The Amateur Championship – 2020 Preview, Reports & Results

Sunday 30th August 2020

Joe LONG (ENG) won the 2020 Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale G.C. to become the 51st Englishman to lift the famous silver trophy.

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Joe Long (Photo: Richard Heathcote / The R&A / R&A via Getty Images)

Joe beat his namesake Joe HARVEY (ENG) 4&3 in the 36 hole Final.

Long built up a 3Up lead after 11 holes helped by birdies on the 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th holes. Whilst Harvey battled till the end Long steadied himself after a shaky opening nine in the afternoon to see out the match.

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Long v. Harvey (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Long and Harvey were well known to each other coming into the Final; hailing from the Gloucestershire County and golf clubs just 10 miles apart, namely The Kendleshire and Lansdown respectively.

It was the first all-England final since Graeme Storm defeated Aran Wainwright 7&6 at Royal County Down in 1999. The last English champion was Harry Ellis who won at Royal St George’s in 2017.

Joe LONG was the clear favourite before play commenced. At the beginning of the Championship he was ranked 102nd and 31st in the WAGR and SPWAR whilst Joe HARVEY was 897th and 387th.

With his victory Joe LONG secured exemptions into the Open, Masters Tournament and US Open in 2021. He also guaranteed a place in the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup Team.

Joe Long shot a 74 (-3) in the stroke play qualifying to finish tied 30th. In then reaching the Final he also had to care of three of England’s leading players Olly HUGGINS, Barclay BROWN and Jake BOLTON. All in all a well deserved victory for the 23 year old.

img_3759Joe Long’s Match Play Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Click here to follow the – 2020 Amateur Championship Match Play Scores

ME.

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Saturday 29th August 2020

Semi-Finals

Here are the results from Saturday afternoon’s Semi-Finals: –

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Semi-Finals Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Joe HARVEY (ENG) beat Mark POWER (IRL) by 3&2 in the first Semi-Final at Royal Birkdale G.C. The Bristolian made a good start and having moved into a 3Up lead after 6 holes saw out the match relatively comfortably despite Power improving down the home stretch.

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Harvey v. Power Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Joe LONG (ENG) beat Jake BOLTON (ENG) by 2&1 in the second Semi-Final at Royal Birkdale G.C. The standard of play doesn’t appear to have been as good as the first semi but at this stage it’s all about the result. After a demanding week perhaps Long’s much easier Quarter Final when compared with Bolton’s gave him an advantage.

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Long v. Bolton Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Quarter Finals

Here are the results from Saturday morning’s four matches: –

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Quarter Finals Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Joe HARVEY (ENG) did what was required to overcome an out of sorts Victor H.S. SVENDSEN (DEN) in the first Quarter Final.

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Svendsen v. Harvey Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Barclay BROWN (ENG) couldn’t find the game he had enjoyed yesterday and succumbed easily to a very steady performance form Joe LONG (ENG).

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Brown v. Long Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Five birdies in his opening 10 holes provided Mark POWER (IRL) with a strong foundation against Callan BARROW (ENG) and he saw out the match to secure the third semi-final place.

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Barrow v. Power Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

The fourth match proved to be the tightest with Jake BOLTON (ENG) taken all the way by Hamish W. BROWN (DEN).

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Bolton v. Brown Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

ME.

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Friday 28th August 2020

Round 4

Joe HARVEY (ENG), Callan BARROW (ENG), Mark POWER (IRL), Barclay BROWN (ENG), Joe LONG (ENG) and Jake BOLTON (ENG) all won their Last 16 matches to progress to the Quarter Finals.

Some of the results were a little more comprehensive this afternoon as the mental and physical stresses perhaps started to show up a little more in the play.

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Round 4 Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

The SPWAR was updated after Round 4 of The Amateur so heading into the Quarter Finals I thought it would be interesting to review the current rankings of the remaining players: –
Joe LONG (ENG) – #8
Jake BOLTON (ENG) – #19
Mark POWER (IRL) – #34
Barclay BROWN (ENG) – #37
Callan BARROW (ENG) – #94
Joe HARVEY (ENG) – #151
Victor H.S. SVENDSEN (DEN) – #192
Hamish W. BROWN (DEN) – #236

Round 3

22 GB&I players became 11 after the completion of Round 3 this morning.

Three Danes, Victor H.S. SVENDSEN, Frederik KJETTRUP and Hamish W. BROWN make up the majority of the five overseas players still standing and are clearly finding Royal Birkdale to their liking.

Svendsen beat Ilari SAULO (FIN), who having won two matches yesterday, quickly fell back down to earth with a heavy defeat in the opening game of the day.

Callum FARR (ENG) enjoyed a solid 3&2 victory over his England teammate Tom PLUMB (ENG).

Mark POWER and Marc BOUCHER ensured Irish interest remained well and truly alive in the Championship overcoming the in form English pair Jack DYER and Matty LAMB respectively.

The other Irish player in the draw Tom MCKIBBIN saw his hopes ended at the hands of Barclay BROWN (ENG).

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Round 3 Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

ME.

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Thursday 27th August 2020

Round 2

The ‘Curse of the Medalist’ struck Ruben LINDSAY (SCO) who lost 2&1 to Finland’s Ilari SAULO. Saulo, who won the 2020 Finnish Amateur in early August, had already given notice of his continued good form when he knocked out Sam BAIRSTOW (ENG) in the Preliminary Round.

David RAVETTO (FRA), winner of the Brabazon Trophy last week, beat Jack COPE (ENG), the English Amateur champion, by 5&4 in an interesting match up thrown up by the draw.

Dubai-based Josh HILL (ENG) completed a long day on the links with a smile on his face after winning his second match on the 19th hole. His victory over Sam BROADHURST (ENG) suggests that he may now be ready to fulfil his undoubted potential over here.

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Round 2 Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Preliminary Round 1

Day 3 of The Amateur Championship started with the Preliminary Round 1 which featured the eight lowest qualifiers. The four winners feeding into the Round 2 draw against the top four qualifiers.

Josh HILL (ENG) and Matthew MCCLEAN (IRL) were the two GB&I players to progress to Round 2.

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Preliminary Round 1 Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

ME.

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Wednesday 26th August 2020

In form 16 year old Ruben LINDSAY (SCO), the reigning Scottish Boys’ Amateur champion, shot a 67 (-4) to win the 18 hole Stroke Play Qualifying competition.

Play started at 7.30am this morning with the original Round 2 tee times being used by the 120 players contesting this year’s Amateur Championship.

36 hole Stroke Play Qualifying was introduced in 1983 and this was the first time in 37 years that The R&A have been unable to complete it in full.

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Ruben Lindsay’s Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Four other players broke par at the challenging Lancashire links today. Mason ESSAM (ENG), 21, finished 2nd on -3 with Sam BROADHURST (ENG), 23, and Ben SCHMIDT (ENG), 18, a shot further back in tied 3rd with Jack DYER (ENG), 22, securing the 5th seed on -1.

The decision to reduce the Stroke Play Qualifying competition to just 18 holes saw The R&A extend qualifying to the leading 64 players and ties. The original competition rules had stated that a card count back approach would be adopted for the first time in the Men’s event this year.

As a result 68 players progressed to the Match Play Stage with the cut coming at scores of 76 (+5) or better.

The qualifiers comprise 29 English players, 7 Scottish, 6 Irish, 6 Danish, 5 German, 5 Italian, 4 Swiss, 2 Finnish and 1 each from Estonia, France, Norway and Wales.

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The Leading Stroke Play Qualifying Results (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

Amongst the more notable players to narrowly miss out were England Internationals Harry GODDARD +6, Robin WILLIAMS +6, Max MARTIN +6 and Conor GOUGH +7.

Click here to view the – 2020 Amateur Championship Stroke Play Qualifying Results

ME.

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Tuesday 25th August 2020

Round 1 of the Stroke Play Qualifying competition at the 2020 Amateur Championship was abandoned at 4.00pm. All of the scores that had been posted today, and there were some very good completed rounds in atrocious conditions, were cancelled.

Play had started on time at 7.30am but was quickly suspended at 7.50pm due to heavy rain and strong winds. It re-commenced at 9.50am before again having to be suspended at 2.50pm. No resumption in play was possible.

The R&A has decided to reduce the Stroke Play Qualifying to 18 holes which will now be played tomorrow. The top 64 players and ties will now go through to the Match Play Stage.

Assuming no time extension was possible I would have retained the 36 holes of stroke play and reduced the qualifiers to the top 32. The proposed one round of stroke play and six rounds of match play is now too lopsided a format for my liking.

18 holes of stroke play turns qualifying into a shootout and may not see all of the best players progress.

I would also have retained the new card count back rule that had been introduced to The Amateur this year. This is primarily because The R&A have historically not conducted the match play draw correctly when trying to accommodate a Preliminary Round, i.e. the medalist hasn’t played the 64th seed (or higher), etc. [These latter concerns proved to be unfounded on Wednesday evening as The R&A made the draw correctly this year – see above.]

ME.

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24th August 2020

The 125th Amateur Championship will be played at Royal Birkdale G.C. in Southport, England on 25th – 30th August 2020.

The Amateur is the most prestigious amateur golf event played outside of the United States and without question the highlight of the Great British and Irish (GB&I) amateur season.

The 2020 Championship was originally due to be co-hosted by Royal Birkdale and West Lancashire G.C.’s in England from 15th – 20th June 2020 but was re-scheduled as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

West Lancs. is now hosting The Women’s Amateur Championship, being staged  concurrently with the men’s event, having replaced Kilmarnock (Barassie) G.C. for logistical reasons.

In order to receive Government and Local Authority approval to proceed The R&A have agreed that the Championship will be played behind closed doors with no spectators and only essential / authorised personnel on-site.

Format

The normal field of 288 players has been reduced to 120 this year.

Two stroke play qualifying rounds will be completed on Tuesday 25th August and Wednesday 26th August.

English Amateur champion Jack COPE (ENG) will hit the first shot of the Championship at 7.30am. With an 11 minute gap between tee times the final group will go out at 2.54pm on each of the opening days.

Click here to view the – 2020 Amateur Championship SP Qualifying Tee Times

The 64 players with the lowest 36 hole scores will advance to the match play stage.

In a welcome change by The R&A a Round 2 card countback will be used to ensure a clean 64 players advance. Ties for 64th place will not advance as they have done in previous years and as a result there will be no preliminary round and a standard match play draw will be made made.

The Match Play stage will then be played between Thursday 27th and Sunday 30th August.

Matches will be played over 18 holes except for Sunday’s Final which will be contested over 36 holes. Extra sudden death holes will be used in all games if necessary.

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Royal Birkdale G.C.’s 18th Hole and Clubhouse (Photo: thetravellinggolfer.com)

Players

The 120 players have been firstly drawn from a number of exempt categories covering various historic Championship performances and representative team selections.

Thereafter places have been allocated to those players ranked 1st – 2,000th in the WAGR as at Week 30 2020, i.e. the Wednesday 29th July release.

Players from 13 different countries will contest the 2020 Amateur Championship. 34 countries were represented in 2019 highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 travel restrictions and the 60% reduction in the field size.

England have 44 players in the field (37%), Scotland 17, Ireland 10 and Wales 4.

The COVID-19 travel restrictions mean that James SUGRUE (IRL) is unable to defend his title ahead of appearing in the 2020 U.S. Open Championship at Winged Foot G.C. on 17-20th September.

Outside of the home nations the best represented countries are Italy (10), Germany (9), Switzerland (9) and Denmark (8).

Notably there are no players this year from Australia, South Africa and USA.

Current circumstances mean this is probably the weakest field ever assembled for an Amateur Championship. There are just 9 players in the WAGR top 100 competing (as at 29th July). These are Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) #27, Ben JONES (ENG) #30, Conor GOUGH (ENG) #37, David RAVETTO (FRA) #52, Jannik DE BRUYN (GER) #62, Jake BOLTON (ENG) #77, Mark POWER (IRL) #81, Matty LAMB (ENG) #87 and Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL) #93. The picture isn’t improved by looking further down WAGR either; there are 23 players starting the event in the top 200 and 31 in the top 300.

France’s David RAVETTO and Denmark’s Christoffer BRING, winner and runner-up in this week’s Brabazon Trophy at Sherwood Forest, will arrive in Southport full of confidence.

Host Course

Royal Birkdale G.C. is one of the most famous golf courses in GB&I staging numerous Championships and International Matches since coming to prominence after World War II.

Birkdale G.C. was formed in 1889 with the club moving to the current site in 1897.

Hawtree and former Open Champion J.H. Taylor set about routing the course between the sandhills in the 1930s. Major changes were subsequently made in the 1960s and 1990s to ensure the layout remained at the forefront of the game.

The Club received it’s royal patronage from King George VI in 1951.

Birkdale has previously hosted the Amateur Championship in 1946, 1989 and 2005.

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Royal Birkdale Scorecard (Photo: The R&A / Golfbox Scoring)

The course will play to around 7,100 yards during the Championship and a par of 71.

The formidable final six holes will no doubt come into play during the match play stage.

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Royal Birkdale Course Map (Photo: Royal Birkdale G.C.)

Weather Forecast (as at Monday 24th August)

The weather forecast looks generally wet for the week with scoring unlikely to be helped by moderate to strong breezes throughout: –

Tues 25th – Heavy Rain. Wind 45 mph SE. Temp. Max. 19°C / Min 15°C.
Wed 26th – Sunny Intervals. Wind 26 mph NW. Temp. Max. 18°C / Min 12°C.
Thurs 27th – Light Rain Showers. Wind 8 mph S. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 12°C.
Fri 28th – Light Rain Showers. Wind 16 mph NE. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 9°C.
Sat 29th – Sunny Intervals. Wind 16 mph NW. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 9°C.
Sun 30th – Sunny Intervals. Wind 11 mph NW. Temp. Max. 16°C / Min 9°C.

Click here to view the – Latest BBC Weather Forecast For Southport

Tee times between 7.30am and 2.54pm mean changes in the weather can have a material impact on the stroke play qualifying scoring.

Royal Birkdale G.C.’s 12th Hole (Photo: visitliverpool.com)

Prizes / Exemptions

A momento is presented by The R&A to the leading player in the stroke play qualifying competition, with any ties decided on the lowest second round score (or final nine, six or three or one if necessary).

The winner of the match play stage will become the The Amateur Champion receiving the Championship Trophy and a Gold Medal.

The runner-up receives a Silver Medal and each losing semi-finalist a Bronze Medal.

The winner of The Amateur Championship will be exempt into the 149th Open Championship being staged at Royal St. George’s G.C. in Kent, England in July 2021.

Traditionally, the champion is also invited to compete in the following year’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National G.C. and also exempted into the 2021 U.S. Open Championship which is being held at Torrey Pines G.C. in San Diego, California.

Finally, given the May 2021 staging of the next Walker Cup match any GB&I player who wins this Amateur Championship will be assured of a place in our team.

2019 Amateur Championship

James SUGRUE (IRE) won the 124th Amateur Championship at Portmarnock G.C. beating Euan WALKER (SCO) by 2 Holes in a competitive Final which went the full 36 holes.

James from Mallow G.C. was the 8th Irish winner of the title following in the footsteps of Jimmy Bruen, Max McCready, Joe Carr, Garth McGimpsey, Michael Hoey, Brian McElhinney and most recently Alan Dunbar in 2012.

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James Sugrue (Photo: The R&A / Sam Barnes / Getty Images)

Click here to view the – 2019 Amateur Championship Match Play Results

Tom PLUMB (ENG) secured Stroke Play medalist honours at the 2019 Amateur after posting an aggregate 36 hole score of 139 (-4). Plumb shot a 68 at The Island in Round 1 and a 71 (-1) on Day 2 at Portmarnock. John AXELSEN (DEN) also recorded a 139 (-4) total but lost out by 4-shots on combined back nine count back.  

Click here to view the – 2019 Amateur Championship Stroke Play Qualifying Results

The top 64 and ties Match Play cut fell at 147 (+4) with a total of 76 players progressing. The 24 lowest scoring qualifiers participated in a Preliminary Round to establish the final 64 players.

A Short History of The Amateur

The Amateur Championship was first played in April 1885 at Royal Liverpool G.C. Allan Macfie (SCO) was the first champion beating Horace Hutchinson (ENG) 7&6 in the Final.

Up until the Second World War it was a hugely prestigious event and in many of these early years was afforded a much higher standing in the game than The Open Championship. Players like Johnny Ball (ENG), Harold Hilton (ENG) and Freddie Tait (SCO) were all amateurs and as good if not better than most of the professionals of the day.

With only modest rewards available in the professional game many of the better players simply stayed amateur. The great American Bobby Jones, who won The Amateur in 1930 on the way to his Grand Slam, remains the most well known career amateur.

Even after the war players remained amateur for much longer and famous names like Frank Stranahan (USA), Joe Carr (IRE), Sir Michael Bonallack (ENG) and Peter McEvoy (ENG) all built their reputations on Amateur Championship wins.

With the growth and transformation of the professional game from the early 1980s onwards both the better players and the media increasingly started to turn their backs on the amateur game.

Save for exceptional cases like Gary Wolstenholme (ENG) all continuity has been lost over the last 30 years and most of the young golfing stars of today rarely play any more than 2 or 3 Amateurs before being lured into the pro ranks by the huge rewards on offer.

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The Amateur Championship Trophy (Photo: Dominik Holyer) 

Past Winners

The greatest player in the history of The Amateur is Johnny Ball. The Hoylake man won the Championship a record 8 times between 1888 and 1912.

Only three other players have won the competition more than twice; Sir Michael Bonallack (5), Harold Hilton (4) and Joe Carr (3). Bonallack amazingly won it three years in a row between 1968-1970. The last person to retain The Amateur was Peter McEvoy in 1977 and ’78.

Prior to James Sugrue’s win in 2019 the previous 10 winners of The Amateur Championship were: –

2018  Jovan Rebula (RSA) – Royal Aberdeen G.C.
2017  Harry Ellis (ENG) – Royal St. George’s G.C.
2016  Scott Gregory (ENG) – Royal Porthcawl G.C.
2015  Romain Langasque (FRA) – Carnoustie G.L.
2014  Bradley Neil (SCO) – Royal Portrush G.C.
2013  Garrick Porteous (ENG) – Royal Cinque Ports G.C.
2012  Alan Dunbar (IRE) – Royal Troon G.C.
2011  Bryden Macpherson (AUS) – Hillside G.C.
2010  Jin Jeong (KOR) – Muirfield
2009  Matteo Manassero (ITA) – Formby G.C.

A great achievement and honour for all of the players listed above. However, it’s also another reminder of how incredibly tough golf is and that wins in the biggest events are no guarantee of success in the professional game.

Click here to view a complete list of – Past Amateur Championship Winners

ME.

Copyright © 2014-2020, Mark Eley. All rights reserved.

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