122. Joe Long Wins The 125th Amateur Championship

Monday 31st August 2020

Joe LONG (ENG) won the 2020 Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale G.C. yesterday beating Joe HARVEY (ENG) 4&3 in the 36 hole Final.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year’s Championship was postponed from June and limited to a single venue. More importantly the field was reduced from the normal 288 players to 120. The countries represented fell from 34 in 2019 to just 13 this year and 75 or 63% of the players ultimately came from Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) lowering the overall quality.

Strong winds and heavy rain on the opening day saw the stroke play qualifying reduced to 18 holes. Stroke play qualifying was introduced in 1983 and this was the first time in 37 years that The R&A have been unable to complete the full 36 holes.

Given the above it would not have been a major surprise to see an outsider pick up the title. The R&A will therefore be delighted that one of the leading amateurs in the world came through their demanding Amateur test.

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Joe Long (Photo: Richard Heathcote / The R&A / R&A via Getty Images)

Joe Long became the 51st Englishman to win the Championship following most recently in the footsteps of Harry Ellis who won at Royal St George’s in 2017.

The Lansdown G.C. member secured exemptions into the Open, Masters Tournament and US Open in 2021.

With the match starting in 250 days time in May 2021 Joe also guaranteed a place in the GB&I Walker Cup Team. His performances over the last 12 months had probably already assured him of selection so the result has in no way weakened the team.

Joe started the week in Lancashire ranked 102nd and 31st in the WAGR and SPWAR respectively so he was clearly one of the favourites for the title. Long jumped up to 65th and 5th in the WAGR and SPWAR following his victory.

In addition to runner-up Joe Harvey (ENG), Mark POWER (IRL) and Jake BOLTON (ENG), who reached the Semi-Finals, and Callan BARROW (ENG) and Barclay BROWN (ENG), who made the Quarter Finals, all raised their 2021 Walker Cup profiles.

Click here for more information on – The Amateur Championship – 2020 Preview, Reports & Results (GolfBible)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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121. Tyler Strafaci Wins The 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship

17th August 2020

Tyler STRAFACI, 22, won the 120th U.S. Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes G.C. yesterday beating Charles ‘Ollie’ OSBORNE, 20, by 1 Hole in the Final.

Along with exemptions into the 2021 U.S. Masters Tournament, the 2021 U.S. Open Championship at Torrey Pines and the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s (if he remains an amateur) the win also secures Strafaci a place on the USA’s 2021 Walker Cup team.

Strafaci, a rising 5th year at Georgia Tech University, has enjoyed an impressive summer winning both the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst and more recently the Palmetto Amateur.

He started the year ranked 27th in the SPWAR but has risen to 2nd by winning the amateur game’s most prestigious event. He started the week ranked 56th in the WAGR but will obviously move into the top 20 when this ranking is updated on Wednesday.

Strafaci was selected for the 16-man 2019 USA practice squad which met up at Seminole G.C. on December 14-18th 2018. However, he failed to make the final 10-man team that travelled to Hoylake.

Hailing from Davie, near Fort Lauderdale, in Florida Strafaci’s family home is a short distance from Seminole, the venue of the next May’s match.

All in all this appears a great result for the USGA and captain Nathanial Crosby who was on hand to watch the final in Oregon. Strafaci is an experienced player who has been at the top of the amateur game for a few years now, has clearly found a little extra this summer and also brings with him the added bonus of local interest (as well as prior knowledge of Seminole) to the match.

Tyler Strafaci With The Havemayer Trophy (Photo: Steve Gibbons / USGA)

With the USGA still committed to including a mid-amateur on their team Stewart HAGESTAD, 29, now also looks certain to make his third consecutive Walker Cup appearance.

Hagestad reached the Quarter Finals in Oregon losing to the eventual champion by 1 Hole.

With the 2020 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship cancelled earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic there are now few other major opportunities for mid-amateurs to shine before the USA team is confirmed in April 2021.

Hagestad has been working in finance and is about to start an MBA course at the University of Southern California. Ranked 41st on the SPWAR and a slightly inflated 15th on WAGR, even before this week’s Championship, it would be hard for anyone to dispute his potential inclusion.

Click here for more information on the – 2020 U.S. Amateur Championship – Preview, Reports & Results (GolfBible)

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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120. The PGA Tour University Program Is Introduced

5th June 2020

On 1st June 2020 the PGA Tour announced its new PGA Tour University program.

The program is designed to improve the pathway for leading U.S. College golfers on to one of the PGA Tour’s satellite tours, namely the Korn Ferry Tour, Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and PGA TOUR Series – China.

A PGA Tour University Ranking is to be introduced for NCAA Division I golfers from all countries who are completing their fourth year in college.

This Ranking will be based on the World Amateur Golf Ranking methodology and will only include NCAA Division I Men’s Golf events, official PGA Tour events and Major Championship performances in the preceding two years.

Performances in other leading amateur events, such as the Western Amateur, St. Andrews Links Trophy, European Amateur or South Beach International Amateur, will not be of assistance to a player in this Ranking.

Each player will also have to compete in a minimum of nine events, including the NCAA Division I Men’s Regional Championship, during their final Senior year.

The first PGA Tour University Ranking will be unveiled prior to the 2020-21 Division I season commencing with weekly updates provided every Thursday during the season.

Starting from 2021 the leading 5 players on the the final PGA Tour University Ranking List, produced after the conclusion of the NCAA Men’s Division I Golf Championship (normally early June), will be awarded full tour membership of the Korn Ferry Tour. Players finishing 6th to 15th will be entitled to play on one of the three other International Tours. From here players will eventually hope to finish in the top 25 on the Korn Ferry Tour’s annual points list to earn promotion to the PGA Tour.It will be interesting to see how the PGA Tour University program affects players’ attitudes towards the Walker Cup and the selection of teams in the coming years.

The PGA Tour have clearly given some thought to this. Within their FAQ’s they state that if a top 15 PGA Tour University ranked player wishes to remain amateur to be considered for that year’s Walker Cup (or World Amateur Team Championship) they must declare this in writing to the PGA Tour within three days following the release of the final list. They will then be able to participate in tournaments as a non-member prior to these major amateur competitions. I assume they will be allocated order of merit points in the normal way so they are not disadvantaged by doing so. Thereafter, players will have 10 days following the conclusion of these amateur events to join the Tours they are eligible for membership of.

The emergence of a new ranking, highlighting the players that the PGA Tour considers best suited to fast tracking in to their own tournaments, may also produce a different dynamic for the two team Walker Cup selection committees, particularly the USGA, with the USA likely to have more players in the top 15 (and 25) than GB&I.

The PGA Tour University program appears to be an important new development for the elite amateur game and is therefore worth keeping an eye on with regard to its future impact on the Walker Cup.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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119. The 2020 World Amateur Team Championships Are Cancelled

6th May 2020

The International Golf Federation today announced the cancellation of the 2020 Men’s and Women’s World Amateur Team Championships.

Both events had already been moved to Singapore in February due to the social unrest in Hong Kong but have now fallen victim to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The men’s Eisenhower Trophy competition had been scheduled from October 21-24 and was due to feature up to 72 countries in a 72 hole stroke play competition.

As three-man team’s from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales would all have been competing the cancellation represents another blow to Great Britain & Ireland’s 2021 Walker Cup preparation and selection plans.

Whilst USA would also have been competing the loss is probably not as great to them as they will only miss out on blooding three of their leading players.

No one has yet suggested that the 48th Walker Cup will not be played as scheduled but with just a year to go there must now be some doubt as to whether the world will have returned to sufficient normality for the match to proceed as currently planned.

Seminole Golf Club (Photo © Carlos Amoedo)

In other news this week 2021 host venue Seminole Golf Club in Florida has agreed to stage the TaylorMade Driving Relief on 17th May. This two-man match featuring Rory McIlroy & Dustin Johnson playing Rickie Fowler & Matthew Wolff has been planned to benefit U.S. COVID-19 relief efforts.

The event will be aired live from 7-11 p.m. (BST) on Sky Sports in the UK and will give the watching public its first proper glimpse of the famed course. It’s a shame the event will steal some of the Walker Cup’s thunder in this regard but hopefully it will go some way to whetting the appetite for more next year.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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118. The 2020 St. Andrews Trophy Match Is Cancelled

22nd April 2020

The R&A and European Golf Association have announced the cancellation of the St Andrews Trophy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biennial international match between 9-man teams from Great Britain and Ireland and Continent of Europe was scheduled to take place at Royal Porthcawl on 23-24 July 2020.

The Continent of Europe were defending the St. Andrews Trophy having won it 15.5-9.5 at Linna Golf in Finland in 2018.

The match will next be played at Penati in Slovakia on 21-22 July 2022.

Royal Porthcawl G.C. (Photo: golfadvisor.com)

The cancellation, which had become inevitable in recent weeks, adds to the difficulties GB&I were already seeking to overcome in preparing for the 2021 Walker Cup match.

The Walker Cup is being contested next year at Seminole, Florida on 8-9 May so the GB&I selectors were faced with the prospect of having to choose a team without the normal benefit of having seen all of their players compete throughout the European amateur season.

The COVID-19 pandemic has now added to the challenge as it appears they are unexpectedly also going to lose out on evidence from a great deal of the 2020 season.

The copycat St. Andrews Trophy event, played in alternate years to the Walker Cup, provides an excellent early opportunity for GB&I to build team spirit and develop foursomes partnerships against top class opposition so represents a particular loss.

The 2020 St. Andrews Trophy match was also set to be Stuart Wilson’s first outing as GB&I men’s team captain.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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117. Stuart Wilson Appointed GB&I Walker Cup Captain For 2021

19th December 2019

Scotland’s Stuart WILSON (42) was today announced as the new captain of the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) men’s golf team.

Wilson is the Managing Secretary of Forfar G.C., the club he represented with distinction as a player for many years. He becomes the second GB&I captain to come from Forfar G.C., following in the footsteps of Sandy Saddler who led the team in 1977.

Stuart is married with two children.

His first match in charge will be against Continent of Europe in the St. Andrews Trophy which is being staged at Royal Porthcawl G.C. on 23-24 July 2020.

He will then captain the GB&I team against United States of America at the 48th Walker Cup match on 8-9 May 2021 at Seminole G.C. in Florida.

In all likelihood Wilson will also take in the 2022 St. Andrews Trophy before having the honour of captaining the GB&I Walker Cup team in his home country when the match returns to St. Andrews in 2023.

Stuart Wilson (Photo: carnoustiecountry.com)

The highlight of Wilson’s playing career was his victory in the 2004 Amateur Championship at St Andrews where he beat Lee Corfield 4&3 in the 36 hole final. He overcame Francesco Molinari 3&1 in the quarter finals in the same year.

A few weeks later he went on to win the low amateur Silver Medal at the Open Championship at Royal Troon when he finished tied 63rd. In his only other appearance at The Open he missed the cut at Royal Lytham & St. Annes’s in 2001 having come through qualifying.

In 2003 Wilson won the Lytham Trophy by 4-shots and was subsequently selected  for that year’s Walker Cup side at Ganton. GB&I won 12.5-11.5 with Stuart contributing two points from his four games; one and half of them coming with fellow Scotsman David Inglis in an unbeaten foursomes partnership.

A graduate of Abertay University in Dundee Wilson also represented GB&I in the Palmer Cup in 2001 and 2002, USA winning both matches.

Wilson has plenty of team captaincy experience firstly with Scotland Boys, then at the Junior Ryder Cup and most recently with GB&I Boys. However, he has found victories hard to come by to date.

USA beat Europe in both the 2012 and 2014 Junior Ryder Cup matches, firstly 14.5-9.5 at Olympia Fields C.C. and then 8-16 at Blairgowrie G.C.

In the Jacques Léglise Trophy Continent of Europe have twice beaten GB&I at home, at Ballybunion G.C. in 2017 and Aldeburgh G.C. in 2019 with Wilson’s team winning away at Kytäjä Golf, Finland in 2018.

Commenting upon his appointment Wilson said “I am very proud to be selected as the GB&I men’s team captain and look forward to leading a talented group of golfers at the St Andrews Trophy and the Walker Cup.”

“I have fond memories of my time as a player representing GB&I in these prestigious matches and I am determined to make a valuable contribution to the team as its leader and in helping the players.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on The R&A Boys’ Selection Committee and know first-hand the level of talent which is emerging. It feels like a very natural progression to be taking on this role to continue to foster these gifted amateur golfers.”

Stuart Wilson succeeds fellow Scot Craig Watson. Unfortunately for Craig he was unable to find the winning formula during his term of office.

GB&I currently hold neither the St Andrews Trophy or Walker Cup and with Continent of Europe seemingly getting stronger by the year and an away Walker Cup coming up in USA captain Nathanial Crosby’s back yard Wilson certainly has a big job on his hands. I wish him the best of luck.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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116. Nathanial Crosby Re-appointed USA Walker Cup Captain For 2021

25th October 2019

Nathaniel Crosby, who turns 58 on 29th October, has been re-appointed as captain of the USA Walker Cup team for the 2021 match which will be played at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida.

Crosby was always expected to be given the now customary second term after leading his USA team to a 15.5-10.5 away victory at Royal Liverpool G.C. last month and given the fact he lives close to and is a member of the famed Seminole club.

Upon confirming the captaincy Stuart Francis, USGA Championship Committee chairman, said “Nathaniel’s previous Walker Cup experience and guidance proved to be the right mix to lead the 2019 team to victory. Our players experienced life lessons from a true gentleman and competitor and we are excited to have him lead the team again at Seminole.”

Nathaniel Crosby (© USGA / Simon Dale)

“The 2019 Walker Cup experience was an unbelievable journey from start to finish, and I am honored to be allowed to once again guide an outstanding group of young men in 2021” said Crosby.

In an interview with the Silver Club Golfing Society Podcast on 16th September 2019, shortly after returning home from England, he spoke in more detail about the possibility of being re-appointed for 2021, saying, “It would be an incredible privilege to be picked again. I know that has been a tradition with the USGA over the last three decades. I worry about a (former) player or two who could be passed over. The funny thing about Seminole is that if you’re a Walker Cup captain you are one of ten people. I don’t even want to think about it and the possibilities at this point. It’s a definite commitment of time and effort and I don’t know how any experience could match what’s just happened for me. That being said I don’t want to take myself out of the running ! This privilege was a lifelong memory and a highlight of my life. It would be greedy to want another one.”

The 48th Walker Cup Match is scheduled for 8th – 9th May 2021 and will mark the first time that the biennial team competition will be held in the spring in the U.S.

ME.

Copyright © 2015-2019, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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