2011 U.S. Amateur Storylines


By Christina Lance
August 19, 2011

There are 42 states represented in the U.S. Amateur field: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. California has the most players in the field with 48. 

Sixteen countries are represented: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, El Salvador, England, Germany, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, the United States and Venezuela.

At age 14, Donny Hopoi, of Aiea, Hawaii, is the youngest player in the field. He will turn 15 on August 22, the first day of the championship. Randy Haag, 52, of Orinda, Calif., is the oldest player.

There are eight USGA champions in the field: Byeong-Hun An, 19, of Korea (2009 U.S. Amateur); Brad Benjamin, 24, of Rockford, Ill. (2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links); Jim Liu, 15, of Smithtown, N.Y. (2010 U.S. Junior Amateur); Corbin Mills, 21, of Easley, S.C. (2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links); Nathan Smith, 32, of Pittsburgh, Pa. (2003, 2009, 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur); Jordan Spieth, 18, of Dallas, Texas (2009, 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur); Peter Uihlein, 21, of Orlando, Fla. (2010 U.S. Amateur); and Cory Whitsett, 19, of Houston, Texas (2007 U.S. Junior Amateur).

There are also six USGA runners-up in the field: Chelso Barrett, 16, of Keene, N.H. (2011 U.S. Junior Amateur); Evan Beck, 20, of Virginia Beach, Va. (2008 U.S. Junior Amateur); David Chung, 21, of Fayetteville, N.C. (2006 U.S. Junior Amateur, 2010 U.S. Amateur); Derek Ernst, 21, of Clovis, Calif. (2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links); Todd Mitchell, 32, of Bloomington, Ill. (2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur); and Justin Thomas, 18, of Goshen, Ky. (2010 U.S. Junior Amateur).

Smith and Uihlein represented the USA at the 2009 Walker Cup Match, while Stiggy Hodgson, 20, of England competed for Great Britain and Ireland.

Patrick Cantlay, 19, of Los Alamitos, Calif.; Harris English, 22, of Thomasville, Ga.; Russell Henley, 22, of Macon, Ga.; Patrick Rodgers, 18, of Avon, Ind.; Smith; Uihlein; and Chris Williams, 20, of Moscow, Idaho, have been named to the 2011 USA Team. Biographical information on the 2011 USA Team members can be found by clicking here.

Hodgson; Tom Lewis, 20, of England; Jack Senior, 23, of England; and Michael Stewart, 21, of Scotland, will represent Great Britain and Ireland at the 2011 Match.

All three members of the USA Team at the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship are competing in this championship: Chung; Scott Langley, 22, of Manchester, Mo.; and Uihlein. Eleven other players have represented their home countries at the World Amateur Team Championship: Albin Choi, 19, of Canada (2010); Herbert Day, 21, of El Salvador (2006, 2010); Sean Einhaus, 21, of Germany (2006, 2008); Dylan Frittelli, 21, of South Africa (2008, 2010); Emiliano Grillo, 18, of Argentina (2008, 2010); Jeff Karlsson, 22, of Sweden (2010); Lewis (2010); Bryden Macpherson, 20, of Australia (2010); Cheng-Tsung Pan, 19, of Chinese Taipei (2006); Stewart (2010); and Eugene Wong, 20, of Canada (2010). 

Day, Grillo, Smith and Uihlein also competed in the 2010 Copa de las Americas.

Of the 21 Canadians competing in the championship, there are five members of Team Canada: Choi; Mitch Evanecz, 25; Mackenzie Hughes, 20; Mitch Sutton, 19; and WongSunil Jung, 18, is a member of Team Canada’s Developmental Squad.

Player Notes 

Herbie Aikens, 29, of Pembroke, Mass., started his own electrical business at age 20. His first project was a single electrical outlet for $267. His company now has more than 30 employees and conducted more than $8 million per year in business.

Adam Austreng, 24, of Green Bay, Wis., pitched a no-hitter in Little League All-Stars in 1999, giving up one walk in the last inning to lose a perfect game. He gave up baseball for golf his freshman year in high school.

Zachary Blair, 20, of Ogden, Utah, won the 2011 Pacific Northwest Golf Association Men’s Amateur Championship.

Jordan Burgess, 22, of Windsor, Colo., nearly lost both hands in a go-kart accident in 2005.

Stephen Carney, 21, of Tulsa, Okla., won the 2011 Southwestern Amateur.

Patrick Carter, 43, of Huntington, West Virginia, is a 16-time West Virginia Player of the Year and has won the West Virginia State Amateur Championship 12 times.

Alex Ching, 21, of Honolulu, Hawaii, only played one year of high school golf, focusing on tennis instead. He is a two-time state high school tennis doubles champion.

Albin Choi, 19, of Canada, won the 2010 Canadian Amateur Championship and the 2011 Monroe Invitational.

David Christian, 19, of Oconomowoc, Wis., has two close connections to this championship. He is working this summer as a caddie at Erin Hills, and his career-low round of 64 came at the 2010 Western Junior Championship, conducted at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club. Christian is a pre-med student at Georgetown University and opted not to play college golf so he could concentrate on his studies.

Will Collins, 22, of Salisbury, N.C., shot a 60 (including an outward-nine 26) at his U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier at Colonial Golf & Tennis Club in Harrisburg, Pa. His 36-hole qualifying score of 125 was the lowest among any of the sectional sites.

Michael Decker, 16, of Pebble Beach, Calif., is coached by Dave Phillips, co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute. He has had 31 holes-in-one at the Peter Hay Golf Course at Pebble Beach Resorts. Decker is also a basketball player, and was the starting shooting guard on his high school’s varsity team his sophomore year.

Preston Dembowiak, 22, of Summerfield, N.C., grew up 15 minutes away from the Erin Hills property, but moved to North Carolina around the time it opened. He played one of his first tournaments at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club at age 8. He won the 2011 Big South Championship while a student at Liberty University.

David DeNunzio, 25, of Jeannette, Pa., teamed with his twin brother, Ronald, to win the Fred Brand Foursomes Championship on May 25, 2011, the day before the death of their mother, Denise, following a five-year battle with brain cancer. David and Ronald were able to bring the trophy home for her to see before she passed away. (http://www.usga.org/news/2011/August/Emotional-Summer-For-DeNunzio-Twins/

Nate Dunn, 35, of Manchester, Iowa, has run three marathons.

Gene Elliott, 49, of West Des Moines, Iowa, suffered from heart arrhythmias in 2010 and was hospitalized eight times. He underwent an ablation procedure in June 2010. After losing much of last year to his recovery, he came back to win the 2011 Iowa Amateur.

Derek Ernst, 21, of Clovis, Calif., has limited vision in his right eye due to a childhood accident. While making a Valentine’s Day gift for his mother, a fragment of PVC pipe broke off, necessitating 10 stitches and leaving permanent scarring. He was the runner-up at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship held at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

Jack Fields, 21, of Southern Pines, N.C., won the 2011 North & South Amateur Championship and the Carolinas Open. He was also the runner-up at the 2011 North Carolina Open and the Young Carolinas Amateur. He earned Eagle Scout honors in 2008.

While in high school, Alex Franklin, 19, of San Rafael, Calif., coordinated a drive to collect used golf equipment and send it to the military stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a senior at the University of Florida, Nick Gilliam, 32, of Gainesville, Fla., won the 2001 NCAA Division I individual championship. The team, which included 2001 U.S. Amateur champion Bubba Dickerson and 1999 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Camilo Villegas, also won the team championship. Gilliam competed in the 2005 U.S. Open as a professional, but received his amateur reinstatement in October 2010.

Emiliano Grillo, 18, of Argentina, won the 2011 Terra Cotta Invitational. His most memorable golf experience is leading the field, including 2007 U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and Andres Romero, through 36 holes at the 2009 Argentina Open.

Randy Haag, 52, of Orinda, Calif., writes a blog about his golf experiences – www.randyhaag.com. He was the low amateur at the 2010 British Senior Open at Carnoustie and played in the 2011 U.S. Senior Open.

Stiggy Hodgson, 20, of England, found his first golf club in a dumpster.

Mackenzie Hughes, 20, of Canada, won the 2011 Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship.

Mike Ignasiak, 45, of Saline, Mich., is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He spent nine seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, appearing in the majors over four seasons. Ignasiak played college baseball at the University of Michigan with fellow future major-leaguers Jim Abbott and Barry Larkin.

Steven Irwin, 37, of Boulder, Colo., is the son of five-time USGA champion Hale Irwin. He is the vice president of Hale Irwin Golf Services.

Alex Kang, 21, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is the brother of two-time USGA champion Danielle Kang (2010, 2011 U.S. Women's Amateur).

Ryan Leahey, 26, of Orange, Conn., was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 12 and wears an insulin pump when he plays golf to control his blood sugar. He made his first hole-in-one five days after his diagnosis.

McLain Leberte, 21, of Huntsville, Ala., spent May and June of this year studying abroad at a university in Spain, where he learned to speak Spanish. He did not play golf at all during the time, but believes that the time away from the game gave him more focus and enthusiasm for it.

Tom Lewis, 20, of England, was the co-leader after the first round of the 2011 British Open Championship at Royal St. George’s and took low-amateur honors.

Jim Liu, 15, of Smithtown, N.Y., became the youngest male champion in USGA history when he won the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur at age 14. He broke by more than seven months the record held by Tiger Woods, who won the 1991 Junior Amateur at age 15.

Andrew Mason, 22, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., won the 2011 Pennsylvania Amateur and Philadelphia Open.

Andrew McCain, 17, of Australia, was born in Texas but moved to Australia three years ago. Right after moving to Australia, he undertook a complete overhaul of his golf swing.

Ryan McCarthy, 22, of Australia, suffered a dislocated shoulder during a surfing accident earlier this year and was unable to play golf for several months.

Mac McClung, 19, of Fremont, Calif., was born with bilateral clubfoot. He had several surgeries throughout his childhood to correct the condition.

Mitchell McLeroy, 20, of Mansfield, Texas, is a former competitive motocross racer.

Brad Miller, 21, of Timonium, Md., is the great-great-grandson of Jack Dunn, a Major League Baseball player in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the owner/manager of the then-minor-league Baltimore Orioles. Dunn is credited with discovering Babe Ruth, and the nickname "Babe" came from referring to Ruth as "Jack’s newest babe."

Mike Miller, 19, of Knollwood, N.Y., won the 2011 Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur. He is the great-nephew of Willie Turnesa, who won the 1938 and 1949 U.S. Amateurs.

Corbin Mills, 21, of Easley, S.C., followed his 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links victory with a win at the 2011 Players Amateur.

Todd Mitchell, 32, of Bloomington, Ill., was drafted by the New York Yankees as a shortstop and played two years of minor-league baseball. He was the runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur held at nearby Milwaukee Country Club.

Joseph Nichols, 38, of Little Rock, Ark., won the 2011 Arkansas State Golf Association Men’s Stroke Play Championship.

Cheng-Tsung Pan, 19, of Chinese Taipei, won the 2011 Azalea Amateur and qualified for this year's U.S. Open.

Bhavik Patel, 20, of Bakersfield, Calif., won the 2011 California State Amateur Championship.

John Peterson, 22, of Fort Worth, Texas, won the 2011 NCAA Division 1 individual championship, as well as the 2011 Jones Cup. He also finished second at the 2011 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational, having held the lead after each of the first three rounds.

Garren Poirier, 31, of Killington, Vt., plays for the Long Trail Brewers of the Upper Valley Hockey League during the winter. Also during the winter, he runs a steakhouse restaurant at the Killington Ski Resort.

Zachary Primavera, 21, of Lynn Haven, Fla., played for Team USA at the 2010 World University Golf Championship in Malaga, Spain. He had his first hole-in-one at age 11 at the golf course at Hickam Air Force Base near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, where his father, a Navy diver, was stationed.

Cody Proveaux, 17, of Leesville, S.C., won the 2011 Junior PGA Championship.

Garrett Rank, 23, of Canada, was a dual-sport athlete at the University of Waterloo, playing golf and hockey. He hopes to become a referee in the National Hockey League.

Marc Sambol, 22, of Dallas, Texas, is roommates with two-time USGA champion Colt Knost (2007 Amateur and Amateur Public Links).

Scottie Scheffler, 15, of Dallas, Texas, is most inspired by his friend, James Ragan, who is battling pediatric bone cancer. They teamed up earlier this year to win the Burke Cup at Corpus Christi (Texas) Country Club. James has a foundation named Triumph Over Kid Cancer (www.triumphoverkidcancer.org/about.html).

Jordan Spieth, 18, of Dallas, Texas, won the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur and joined Tiger Woods as the only players to win that championship multiple times. Spieth also won the 2009 Junior Amateur. Spieth made the cut at the 2010 and 2011 HP Byron Nelson Championship, tying for 16th in 2010.

Matthew Stieger, 20, of Australia, won the 2011 Australian Amateur Championship.

Tim Sundseth, 28, of Corvallis, Ore., and Alex Williams, 25, of Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y., were roommates and teammates at Oregon State University. Sundseth is the assistant golf coach at Oregon State, while Williams is the assistant golf coach at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Harold Varner III, 20, of Gastonia, N.C., won the 2011 North Carolina Amateur Match Play and Stroke Play Championships, making him the first person to win both titles.

Robbie Ziegler, 21, of Canby, Ore., closes his left eye while playing golf due to a surgery for a detached retina in 2010.

Storylines compiled by Christina Lance, coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at clance@usga.org 

 

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