ARDMORE, Pa. – Ten amateurs are in the field at the U.S. Open, and if last year’s championship taught us anything, it’s that these guys aren’t simply happy to be here.
Surely you remember the 2012 Open. In the third round Beau Hossler, then 17, held the outright lead at The Olympic Club for about, oh, 15 minutes. Yes, he would fade over the next round and a half, but consider what had transpired: A 17-year-old amateur, not yet enrolled in college, was leading the U.S. Open. Mind-boggling stuff.
Anyway, Hossler’s performance should change the way we view this week’s amateur participants.
After all, at least two amateurs have made the cut at the past five Opens. In recent years, they have not just played the weekend but also fared well: Russell Henley and Scott Langley each tied for 16th at the 2010 U.S. Open, while Patrick Cantlay (2011) and Jordan Spieth (2012) each finished joint 21st. The best finish by an amateur since 1980 is T-13, by Spencer Levin in ’04.
So, get to know the 10 players listed below, ranked by their predicted finish. Who knows? They may surface on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday.
• Max Homa: Led Cal to an 11-win season, and last month won both the Pac-12 Championship and NCAA title in his final starts as a senior. Emerged from a 3-for-2 playoff at his sectional qualifier. Plans to stay amateur through the Walker Cup.
• Michael Kim: Rising junior at Cal, he won the Nicklaus and Haskins awards as the top player in college golf. Earned co-medalist honors at his sectional qualifier in Georgia.
• Chris Williams (pictured above): Got into the field after receiving the 2012 McCormack Medal, given to the top-ranked amateur in the world. The Ben Hogan Award winner turns pro next week, but also has the potential to make this a huge week, as well.
• Cheng-Tsung Pan: A rising junior at Washington, Pan is the fifth-ranked amateur in the world and is making his second U.S. Open appearance (2011, MC).
• Steven Fox: The reigning U.S. Amateur champion recently completed his senior season at Chattanooga. He’s missed the cut in all six of his spot starts on the PGA Tour this season, including three straight (Colonial, Memorial, Fedex St. Jude Classic).
• Michael Weaver: Another Cal player in the field, Weaver was the runner-up at last year’s U.S. Amateur, which earned him a spot at the Masters (MC) and here.
• Kevin Phelan: A departing senior at North Florida, Phelan earned medalist honors at his sectional qualifier in Florida, and he’s playing in his second Open (2010, MC).
• Gavin Hall: The 18-year-old might be the youngest player in the field, but he showed a lot of grit birdieing the last four holes to advance out of his sectional qualifier. And like Hossler, he’s a Longhorn.
• Grayson Murray: The recent UNC-Greensboro transfer caught fire in the sectional qualifier, playing his last 13 holes in 8 under, including a final-hole birdie, to book his first trip to the Open.
• Cory McElyea: The rising senior at San Francisco, who had four top-10 finishes this season, survived a 3-for-2 playoff at his sectional.