Western Amateur Set to Start

The 111th Western Amateur will tee off July 29 at The Alotian Club outside Little Rock, Ark. It will feature 156 of the game's top amateurs who will seek to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as winners of one of the oldest and most prestigious titles in golf.

This year, the Western Amateur boasts 54 of the world's top-100 players, compared to 40 last year when the field was ranked second-strongest in the world.

"The Western Amateur always gets an excellent field, but having 54 of the top 100 players from all over the world proves how highly regarded this championship is in the game of golf," said Vince Pellegrino, vice president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association.

Among the entrants are five of the world's top amateurs. Three have made the weekend cut in various PGA Tour events and four have already been named to this year's U.S. Walker Cup team. They include:

No. 1 - Cory Whitsett. The senior and member of Alabama's 2013 national championship team was named to 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team. Other honors and finishes: 2013 First Team All-American; Champion 2013 Northeast Amateur; 2nd 2013 Jones Cup; 2nd 2013 Sunnehanna Amateur; 2008 Western Junior champion.

No. 2 - Michael Kim. The junior at Cal was named to 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team. Other honors and finishes: low amateur at 2013 U.S. Open (T-17); T-38 Greenbrier Classic, PGA Tour; finalist 2013 U.S. Public Links; 2013 First Team All-American; 2013 Jack Nicklaus Award winner (best college golfer); 2013 Pac-12 Golfer of the Year.

No. 3 - Justin Thomas. The junior and member of Alabama's 2013 team was named to 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team. Other honors and finishes: T-30 2013 Traveler's Championship, PGA Tour; T-46 2012 Greenbrier Classic, PGA Tour; 2013; 2012; made it to Elite Eight of the 2012 Western Amateur.

No. 4 - Bobby Wyatt. Another member of Alabama's 2013 team, Wyatt was a 2013 Second Team All-American. Other honors and finishes: 2nd at 2012 and 2013 NCAA D-I South Regional; 2nd 2013 Aggie Invitational; Champion 2012 Sunnehanna Amateur; posted a 57 (9-under par 26 on the front nine) in the 2010 Alabama Boys state championship.

No. 5 - Patrick Rodgers. The Stanford junior was named to the 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team. Other honors and finishes: T-15 at 2013 John Deere Classic, PGA Tour; Champion, Southern Highlands Masters in Las Vegas; 3rd 2013 Northeast Amateur; 2012-13 First Team All-American; 2010 Western Junior champion.

In addition, the field includes No. 9-ranked Garrick Porteous, 23, of England, winner of both the 2013 British and Scottish amateurs. British Amateur runner-up Toni Hakula of Finland, ranked No. 40, is also in the field.

Other top-20 amateurs include No. 11 Brady Watt of Australia and No. 13 Michael Weaver of Cal. Weaver finished 64th at the 2013 U.S. Open and played in the 2013 Masters as a result of finishing runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Amateur. Brandon Hagy (No. 14), Sean Dale (No. 16), Oliver Schniederjans (No. 17), Oliver Goss (No. 18) of Australia and Cameron Wilson (No. 19) round out the top 20.

The field includes winners of several high-profile 2013 amateur events: Steven Ihm, winner of the 2013 Sunnehanna Amateur; Andrew Yun, winner of the Sahalee Players; Cory McElyea, a U.S. Open contestant and winner of the California State Amateur; Michael Johnson, winner of the Dogwood Invitational; Cameron Peck, winner of the Pacific Northwest Amateur at Bandon Dunes; Bryson DeChambeau, winner of the Trans-Miss Amateur and Hunter Stewart, winner of the Players Amateur.

Other notables are teen sensation and Texas sophomore Beau Hossler, who finished T-29 at the 2012 U.S. Open; Steven Fox, winner of the 2012 U.S. Amateur, and Gavin Hall, youngest contestant in this year's U.S. Open at age 18.

In addition to attracting international players, the 2013 Western Amateur will have a strong Arkansas flavor. Three current or recent members of the Arkansas Razorbacks' golf team - Sebastian Cappelen of Denmark; Austin Cook, a native of Jonesboro, and Joe Doramus of Little Rock - will be competing, along with 1995 Western Amateur champion Patrick Lee of Centerton.

There will also be contestants from 10 nations: Australia, Denmark, England, Finland, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the United States, Venezuela and Wales.

"The Western Golf Association is thrilled once again to have top amateurs from all over the world playing in the Western Amateur," Pellegrino added. "All of us are looking forward to seeing how the course plays against a field of such outstanding amateurs."

Last year's Western Amateur champion, Chris Williams, won't return to defend his title. The former University of Washington star played in the 2013 U.S. Open as an amateur but turned pro shortly thereafter.

This will be the first time the Western Amateur has been contested in the state of Arkansas, and it is the first time since 1966 that it has been played in the South.

It's also the first time The Alotian Club, which opened in 2005 and is ranked No. 15 in the country by Golf Digest, has hosted a major competition. In addition to showcasing the course's beauty and challenging design, the Western Amateur will highlight the club's support of caddies and the WGA's Evans Scholars Foundation, which grants college scholarships to deserving caddies.

"Caddies are an integral part of the history and tradition of golf. That's why I wanted a caddie program at The Alotian Club," said founder Warren Stephens. "Since 1930 the Evans Scholarship Program has sent 10,000 caddies to college, including three from The Alotian Club - two currently at Northwestern University and one at Marquette University. Hosting a first-class competition and supporting scholarships for caddies made the decision to welcome the Western Amateur to Arkansas an easy one."

Since its inception, the Western Amateur has been regarded as one of the major amateur golf events in the world. Only the British Amateur (1885) and the U.S. Amateur (1895) are older. Former PGA Tour player and golf announcer Steve Melnyk, an Alotian Club member, won the 1969 Western Amateur. Melnyk's perspective on the championship led Stephens to appoint him co-chairman of this year's tournament.

"Winning the Western Amateur changes your life," Melnyk said. "Very simply, the Western Amateur is the toughest tournament to win in all of amateur golf. It is a combination of endurance and focus. The winner of this championship, if you look at the names on the trophy, have gone on to wonderful things."

The Format

The Western Amateur involves two 18-hole stroke-play rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a cut to the players with the low 44 scores and ties. Those who make the cut then play 18 holes of stroke play on Thursday and 18 holes on Friday, with the low 16 advancing to match play on Saturday. The first two rounds of 18-hole match play on Saturday narrow the field to four semifinalists, who compete in a pair of 18-hole matches on Sunday morning. Winners of the two morning matches then play in the 18-hole championship match Sunday afternoon.

The above report is courtesy of the Western Golf Association. For more information, visit www.westerngolfassociation.com. For more information about the Western Amateur and live scoring, visit www.thewesternamateur.com.