I played in the 1980 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2/CCNC and had one of my career rounds with an even-par 72 on No. 2 in the qualifying event to get into match play. The Bermuda rough there was the toughest and longest I’ve ever seen -- so thick you could lose a ball inches off the putting surface. Combine that with the undulations on the greens, and the U.S. Amateur was as tough as any PGA Tour event or major championship.
This week, the U.S. Amateur returns to Pinehurst, which brings back great memories to me.
The USGA does an awesome job of hosting major championships, and I was fortunate to have played in three U.S. Amateurs. Each one was special and unique, and the tournament deserves a much larger stage as we honor the best amateur each year.
Even today with all his accomplishments, Tiger Woods still is acknowledged as a three-time winner of the U.S. Amateur, and Jack Nicklaus counts his two U.S. Amateur wins among his majors. Tiger’s U.S. Amateur wins at TPC Sawgrass, Newport and Pumpkin Ridge were just as memorable and dramatic as any of his professional wins. As you go through the list of past U.S. Amateur champions, names like Mickleson, Verplank, Leonard, Cook, Sutton, O’Meara, Ryan Moore, Stadler, Pate, Sigel, Lanny Wadkins, Kuchar and Quinney jump out as Tour stars who have gone on to great professional careers. Yet all these players are still referred to as past-U.S. Amateur champions and accorded a “major” with that victory. Plus, this tournament is part of the historical fabric of the game; Harvey Ward won it three times and Bobby Jones won it five times (take that, Tiger!).
The U.S. Amateur deserves a higher place in the golf world. Every true golf fan should tune in this weekend to catch a first glimpse of tomorrow’s stars. I would love to see this championship treated like the other four majors. So join me in watching and cheering these young collegiate players striving to become our national champion. You won’t be disappointed. Brian Mogg is director of instruction at the Brian Mogg Performance Center at Golden Bear Golf Club at Keene's Point, Windermere, Fla.