
Chris Williams, for example, who won the Western Amateur in 2011 & 2012, turned pro with the highest of expectations but, sadly, never won and, even more tragically, last week announced his retirement from pro golf at just age 27.
However, my primary theme here is future successful pro talent.
22-y-o Collin Morikawa by now need no introduction and, after a stellar US Open and a 2nd & 4th in his past two PGA Tour events, may even grab his first win this week in Nevada. If not, it’s not far away.
20-y-o Aussie Min Woo Lee features in 2017 & 2018 above. He hits it a mile, made it through to the Web.com QSchool Final and has since finished 4th (Saudi Arabia) & 5th (Perth) on the European Tour this year along with meritorious Top30’s at: Valderrama, Qatar & the Volvo China Open.
20-y-o Chilean Joaquin Niemann also features twice above. On the PGA Tour, where he earned his card after just 8 pro starts! he’s notched 3xTop10’s in his past five starts and it’s only a matter of time before be breaks through for his first win. Interestingly, he was denied college entry in USA after failing an English language proficiency test; it was surely that college’s loss;
21-y-o Doc Redman is fast becoming well-known. Since turning pro in 2018 he’s grabbed a MacKenzie Tour card in Canada, snagged a Top20 in the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship then a 2nd in the Rocket Mortgage and last week was 20th in the Open Championship! Progression indeed! Watch out for him on the Fall Swing and beyond;
Deeper, looking for guys in those 2017 & 2018 Western Amateur top 20’s who are now pro’s and may win sometime soon, hopefully at decent odds, I have so far flagged the following:
- 23-y-o Patrick Flavin (who has been making his way on PGA Tour Latinoamerica and recently won the Bupa Matchplay there);
- Stanford’s Brandon Wu, who I expect to turn pro soon, made the cut at the US Open this year (+1 285 at Pebble Beach);
- 22-y-o Nick Hardy, who finished 3rd in 2017, has played on various tours, including made cuts in the PGA Tour’s John Deere & Barracuda. He won last month on the Adams Tour (Supreme Lending classic) and I expect his confidence and comfort level to rise over the next year or so;
- 22-y-o William Gordon who was 9th in 2017 was 4th in the 2018 US Amateur stroke play and then a losing match play quarter-finalist. He’s joined the MacKenzie Tour with just one missed cut and placed 28th in his only Korn Ferry start (Utah). I expect his talent to shine through over the next year or so.
Cheers and good luck with all your golf gambling involvement.
Ⓒ Copyright MJ Miller (Mike) 26 July 2019.