Tom Devlin can’t say who it will be. But he will almost guarantee one of golf’s biggest future stars will tee it up in the 70th U.S. Junior Amateur next month at Flint Hills National Golf Club.
The odds are in Devlin’s favor as the club he founded in 1997 prepares to host its third United States Golf Association championship. Past Junior Amateur winners include three-time champion Tiger Woods, PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth and World Golf Hall of Fame member Johnny Miller.
“This isn’t just an everyday tournament,” Devlin said as USGA officials were on hand Thursday to preview the championship, which will be played July 17-22. “This is the premier junior amateur championship in the world. The best young players in the entire world will come here.”
The field of 156 competitors – ages 18 and under – will be determined in 18-hole sectional qualifiers from June 12-28. There are 57 qualifying sites across the country, including Lawrence’s Eagle Bend Golf Course. Australian Min Woo Lee, the 2016 champion, is exempt from qualifying and will attempt to defend his title.
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Once at Flint Hills, golfers will try to complete a six-day gauntlet that includes two rounds of stroke-play qualifying to reduce the field to 64. The championship then moves to single-elimination match play, with a 36-hole final scheduled for July 22.
To heighten the challenge, the USGA hopes to set up the Tom Fazio-designed, par-71 layout firm and fast while allowing Flint Hills’ thick bluegrass rough to grow to 3 1/2 inches.
“It all comes down to your demographic in how you need to set up your championship,” said Greg Sanfilippo, Junior Amateur championship director. “We have players out here who are going to hit the ball 320 yards.
“The management of the rough is important to us because the fairways out here are pretty generous. When you can hit the ball that far, you really need to have a strong rough game, I would say, to give them that half-shot penalty for missing the fairways.”
Despite a relative newcomer status compared to future U.S. Junior Amateur host sites Baltusrol and Inverness, Flint Hills has made its mark in golf. The club is listed in Golf Digest’s biennial ranking of “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses” and the USGA championships it has hosted have been memorable.
Flint Hills had been open just four years when it hosted the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur, a championship decided when former LSU golfer Meredith Duncan defeated Chile’s Nicole Perrot in a 37-hole final. Ten years ago, Arkansas native Stan Lee became the youngest winner of the U.S. Senior Amateur.
Admission is free to the U.S. Junior Amateur. Fox Sports 1 will present two hours of live television coverage each of the last three days of the championship.
“I’d do one every year if I could get it,” Devlin said. “They’re only going to award you, if you’re lucky, one every 10 years.
“We’re never going to get the U.S. Open, and we’re probably never going to get the U.S. Amateur. But we can get the rest.”
U.S. Junior Amateur
- When: July 17-22
- Where: Flint Hills National Golf Club, Andover
- Format: Two rounds of stroke play, top 64 advance to match play