Rumford, R.I. | As the world’s best women prepare for Pinehurst No. 2 and the U.S. Women’s Open starting tomorrow, the cream of the men’s amateur game has convened at Wannamoisett Country Club for the 53rd Northeast Amateur.
Regarded by many as The Masters of amateur golf, the Northeast perennially boasts a limited field of elite amateur invitees teeing off in twosomes on an immaculately groomed and eminently challenging par-69 Donald Ross layout in the nation’s smallest state.
Boasting a list of past champions that includes Ben Crenshaw, Scott Hoch, John Cook, Hal Sutton, David Duval, Luke Donald and Dustin Johnson, the tournament carries a cachet that’s not lost on its competitors.
“It’s a pretty special week,” said Mike McCoy, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, who opened with a 74 in windswept conditions this morning. “It carries that importance, I think, in the amateur game to get your invitation to come here.”
Among the notables in this year’s field are Scottie Scheffler, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion and the world’s No. 3-ranked amateur; Jordan Niebrugge (No. 8), the reigning U.S. Amateur Public Links champion; Bryson Dechambeau (No. 9), an SMU standout and member of the U.S. Palmer Cup team; and Roman Robledo (No. 14), who won five college tournaments for the University of Houston this past season.
Along with McCoy, the mid-amateur contingent includes four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith and his teammate on the 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team, Todd White; 2013 Crump Cup champion Gene Elliott; and 2014 Coleman Invitational winner Patrick Christovich.
Smith, who’s coming off a T3 finish in last week’s Sunnehanna Amateur, failed to make a birdie in an opening 73 amid this morning’s gusts; his playing partner, recent Georgia Tech graduate Seth Reeves, shot 70 and made the twosome’s only birdie on No. 17, Wannamoisett’s lone par-5.
“It’s as tough as I’ve ever seen it play,” said Smith, the 2008 runner-up who’s making his ninth start here.
Only two players – recent Purdue University graduate Adam Schenk and Mercer University product Hans Reimers – broke par this morning, each carding 1-under 68s.
The 72-hole tournament concludes Saturday.