Five to Watch: Round 1
August 15, 2016 | Bloomfield Township, Mich.
By David Shefter, USGA
For the next two days, 312 of the world’s elite amateurs will battle their nerves and two challenging layouts at Oakland Hills Country Club with the goal of earning one of the 64 available spots in match play, which begins on Wednesday. The objective for each competitor is to survive two stroke-play rounds and win six matches to hoist the prestigious Havemeyer Trophy on Sunday.
As Round 1 of stroke play commences on Monday, here are five storylines to watch:
Hook ‘Em Horns
Four of the five players who helped the University of Texas reach the championship match of the NCAA Division I Championship in June at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club are in the field. The lone exception is three-time U.S. Open qualifier Beau Hossler, who tore his labrum during the semifinals and has since turned professional.
Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, Ill., a semifinalist in the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur, went 3-0 for the Longhorns in match play. Gavin Hall, of Pittsford, N.Y., the runner-up in the recent Porter Cup, posted a 2-1 record. Scottie Scheffler, of Dallas, Texas, the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and a 2016 U.S. Open qualifier, only won one match during the NCAAs, but it came in the final against NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise. Taylor Funk, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., the son of 2009 U.S. Senior Open champion Fred Funk, played a riveting match in the final, losing in 21 holes to Sulman Raza, which ultimately gave the University of Oregon the national title. Funk went 1-2 in team match play that week.
Sam I Am
English-born Floridian Sam Horsfield entered the University of Florida last fall with huge expectations and he’s lived up to them thus far. Horsfield, who moved to the Orlando, Fla., area at a young age, was the recipient of the 2016 Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman. No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), Horsfield qualified for his second consecutive U.S. Open in June and he recently was the Western Amateur stroke-play medalist by nine strokes. He reached the final during the match-play portion, only to fall to Dylan Meyer, 3 and 1. Horsfield was selected to the 2015 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team, but withdrew a week before the competition for personal reasons.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Will Zalatoris’ 2015 competitive season was cut short last spring due to appendicitis. But the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur champion from Plano, Texas, has enjoyed a solid summer in 2016. The Wake Forest University junior won last month’s Pacific Coast Amateur at Seattle Golf Club and the Trans-Mississippi Amateur at The Olympic Club. Zalatoris also advanced to the Round of 32 (2015) and the Round of 16 (2014) in the last two U.S. Amateurs.
Last year, only one mid-amateur (Todd Mitchell) advanced as far as the Round of 16. It’s been 11 years since anyone in the 25-and-older set has reached the semifinals (Austin Eaton III) and 18 years since there’s been a mid-amateur finalist (Tom McKnight). The last mid-amateur to win was John Harris in 1993. But Scott Harvey, 38, of Greensboro, N.C., enters the championship as the top mid-amateur in the WAGR at No. 70. A member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team and winner of the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur, Harvey has shown his wares against younger fields, winning the 2015 South American Amateur (runner-up in 2016) and finishing third in last month’s Porter Cup (low mid-amateur).
China’s Title Hopes
Asian players have enjoyed plenty of recent success in the U.S. Amateur, with Korean-born Danny Lee, of New Zealand (2008), Byeong-Hun An (2009) and Gunn Yang (2014) taking home the Havemeyer Trophy in the last eight years. Cheng Jin, 18, of the People’s Republic of China, could give his country its first U.S. Amateur champion. Last fall, Jin, No. 8 in the WAGR, won the rain-shortened Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship to earn an invitation to this year’s Masters. In November 2014, Jin won the Nine Dragons Open on PGA Tour China, becoming the first amateur to earn a title on that circuit. He plans to enroll at the University of Southern California this fall.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.