Bobby Jones held amateur golf in highest regards. Of course, times were different in the 20s and 30s, as amateur golf was nearly as admirable as the players who decided to play professionally and tour the country. Bobby Jones cemented himself as the most decorated golfer of his time–playing his entire career as an amateur.
Today, the tradition of amateur golf isn’t forgotten. Especially at Augusta National.
Starting in 1952, the Augusta National board decided to start awarding the low amateur of the Masters with the ‘Silver Cup.’ To win the Silver Cup, a golfer must not only finish as low amateur, but also make the cut. He is then honored along with the champion of the event in Butler’s cabin. Aside from winning the event, be crowned ‘low am’ is about as coveted as any award at Augusta National.
Historically, the low amateur title was one to be defended. From 1934-1942, Charles Yates finished low amateur five different times. A businessman and civic leader in Atlanta, he played a storied amateur career.
Looking more at the history of the honor, nine different golfers have earned the award on multiple occasions, but none since 1988. Players like Harvey Ward (talked in-depth about in the book ‘The Match‘), Charles Coe, Frank Stranahan (and his muscles), Billy Joe Patton, Johnny Dawson and Ben Crenshaw (who is playing his last Masters tournament this week) were among the amateurs to find themselves atop the amateur leader board on more than once.
Golf was different. The money wasn’t as inflated as it is in today’s PGA Tour. There wasn’t a rush to turn professional and start cashing checks. There was loyalty to the amateur game. Today, the most prestigious events in golf are the big money, big sponsored events.
Early in golf, premier events were the United States Amateur, North and South, etc. While still prestigious, the golf world’s focuses hone in on the professional game where the best players in the world congregate.
In the past 5 seasons, no nation boasts multiple low amateur winners. You read that correctly Americans, there has been only one American Silver Cup winner since 2005–Patrick Cantlay in 2012, while he reigned atop the amateur game.
There was a stretch from 2006 to 2009 where no amateur made the cut and the Silver Cup went unclaimed.
- Matteo Manassero (Italy) 2010
- Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) 2011
- Tianlang Guan (China) 2013
- Oliver Goss (Australia–pictured below with Billy Payne) 2014
2015 Low Amateur Prospects
This year, a repeat low amateur is not in the books, as 2014 Silver Cup recipient Oliver Goss is not in the field. So let’s take a look at the amateurs in this year’s field:
- Gunn Yang (US Amateur champion)
- Corey Connors (US Amateur runner-up)
- Matias Dominguez (Latin American Amateur champion)
- Antonio Murdaca (Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion)
- Byron Meth (US Amateur Public Links champion)
- Scott Harvey (Mid-American Amateur Champion)
- Bradley Neil (British Amateur champion)
The field has a strong amount of diversity, not only in nationality, but also age and playing styles. Gunn Yang came quite literally, out of nowhere to win the 2014 U.S. Amateur championship as he was ranked somewhere in the 700s prior to the playing of the event.
Seeing amateurs from throughout the world get together for the greatest tournament in golf is special. It makes the Masters very unique. It is an invitational that makes a conscious effort to honor amateurs through invitations. Still waiting for an amateur to win…maybe that’s wishful thinking, speaking as an amateur golfer.
Who Will Be Low Amateur?
I’ll take a run through the contenders. Typically, the U.S. Amateur champion is the odds on favorite to take the crown, but Yang’s surge to the top of the amateur game is concerning when looking for a top-notch amateur athlete.
Matias Dominguez is the first Chilean-born since Enrique Orellana to earn a place in the Masters. Orellana, a decorated golfer in his home country, missed the cut in the event. He cited to playing a golf ball bigger than he was accustomed to. I believe Matias has been playing with properly sized golf balls and will be poised to make history for his country and school, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.
The favorite for the low amateur title has to be Corey Connors, a Canadian.
Connors comes to Augusta as the 21st-ranked amateur in the world. He played his collegiate golf career at Kent State, and before turning professional has traveled the world competing in various amateur events. He’d made it to the semi-finals of the U.S. Amateur in back-to-back seasons, breaking through into the finals last year.
My pick for low amateur: Corey Connors.
I’m sure he’s reached out to countryman Mike Weir for advice.