US Amateur Ready to Kick Off Monday

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2004 U.S. AmateurThe U.S. Amateur will probably have to go a few years before it has a championship like last year. That one went to a playoff with Australian Nick Flanagan finally defeating Casey Wittenberg on the first extra hole.
 
This year neither Flanagan nor Wittenberg will be there, both having turned professional during the past year. But the Amateur has plenty of talent to replace them at this years matches, scheduled August 16-22 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Winged Foot has two 18s, the East Course and the West Course, and both will be put into play during the week.

Flanagan, last years winner, was the second Australian winner in the last 100 years. He built a 4-up lead before Wittenberg rallied to tie the match. Flanagan, a former soccer player, began playing golf on a serious basis just six years prior to his Amateur victory.
 
Following two days of stroke play Monday, Aug. 16, and Tuesday, Aug. 17, the field of 312 golfers will be reduced to the lowest 64 scorers, who will advance to match play. All matches are 18 holes except the final match. The 36-hole championship final match is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 22.
 
No past champion who is fully exempt for the U.S. Amateur championship has entered. Each of the winners over the past 10 years who would have been exempt has turned professional. However, several quarterfinalists return, including Patrick Carter of Lesage, W.Va., Lee Williams of Alexander City, Ala., and George Zahringer of New York, N.Y.

Six men who have won past USGA championships are fully exempt for the 2004 U.S. Amateur. They include Ryan Moore, 2002 and 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links; Kemp Richardson, 2001 and 2003 USGA Senior Amateurs; Danny Green, 1999 U.S. Mid-Amateur; Brian Harman, 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur; Sihwan Kim, 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur; and Zahringer, who won the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur.

Two more past USGA champions earned their place in the field through qualifying: Tim Hogarth, the 1996 Amateur Public Links champion, and Greg Reynolds, the 2003 Senior Amateur champion.

Eighteen golfers are exempt from having to qualify, including the five USGA champions listed above and three who qualified for the 2004 U.S. Open - Oscar Alvarez, Spencer Levin and Nathan Smith. Other exempt players are Frank Abbott, 2003 USGA Senior Amateur runner-up; Patrick Carter, 2003 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist; David Chang, 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up; Trip Kuehne, 2003 USA Walker Cup team member;
 
Chris Nallen, 2003 USA Walker Cup team member, Bryan Norton, 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up; Dayton Rose, 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up; Lee Williams, 2003 Amateur quarterfinalist and 2003 USA Walker Cup; and Gary Wolstenholme of England, 2003 GB&I Walker Cup and 2003 British Amateur champion.
 
The USGA accepted 7,356 entries for this years Amateur. The most entries ever received for an Amateur championship was 7,920 in 1999 when the U.S. Amateur was played at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

The champion receives an exemption into the 2005 U.S. Open and a probable invitation to play in the 2005 Masters Tournament, if he remains an amateur. He also receives a 10-year exemption into the U.S. Amateur field so long as he remains an amateur.

ESPN2 will cover 10 hours of the championship, two hours each day the last five days, culminating in the winners match Sunday from 3-5 p.m. ET. The first and second rounds of stroke play with be held on the East and West courses, while the remainder of the matches will be held on the West. The East plays to 6,775 yards, the West at 7,266. Both have pars of 70.

Both courses were originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened in 1923. The West Course has undergone a series of restorations by several golf course architects since it opened. Winged Foot has hosted nine USGA championships.
 
The U.S. Amateur Championship is open to amateur golfers who have USGA Handicap Indexes not exceeding 2.4. The Handicap limit was lowered from 3.4 in 1999.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Amateur Championship