U.S. Amateur Stroke Play: 9 Groups to Watch
August 13, 2017 | Pacific Palisades, Calif.
By Michael Trostel, USGA
The 117th U.S. Amateur will be the second of three USGA championships in a five-week stretch played in Southern California, following the U.S. Women’s Amateur at San Diego Country Club (Aug. 7-13) and concluding with the Walker Cup Match at The Los Angeles Country Club (Sept. 9-10). This championship will be conducted at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, with Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles serving as the stroke play co-host. Both clubs were designed by George C. Thomas Jr. in the mid-1920s and each has hosted two previous USGA championships.
Fifty-one of the 312 competitors are from California, the most of any state. If one of them wins, he would be the first player to hoist the Havemeyer Trophy in his home state since Bay Area resident Nathaniel Crosby won at The Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1981.
Stroke play takes place Monday, Aug. 14 and Tuesday, Aug. 15, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play, which begins on Aug. 16. Here are nine groups to watch for the first two rounds of stroke play (All times PDT):
Stewart Hagestad, Scottie Scheffler, Alfie Plant (Monday, Riviera, No. 1, 8:45 a.m.; Tuesday, Bel Air, No. 10, 2 p.m.)
This group features the low amateurs from the first three professional major championships of the year. Hagestad (T-36, Masters) is also the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and qualified for the 2017 U.S. Open. He will be competing this week without his normal set of golf clubs, which were stolen from his Newport Beach, Calif., driveway just a week before the start of the championship. Scheffler (T-27, U.S. Open) birdied the 72nd hole to edge Cameron Champ for low-amateur honors at Erin Hills in June. His sister, Callie, who has caddied for him in the past two U.S. Opens, will once again be on the bag this week. Plant (T-62, The Open Championship) was a sensation at Royal Birkdale, where supporters turned out in droves, donning “Team Alfie” hats and shirts to cheer on the Englishman.
Brad Dalke, Nick Carlson, Jonah Texeira (Monday, Riviera, No. 10, 7:21 a.m.; Tuesday, Bel Air, No. 1, 12:36 p.m.)
This trio of semifinalists from the 2016 U.S. Amateur includes last year’s runner-up, Dalke, who led the University of Oklahoma to a national title this spring. He played in the Masters and U.S, Open earlier this year, missing the cut in both. Carlson, who was born in Michigan and plays for the Wolverines, was a clear fan favorite at Oakland Hills last year, where he fist-pumped his way into the semis before losing to eventual champion Curtis Luck in 21 holes. Texeira will look to play that role this year, as the senior from USC and resident of the San Fernando Valley will be sure to have his own rooting section at Riviera and Bel-Air.
Doug Ghim, Cameron Champ, Norman Xiong (Monday, Riviera, No. 10, 8:34 a.m.; Tuesday, Bel Air, No. 1, 1:49 p.m.)
Champ (No. 8 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking) introduced himself to the world at the U.S. Open in June, where he was tied for eighth through 36 holes. Xiong (No. 9) moved up 22 spots in the WAGR by virtue of his victory in last week’s Western Amateur at Skokie Country Club. Ghim (No. 7) won the Pacific Coast Amateur at Chambers Bay in July and was the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up to Byron Meth.
Joaquin Niemann, Maverick McNealy, Braden Thornberry (Monday, Riviera, No. 1, 2 p.m.; Tuesday, Bel Air, No. 10, 8:45 a.m.)
The top three players in the WAGR will be under Hollywood’s bright lights during the first two rounds of the U.S. Amateur. Niemann (No. 1) won six times in 2016 and made the cut in the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic this July, where he shot a 64 in the final round to finish tied for 29th. McNealy (No. 2) won the 2016 Mark H. McCormack Gold Medal as the top-ranked amateur player and was a member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team. He finished tied for 44th in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, shooting all four rounds in the 60s. Thornberry (No. 3) won the NCAA Division I Individual Championship in June and finished tied for fourth the following week at the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
David Boote, Luis Gagne, Sahith Theegala (Monday, Riviera, No. 10, 1:39 p.m.; Tuesday, Bel Air, No. 1, 8:24 a.m.)
This group of 2016 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalists is led by Theegala, a junior at Pepperdine, who played in the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open at Riviera this February, finishing tied for 49th. He played with fellow Southern California native Phil Mickelson during the final two rounds. This group will start on Riviera’s famed short par-4 10th hole, which Theegala birdied twice in the Genesis Open. Boote and Gagne both fell, 3 and 2, in last year’s quarters at Oakland Hills, to Dalke and Texeira, respectively.
Noah Goodwin, Min Woo Lee, Philip Barbaree (Monday, Bel Air, No. 1, 8:55 a.m.; Tuesday, Riviera, No. 10, 2:10 p.m.)
The last three U.S. Junior Amateur champions – Goodwin (2017), Lee (2016) and Barbaree (2015) – will get to share their tales of glory to start the 2017 U.S. Amateur. Lee, of Australia, who recently finished runner-up in the Sahalee Players Championship and reached the quarterfinals of the Western Amateur, is the brother of Minjee Lee, the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion. Both Goodwin (4 down with eight holes to play) and Barbaree (5 down with eight to play) authored remarkable comebacks to win their respective U.S. Junior Amateur titles.
Dylan Meyer, Collin Morikawa, Scott Gregory (Monday, Bel Air, No. 10, 7:21 a.m.; Tuesday, Riviera, No. 1, 12:36 p.m.)
The players ranked Nos. 4-6 in the WAGR comprise this group. The bespectacled Meyer (No. 4) rode his deft short game to victory at the 2016 Western Amateur and to the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Amateur. Morikawa (No. 5) grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles and won the Trans-Mississippi Amateur in 2015, the Sunnehanna Amateur in 2016 and the Northeast Amateur in 2017. Gregory (No. 6), of England, won the 2016 Amateur Championship, conducted by the R&A.
Justin Suh, Corey Shaun, Roy Cootes (Monday, Bel Air, No. 1, 1:18 p.m.; Tuesday, Riviera, No. 10, 8:03 a.m.)
A group sure to draw plenty of local interest will be three standouts from nearby universities – Suh (USC), Shaun (UCLA) and Cootes (Pepperdine). Suh won the Western Intercollegiate in April. He also qualified as the No. 4 match-play seed at Oakland Hills in the 2016 U.S. Amateur, but lost in the first round. Shaun was recently named to the All-America Scholar Team, carrying a GPA of 3.2 or better and a scoring average of 76.0 or less. Cootes has nine top-10 finishes in his two years at Pepperdine.
Toto Gana, Harry Ellis, Zach Bauchou (Monday, Bel Air, No. 10, 12:57 p.m.; Tuesday, Riviera, No. 1, 7:42 a.m.)
After hitting their opening tee shots on Bel Air’s par-3 10th, Gana, Ellis and Bauchou will walk across the venerable club’s famed suspension bridge. The group should come in with plenty of confidence, as evidenced by noteworthy amateur titles won by each in 2017: Gana at the Latin America Amateur Championship; Ellis at The Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A; and Bauchou at last week’s Canadian Amateur.
Michael Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.