Here Jacob Whitehead takes a look at how the six amateurs played their way into the 148th Open Championship.
Open Championship Amateurs 2019
Six amateurs will tee up at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush this year, attempting to win the Silver Medal. That prize was taken last year by Scottish youngster Sam Locke, whose score of +9 was enough to triumph at Carnoustie. But who are the runners and riders trying to follow in his footsteps this time around?
Who Are Open Championship Amateurs 2019?
Takumi Kanaya: WAGR ranking – 2
The 20-year old Japanese player enjoyed a Masters debut in April, eventually finishing T58, but shooting an excellent 68 in his third round.
A Hiroshima native from the island of Honshu, he finished second in both the 2017 Japan Open and the 2018 World Amateur Team Championship, helping his team to 15th in the latter.
Perhaps his finest performance to date was in the latest Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, where he booked his place at both the Masters and the Open. Kanaya fired a final round 65 as he became the first Japanese player to win the tournament since Hideki Matsuyama in 2011.
Curtis Knipes: WAGR ranking – 353
Knipes was a shock qualifier for the 148th Open Championship by tying for the lead with Callum Shinkwin at the renowned Prince’s links in Kent.
Shooting 68 and 67 to finish nine under par, he defeated the likes of formed world no. 9 David Howell and Matt Southgate. Impressively, the Chelmsford born player had won through regional qualifying to even reach the final stage.
The 18-year old believes his greatest strength is his consistency, which could be an advantage over the vagaries of a links course. He plans to turn professional early in 2020, but it will be interesting if a strong Open performance could bring this forward.
Matthias Schmid: WAGR ranking – 33
German youngster Schmid won the European Amateur Championship in June to seal his place at Royal Portrush, beating Scotland’s Euan Walker by three shots. The Nurember-based player thanked his father after winning, who had caddied for him in the final round.
He is incredibly excited for the Open, saying after qualification that – “I want to practice with Tiger and Rory, those are my heroes! I’m probably going to watch them play more than I play.”
Schmid plays college golf for Louisville, and set the school record for stroke average in a season, carding 70.55, whilst also leading the country in birdies. Could he be the natural heir to Bernhard Langher and Martin Kaymer?
James Sugrue: WAGR ranking – 73
The man from Mallow in County Cork won The Amateur Championship at Portmarnock to win a place in the Open, and tradition dictates he will also be offered a Masters berth next April, and US Open spot in June.
Euan Walker was the unlucky runner-up yet again, as Sugrue decisively took the lead on the 17th green in the matchplay format.
Sugrue played at Royal Portrush in the 2018 North of Ireland Open, and shot a highly creditable 68 followed by a 72 to finish 19th.
Thomas Thurloway: WAGR ranking – 360
Thurloway earned his place at the Open by finishing second at Hollinwell recently, behind Andrew Wilson, scoring a solid pair of 69s.
A former English Amateur Champion, he won that title at Formby Golf Club last year in blazing sunshine, convincingly defeating Joe Long 6&5.
Weeks later the 21-year-old would fly out to Florida to play golf for the University of Jacksonville, having already spent two years at Toledo University in Ohio.
Brandon Wu: WAGR ranking – 5
In qualifying, the 22-year-old American finished top of the leaderboard at Fairmont St Andrews by firing nine under par, sealing his place at the final major event of the year in style, in a large part due to his first round 64. He was the first amateur in 52 years to reach both Opens through qualifying.
An excellent performance saw Wu tie 35th in the US Open at Pebble Beach last month, where USGA officials arranged for the player to receive his college diploma on the 18th green, having missed his graduation ceremony to play the final round.
Born in California, Wu has delayed turning professional with the hope of playing for the US Walker Cup team, but is seen as a future star, who could emulate compatriot Matthew Wolff in winning tournaments early in their career.
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