12 Aussies line up for prestigious Western Amateur

The Western Amateur gets underway this week at the Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, Illinois, north of Chicago.

Sunset Ridge features tight fairways and fast, pure bent grass greens. Shot placement is critical in order to score and it is always wise to stay below the pin on the greens.

Min Woo Lee Min Woo Lee (Credit: Anthony Powter)

The 18 hole layout stretches just under 6217 metres from the Championship tees. Sunset Ridge was the last private club on Chicago’s North Shore to host the Western Open, now known as the BMW Championship, in 1972.

The Western Amateur was founded in 1899, making it the third-oldest amateur championship behind the British Amateur and US Amateur and arguably one of the most prestigious national tournaments in the world. 156 invited players come from across the globe to play one of the toughest formats in amateur golf.

The field will play two rounds of 18 holes of individual stroke play after which the field will be cut to the low 44 scores and ties. Those remaining will play 36 holes of individual stroke play to determine the low 16 finishers. The “Sweet Sixteen” will compete at Match Play this Friday and Saturday to decide the champion.

Twelve Australians were invited to play this week headed by Min Woo Lee, who last year advanced to the quarter-finals at Skokie Country Club. Josh Armstrong, who just recently qualified for the US Amateur along with Blake Windred enter the tournament with plenty of confidence.

Other Aussies include Karl Vilips, who has also performed superbly this season in the US, Haydn Barron, Kyle Michel, Matias Sanchez, Shae Wools-Cobb, Charie Dann, Nathan Barbieri, Zach Murray and Jediah Morgan.

World No. 1 ranked amateur under the Scratch Player’s system, Braden Thornberry, headlines the field while No. 3 Collin Morikawa of California and No. 6 Chandler Phillips of Texas A&M will also compete.

Thornberry was a three time winner in 2017 taking out the Sunnehanna Amateur, Jones Cup and was the NCAA D1 National champion. Thornberry recently tied for fourth at the PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Four players who made the Top-16 match play last year are back in the field. Lee advanced to the quarterfinals, while Americans Brad Dalke, of Norman, Oklahoma, Will Gordon, of Davidson, North Carolina, and John Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, all lost in the first round of match play.

Defending champion Norman Xiong, of Canyon Lake, California, turned professional after his sophomore season at Oregon.

A review of the tournament’s history reveals its storied history. The Western Amateur’s ‘Sweet-16′ have seen 27 major champions since 2000, 18 PGA Tour Player of the Year Awards since 1990 and 23 wins during the 2017 PGA TOUR season and 8 of the top-20 on the PGA Tour career money list.