The U.S. Amateur Championship was born in 1895 because of a controversy. In 1894, two clubs - Newport (R.I.) Golf Club and New York's St. Andrew's Golf Club - had conducted invitational tournaments to attract the nation's top amateur players.
Newport's stroke play tournament was won by club member W.G. Lawrence, who triumphed over a field of 20 competitors. The match-play competition at St. Andrews attracted 27 golfers and was won by Laurence Stoddart, of the host club.
Both clubs proclaimed their winners as the national champion. Clearly, golf needed a national governing body to conduct national championships, develop a single set of rules for all golfers to follow, and to promote the best interests of the game. With that, representatives from five clubs founded the USGA on Dec. 22, 1894.
As a result, in 1895, its first full year of operation, the USGA conducted Amateur, Open, and Women's Amateur Championships. The Amateur and Open Championships were conducted at Newport Golf Club during the same week of October and Charles B. Macdonald became the first U.S. Amateur Champion.
The Amateur Championship is the oldest golf championship in this country - one day older than the U.S. Open. Except for an eight-year period, from 1965-72, when it was stroke play, the Amateur has been a match-play championship.
Over the years, as interest in the game grew and the number of quality players increased, it became necessary to establish a national handicapping system to determine who was eligible to compete in the Amateur. The USGA's first national handicap list, which was published for the 1912 Championship, was the forerunner of the present-day USGA Golf Handicap System.
Throughout its history, the U.S. Amateur has been the most coveted of all amateur titles. Many of the great names of professional golf, such as Gene Littler, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Craig Stadler, Jerry Pate, Mark O'Meara, Hal Sutton, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, grace the Havemeyer Cup.
It was, however, longtime amateur Robert T. Jones Jr., who first attracted media coverage and spectator attendance at the Amateur Championship. Jones captured the championship five times (1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930). His 1930 victory was a stunning moment in golf history when, at Merion Cricket Club in Ardmore, Pa., Jones rounded out the Grand Slam, winning the four major American and British championships in one year.
Sixty-six years later, in 1996, Tiger Woods of Cypress, Calif., attracted similar interest and enthusiasm when he won a record third straight U.S. Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore.
In 1994, Woods, at 18, had first entered the record book as the youngest ever to win the Amateur Championship. In 1996, he smashed yet another record when he won, having registered 18 consecutive match-play victories.