The world’s best amateurs are at Knollwood Club in Lake Forest, Illinois competing for the Western Amateur title. For those unfamiliar with the Western Amateur, it is the Masters of amateur golf with only the top amateur golfers in the world getting an invite. The event spans the entire week and becomes a test of skill and endurance as tournament play runs from Tuesday through Saturday for the championship. Tuesday and Wednesday, the low 44 and any ties make the cut and earn 36 more holes of golf on Thursday. From there, a medalist is crowned and the low 16 players enter a match play bracket, squaring off against one another in single elimination play until a champion is crowned. In order to win a Western Amateur, a player has to play 144 holes of golf in 5 days. I’m tired just thinking about it.
Sam Horsfield kicked off this year’s Western Amateur with a bang, tying the Knollwood Club’s course record of 63 during Tuesday’s opening round. He cooled off Wednesday, shooting a 75 that dropped him to a tie for 1st. During Thursday’s 36-hole marathon, Horsfield blew away the field shooting scores of 67 and 64 on the tough setup for a 72-hole total of -15, 9 shots better than runner-up Michael DeMorat.
Horsfield will head into the match play portion today as the heavy favorite, but great players lurk such as soon to be Florida freshman Andy Zhang, Illinois standout Nick Hardy, Palmer Cup participant Doug Ghim, and LSU standout Eric Ricard.
I had heard about Sam Horsfield and seen his results before, but after seeing him hit two shots in person this morning, I was sold. Horsfield has “star” written all over him. the 19-year-old England native won 3 times in his freshman season, earning 1st team All-American honors and is rumored to be turning pro after this year’s U.S. Amateur. I caught him early in his third round and watched him stick a wedge shot to 10 feet on rock hard greens, narrowly missing the putt. He moved to the next tee where he pulled out a 3-iron, ripping one about 270 down the middle of the fairway. Tour game.
While neither were able to qualify for the match play portion of the event, two of Illinois’ best mid-amateurs, Andrew Price and Todd Mitchell, gave valiant efforts at this year’s event. Price fired opening rounds of 73-71 and backed it up with another 71 to start Thursday. Price needed to go low in the final round of stroke play to make the round of 16 and was on his way before a bad break on his 35th hole of the day cost him, resulting in a double bogey and missing the top 16 by two shots.
While Horsfield grabbed headlines in the first round, the story of the second round was Bloomington native Todd Mitchell, who backed up his opening 69 with a second-round 70 to sit in a tie for 3rd place. Mitchell played in the second-to-last group during Thursday’s final 36 and maintained his top-5 position after the third round before fading in the final and missing the top 16. While I am sure both are a little disappointed about the way their tournament ended, both put on tremendous performances considering they work for a living.
The tournament goes on
For Chicago area residents, it’s definitely worthwhile to go out to the Knollwood Club and take in the action on Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, and these kids are the future stars of the PGA Tour.
For those of you who aren’t in Chicago, follow the matches today and tomorrow online here.