22 for 2022
From exciting USGA events to scintillating college championships, the year produced plenty of memorable moments in amateur golf
By Jordan Perez
Records were broken, champions were crowned and barriers were knocked down. The amateur game grew for the better in 2022. Let’s take a moment to reminisce before we say goodbye to an unforgettable year.
1. A first for the Cayman Islands
By virtue of his one-stroke victory at the Latin America Amateur, Aaron Jarvis, a freshman at UNLV, became the first player from the Cayman Islands to earn an invitation to the Masters. “Growing up in the Cayman Islands, we didn’t really have the tournaments where I could get up in the world rankings,” said Jarvis, who missed the cut at Augusta National. “But I knew I was just as good as these guys.”
2. Sibling success
One of the most heartwarming stories of the year: Eugenio and Carolina Chacarra winning their first college events in the spring. They did it in eerily similar fashion. Playing for Oklahoma State, Eugenio won the Amer Ari Invitational with a 10-under 62. Three days later, Carolina won the UCF Challenge with the same score while teeing it up for Wake Forest. “Every time one of us wins it pushes us when we have another tournament, and we try to emulate each other,” Eugenio told Golf Digest.
3. Kids these days!
Anna Davis, 16, won the third Augusta National Women’s Amateur, sauntering down the fairways decked out in her signature bucket hat and zip-up jacket without seemingly a worry in the world. Entering the final round two back of Beatrice Wallin and Latanna Stone, Davis carded a 69, then watched as Stone put on a dream display through Amen Corner. But Stone finished with a double bogey and a bogey, and Davis won by a shot. Afterward, Davis said, “I’ve never really watched the Masters on TV, which is a little weird.” Never change, Anna.
4. Amari Avery’s trifecta
Did you think Rose Zhang would be the only player to win three times in her first semester? Avery did it too. An early enrollee in the spring at USC, she also piled up four top 10s. She later teamed with Zhang in helping the U.S. clinch the Curtis Cup.
5. Stanford’s statement
After a perfect fall, Stanford was the consensus favorite to win the NCAA championship. San Jose State had a say early in the spring, but by the time the national tournament rolled around, the Cardinal was back in form. Not only did Rose Zhang take the individual title, but she also led Stanford to its first team title since 2015. The Cardinal beat Georgia, Auburn and Oregon in match play.
6. Texas = back
When the Coody twins — Pierceson and Parker — were sidelined by freak injuries and Cole Hammer struggled at the start of the spring, things weren’t looking good in Austin. But at full strength again, the Longhorns won back-to-back tournaments to close out the spring, then knocked off Oklahoma State, Vanderbilt and Arizona State in match play at the NCAA Tournament to win it all.
7. Freshman phenoms
Given the season Rose Zhang had, her two-shot victory at the NCAA Tournament seemed preordained. Playing for a Vanderbilt team that won six times in the spring, Gordon Sargent delivered somewhat of a surprise victory, surviving a four-man playoff.
8. No contest
The Americans won the Curtis Cup in a romp at Merion, whipping Great Britain & Ireland, 151/2-41/2. The superstar among the stripes was Rachel Kuehn, who for the second time put the winning point on the board.
9. The new low amateur in town
A household name in college golf, Ingrid Lindblad took her stardom to another level. Paired with her idol Annika Sorenstam for the first two rounds of the U.S. Women’s Open was already a treat. Then Lindblad signed for a first-round 65, a record for an amateur. Lindblad hung around the top of the leaderboard, finishing T-11 and claiming low-amateur honors.
I try to limit my use of the phrase “growing the game,” but this was an event that did just that. I could relate as I watched pros and amateurs with physical and intellectual disabilities compete at the inaugural U.S. Adaptive Open at Pinehurst No. 6. Two champions were crowned: Kim Moore, the head coach at Central Michigan, won the women’s division. Born without a right foot and with a clubbed left foot while suffering from spina bifida, Moore played at the University of Indianapolis before becoming a coach. Simon Lee of Korea won the men’s division in a playoff. As a child, Lee was diagnosed with congenital autism developmental disorder.
11. Amateurs in Alaska
The first USGA championship conducted in Alaska was won by Shelly Stouffer of Canada, as she took down Sue Wooster in the final, 4 and 3. Familiar faces Lara Tennant and Ellen Port impressed, while a certain Curtis Cup captain and a couple of moms also shared the spotlight.
12. A junior dominates the summer scene
The Elite Amateur Golf Series was a nice addition to the summer schedule, and a surprising junior stole the show. Incoming Tennessee freshman Caleb Surratt put together a string of top fives and top 10s before finishing runner-up to Wenyi Ding at the U.S. Junior.
13. How do you like me now?
As a high school player, Austin Greaser cold-emailed Power Five schools looking for a chance. North Carolina obliged, and Greaser developed into a two-time All-American. For good measure, he won the Western Amateur, then had a tearful interview. Greaser was 2 down with eight holes to play before reeling off four straight birdies and closing out the match at the home hole.
14. Smooth operator
After winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Saki Baba said, “Everything went smoothly.” Yeah, I’d call an 11-and-9 victory pretty smooth. The star from Japan obliterated Chambers Bay and almost every opponent in match play.
15. Sam Bennett’s surge
In the most evocative U.S. Amateur final in recent memory, Bennett and Ben Carr were bound by the death of their fathers. While Bennett was fending off criticism about his swing and his confidence, Carr, a rising fifth-year senior at Georgia Southern, was flying under the radar. Bennett built a 5-up lead early in the afternoon 18, but Carr clawed back to get to 1 down as the players headed to the 36th hole. Bennett claimed the Havemeyer Trophy with a routine par at the last.
16. Monday Q madness
Monday-qualifying for an LPGA event is hard. Try doing it three times. At age 14. Riding the high of her runner-up finish in the U.S. Girls Junior, Gianna Clemente did just that. Although she missed the cut in each start, she became just the second player in LPGA history to Monday-qualify for three consecutive events.
17. Pluck of the Irishman
We usually don’t hear much about mid-amateurs, so say hello to 25-year-old Hugh Foley. Playing with a heavy heart after the loss of his father, Foley won on his homeland, capturing the Irish Amateur in 2021 before winning both the North and South Irish championships in 2022. He crossed the pond to play his way into the final at his first USGA championship, at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, before losing to fellow Irishman Matt McClean.
18. Like father, like son
Charlie Woods qualified for the Notah Begay Junior Golf Championship, tying for fourth place in his age group to qualify for the main event. He finished 11th with Dad along for the ride.
19. The old college try
LIV Golf snagged some big names for its inaugural season, and the upstart circuit also dipped into the amateur ranks. U.S. Amateur champ James Piot, along with college stars Eugenio Chacarra and David Puig, made the jump. Chacarra won in October in just his fifth start.
20. Texas two-step
Incoming Texas freshman Tommy Morrison had quite the partner for his four-ball qualifier: Tony Romo. The pair shot a 63 to claim medalist honors and earn a spot in the 2023 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Kiawah Island.
21. Raising the stakes
Finally, a PGA Tour card! It was about time the PGA Tour awarded membership to the top college golfer, and its updated policy did just that. PGA Tour U also unveiled a new ranking system called PGA Tour U Accelerated, which enables underclassmen to claim a PGA Tour card should they achieve major benchmarks in amateur and college golf.
22. Changes inch toward equity
When it comes to progress, the NCAA can often feel like a slow burn. Look no further than women’s golf (see: the 2021 regionals controversy). In late November, the NCAA announced that the number of women’s teams advancing to the finals would increase from 24 to 27. On the men’s side, 30 teams advance out of the regionals. Why the discrepancy? The NCAA bases its ratio on postseason opportunities, so 27 percent of the programs on the men and women’s side will now get through.
An update to the World Amateur Golf Ranking in December brought about some huge changes in addressing parity, including points being progressively reduced position by position closer to last place and the reduction of the Power calculation to professional events by a third.