ROLAND, Ark. (WesternAmateur.com) – The nation's two top-ranked amateur golfers – both members of Alabama's 2013 NCAA national championship team – will lead an impressive field into the 111th Western Amateur July 29-Aug. 4 at The Alotian Club.
No. 1 Bobby Wyatt and No. 2 Justin Thomas, who anchored the Crimson Tide's victory in the NCAA finals June 2, are among 13 of the world's top 20 amateurs who already have committed to play in the championship. They will be joined by two former Western Junior champions: No. 7-ranked Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, who won the Junior in 2010, and No. 9 Cory Whitsett, 2008 Junior champion and a member of the Alabama juggernaut. Rankings are according to Scratch Players Amateur Golf Rankings.
In another measure of the Western Amateur's traditionally strong field, at least five of the amateurs competing in this week's U.S. Open at Merion East have committed to play at Alotian: No. 8-ranked Max Homa, No. 11 Michael Kim, No. 24 Michael Weaver – all teammates at Cal – as well as No. 49 Steven Fox, last year's U.S. Amateur champion, and No. 318-ranked Gavin Hall, who at age 18 is the youngest player in the field this week.
Last year's Western Amateur champion, No. 3-ranked Chris Williams, also is playing as an amateur in the U.S. Open this week, but plans to turn pro shortly thereafter.
"The Western Golf Association is very pleased with the way this year's Western Amateur field is shaping up," said Vince Pellegrino, vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association (WGA). "The players are very excited to be coming to The Alotian Club, because they have heard so much about it. Year in and year out the Western Amateur has one of the top two or three fields in the world, and this year is proving to be no different."
For Little Rock businessman Warren Stephens, founder of The Alotian Club, the field is just what he was expecting when he invited the WGA to bring the 2013 Western Amateur to Arkansas.
"I think this field is shaping up to be world-class in every aspect," Stephens said. "The people who come to The Alotian Club this summer to attend the 111th Western Amateur will be impressed by the level of competition."
This year will be the first time the Western Amateur has been contested in the state of Arkansas, and it is the first time since 1966 that it has been played in the South. It also is the first time The Alotian Club has hosted a major competition.
"We at the Western Golf Association are looking forward to seeing how the best amateurs in the world fare against a golf course that, shortly after it opened in 2005, Golf Digest installed among the top-tier courses in the nation," Pellegrino said. "We believe this is going to be a fantastic championship."
Founded in the Chicago area in 1899, the Western Amateur brings with it the rich traditions of golf, symbolized most dramatically by its who's-who of past champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange and Alotian Club member Steve Melynk.
The Western Amateur's 156-man field consistently ranks among the top three in the world along with the British Amateur and U.S. Amateur. Contestants come from all over the globe. Last year's field included players from 34 states and 11 countries, including the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Finland, Germany, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa.
In addition to attracting international players, the 2013 championship will have a strong local flavor with five Arkansas residents already in the field, among them: former Western Amateur champion Patrick Lee (1995) of Centerton; Austin Cook of Jonesboro and Joe Doramus, both members of the Arkansas Razorbacks golf team, and Little Rock's Alex Carpenter, a golf team member at Abilene Christian in Texas, who will compete in this year's prestigious Palmer Cup. Former Arkansas Razorback Ethan Tracy won the 2011 Western Amateur and has since turned professional.
The Alotian Club is ranked No. 14 on Golf Digest's biennial ranking of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses." It also was named by Golf Digest as the best new private course in the country in 2005. Widely renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio designed the course. The course measures 7,480 yards from the championship tees, plays 6,780 yards from member tees and 5,385 yards from forward tees. The course's signature trait is elevation change, the most dramatic coming at the sixth hole with a 100-foot drop from the tee to green.
For The Alotian Club, hosting the 111th Western Amateur championship will provide a high-profile platform to showcase the course's beauty and challenging design while also highlighting the club's support of caddies and the WGA's Evans Scholars Foundation, which grants college scholarships to deserving caddies.
"Caddies are an integral part of the history and tradition of golf. That's why I wanted a caddie program at The Alotian Club," Stephens explained. "Since 1930, the Chick Evans Scholarship Program has sent 10,000 caddies to college, including two from The Alotian Club who are attending Northwestern University today. Hosting a first class competition and supporting scholarships for caddies made the decision to welcome the Western Amateur to Arkansas an easy one."
The Western Amateur championship has from its inception been regarded as one of the major amateur golf events in the world. Only the British Amateur (1885) and the U.S. Amateur (1895) are older.
While today's Western Amateur is among the elite events of the current era, the tournament's rich heritage connects today's players with many of the all-time greats of the game. With more than a century of history, the Amateur's roster of past champions and participants reads like a Who's Who of American golf.
Past champions include such venerable names as eight-time winner Charles "Chick" Evans Jr., Francis Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Andy North, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Scott Verplank, Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard, Ryan Moore and Tiger Woods. Runners up and stroke-play medalists include such current and former PGA TOUR players as Ben Curtis, Jason Gore, Jay Haas, Tom Kite, Rocco Mediate, Gil Morgan, Mark O'Meara, Chris Riley, Camilo Villegas, and Tom Watson. The legendary Bobby Jones was stroke play medalist in 1920.
A combination of stroke play and match play competition, the Western Amateur can be the most demanding event in professional or amateur golf.
Competition includes two 18-hole stroke play rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by a cut to the players with the low 44 scores and ties. Those who make the cut then play 18 holes of stroke play on Thursday and 18 holes on Friday, with the low 16 advancing to match play on Saturday. Qualifying for the Western Amateur's "Sweet 16" match play competition is one of the treasured accomplishments each year among the world's top-ranked amateurs. The first two rounds of 18-hole match play on Saturday narrow the field to four semifinalists, who compete in a pair of 18-hole matches on Sunday morning. Winners of the two morning matches then play in the 18-hole championship match Sunday afternoon.
2013 Western Amateur Daily Schedule*
Monday, July 29 Player Registration/Practice Rounds
Tuesday, July 30 First Round, Stroke Play
Wednesday, July 31 Second Round, Stroke Play (cut to low 44 and ties)
Thursday, Aug. 1 Third Round of Stroke Play
Friday, Aug. 2 Final Round of Stroke Play (cut to low 16)
Saturday, Aug. 3 First Two Rounds of Match Play
Sunday, Aug. 4 Semifinal and Championship Rounds of Match Play
*Schedule subject to change