The Manhattan skyline provides a stunning backdrop from the veranda overlooking the first and 10th tees at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J., which is the stroke-play co-host for the 122nd U.S. Amateur Championship. If they aspire to see their name splashed on the ticker in Times Square, less than 13 miles away, the 312 players in the field will first need to play well enough in the 36-hole test on Monday and Tuesday at Arcola and nearby The Ridgewood Country Club, the championship host.
After that, six head-to-head victories will be required at Ridgewood to join some of the game’s most illustrious names in raising the prized Havemeyer Trophy. The champion also earns an exemption into the 2023 U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club, along with a spot in The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and a likely invitation to the Masters in April.
Getting into match play and continuing to advance also raises the likelihood that a player will earn some airtime during the 15 hours that the championship will be broadcast, starting on Wednesday and continuing through Sunday on Peacock and Golf Channel. Ridgewood is the better-known course, having hosted four previous USGA championships, including the 1974 U.S. Amateur (won by Jerry Pate) and the 1990 U.S. Senior Open (won by Lee Trevino). It has also hosted a Ryder Cup, an LPGA Tour event and four editions of one of the PGA Tour’s playoff events (The Barclays/Northern Trust). The championship layout is a composite of holes from its three classic A.W. Tillinghast nines – seven from the East, six from the West and five from the Center nine.
Here are 3 Things to Know heading into stroke play of the USGA’s oldest championship.
It was right there for the taking. Last year at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club, Austin Greaser held a 3-up lead through 27 holes of the 36-hole U.S. Amateur final. But James Piot rallied with three late birdies, and Greaser made a couple of costly bogeys en route to a 2-and-1 defeat. Afterward, Greaser called it “the opportunity of a lifetime,” knowing that such chances are rare.
But the rising senior at the University of North Carolina is back for another shot at it, and he comes in off an impressive victory. Greaser captured the prestigious Western Amateur on Aug. 6 at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Ill., rallying to defeat Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, of Argentina, 1 up, in the 18-hole championship match. In the semifinals earlier that day, he topped 2021 USA Walker Cup player and world No. 23 William Mouw.
Currently No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, Greaser, of Vandalia, Ohio, also was one of four amateurs to make the cut in the U.S. Open at The Country Club in June. Having improved on his semifinal showing in the 2021 Western, he appears primed to make another run at the Havemeyer. It’s not an easy double to pull off, though. Since 1980, only six players have managed it in the same season. Danny Lee of New Zealand, in 2008, is the most recent.
One thing’s for sure – getting to Wednesday’s Round of 64 won’t be easy. With 312 players, the U.S. Amateur has by far the largest field of any USGA championship, as befits the 7,749 entries that were accepted by the June 22 deadline. It’s also historically the strongest field in amateur golf, and barely 20 percent will move on match play.
Once there, however, it won’t matter whether you earned a qualifying medal or eked your way in through a 12-for-1 playoff, as David Nyfjall did last year. Nyfjall, of Sweden, who totaled 3-over-par 143, went on to defeat the No. 1 seed, Mark Goetz, who had scorched Oakmont and stroke-play co-host Longue Vue Club for an 8-under 132 total.
Just get into match play, and it’s anyone’s game from there – that’s the players’ mantra, and with good reason. Per statistical guru Justin Ray of Twenty First Group, since 2010, a higher percentage of players in the Round of 16 have come from those seeded No. 41 and above (47 players, 24.5 percent) than from the top 10 seeds (42 players, 21.9 percent).
There may or may not be a medalist jinx, but in the past seven years, only one medalist or co-medalist has advanced beyond the Round of 32 (that was Cole Hammer, who reached the semifinals in 2018). Ryan Moore (2004) was the most recent of the five medalists who have won the championship in the past 40 years.
Total par for stroke play will be 141, with Ridgewood playing to par 71 and Arcola to par 70. One would have to think that even par would be a pretty good target score, as it has comfortably gotten players inside the top 64 each of the past seven years. As noted, Nyfjall was the lone player among a group of 12 at 3 over to get into the draw at Oakmont, and the lowest score to get in – or play off for spots – is 2 over, which has happened twice (2016, Oakland Hills; 2020, Bandon Dunes). The highest score to get into match play in that timeframe is 5 over, in 2019 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. In 2017 and 2018, 4 over was the magic number for the back-to-back championships in California, first at Riviera and then at Pebble Beach.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.