Tuesday, June 7, 2011
2011 Sunnehanna Amateur
The 2011 Sunnehanna Amateur begins this week in Johnstown, PA. The Sunnehanna Country Club is a hidden gem in this part of the country. The club opened in 1923 and was originally design by famed architect A.W. Tillinghast. Tillinghast designed many famous golf courses including current US Open Sites; Bethpage Black on Long Island, Baltusrol Golf Club (Lower and Upper Courses), and Winged Foot (East and West Course).
The Sunnehanna Amateur, which has been held annually since the mid 1950s, is one of the Premiere Amateur Golf events in the United States today. However, most people have never heard of the event because it does not get national attention such as the US Amateur or US Public Links Championships, both USGA events. Instead, the Sunnehanna Amateur is an invitational that attracts the top amateurs from around the country. The event is played over three days for 72 holes. The guys play 18, 36, 18 from Friday to Sunday.
I attended the event on several occasions, as Johnstown is my hometown. I had the opportunity to watch Phil Mickelson play there when he was a junior at ASU. Back then he had the flipped-up collar and was much thinner. I remember two things about that round. First, Phil was extremely long as an amateur, using the old Yonex Composite Woods. Second, he carried doglegs and trees that I did not think were humanly possible. In the early 90s, I also had the opportunity to watch Allen Doyle make eagle on the par 4 8th hole. My dad and I had just arrived at the course when we stopped to watch Allen hit his approach. The ball hit pin high, spun left down the hill and into the jar. Allen won the event four times then went on to win on the Champions Tour. Another notable amateur from Pennsylvania that won the event several times was Jay Siegel.
Other winners of the event over the years were Don Cherry, Tommy Aaron, Leonard Thompson, Howard Twitty, Ben Crenshaw, John Cook, Bobby Clampett, Brad Faxon, Scott Verplank, Billy Andrade, Lucas Glover, Web Simpson, and most recently Ricky Fowler who won in back to back years.
In case you are wondering if Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods played in the event, the answer is yes. Other popular players included Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Hal Sutton, Bob Tway and so on.
If you ever have the chance to watch the Sunnehanna Amateur, I recommend it. If history holds true, you will likely see some future tour winners and major champions. The event is always held in early to mid June. Another interesting thing to do is walk around the historic clubhouse and see all the photos and memorabilia and take in the rich, deep history this special club.
I’ve played the course several times and it’s fantastic. The greens are perfectly manicured and fast, and the course design is challenging. It’s been a few years since I’ve last played there, but I’ll have the chance again in a few weeks when Sunnehanna hosts the qualifier for the Pennsylvania Mid Amateur.