The 5th hole at Sunnehanna Country Club. WPGA file photo.

Elite Amateur Series to make its debut
By Mike Dudurich • February 8, 2022

Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.

Every year, the summer provides a showcase for amateur golfers across the world to participate in high-level events across the world.

2022 will continue that tradition, but with an exciting twist that will make playing well for a two-month stretch worth even more rewarding than normal. Think exemptions into major amateur events and spots in PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour events.

Welcome to the Elite Amateur Golf Series.

The seven tournaments include the Sunnehanna Amateur, Southern Amateur, Northeast Amateur, North and South Amateur, Trans-Miss Amateur, Pacific Coast Amateur and Western Amateur.

Notable in that list is the leadoff event: the Sunnehanna Amateur June 15-18 at historic Sunnehanna Country Club in Westmont, Pa.

The seven-event series will be called the Elite Amateur Cup. Players will compete for World Amateur Golf Ranking points earned in those events. The highest amount of points earned will make that player the Elite Amateur Cup champion. The top points earners will earn exemptions into select professional tournaments.

“I think it’s something exciting for Sunnehanna. It adds a little fun, it will certainly be exciting for the guys and exciting for those tournaments,” said Nathan Smith, who knows what it’s like to be a USGA champion (four-time Mid-Am champ who earned a spot in four Masters as result).

The fact that the series will begin with the Sunnehanna Amateur is a big deal for the folks in Johnstown. It’s great because it will be the leadoff event and the tournament director, John Yerger, is given credit for coming up with idea for the series.

“We just feel there are an awful lot opportunities for players in this series,” Yerger said. “This is one of these things where the goal is to lift all boats. We also believe that we want to make sure that golf remains relevant.”

“That’s exactly right,” said Jim Nugent, the publisher of Global Golf Post, the very popular online golf magazine. “It was John’s idea and the second person to find out was me. To me, this is an idea that’s long overdue. And he and the other tournament directors agreed in pretty rapid order.

“This is good for these tournaments in that it will make them more important,” he said.

Among the things being focused on is how the scheduling will work for the players. It’s unlikely any of the players who want to play in all seven of the events for any number of reasons.

“Take these seven events and add them to NCAAs which end a week before Sunnehanna and that’s an awful lot of golf,” Nugent said. “These guys have to get some rest before going back to college. The one unfortunate thing about this is it’s a bit of a golf endurance event. The good news is that there’s only one tournament on the West Coast.”

In the early stages of planning for 2022, two of the West Penn Golf Association’s best, Palmer Jackson and Mark Goetz both have interest in the concept but are in search of more information before committing.

“I haven’t looked into it a ton, I think the idea is good,” said Goetz, who’ll be finishing his college career at West Virginia this spring. “It’s a really good idea, it finally puts a structure to high-level events. I’m all in, absolutely.”

“This kinda looks like they took the major amateur events and made them look like a pro tour and that’s what all amateurs are looking for,” said Palmer Jackson, who last fall was named to the Fred Haskins Award Watch List, that includes the top 15 collegiate golfers in the country.

“I don’t know if it will be completely possible to play in all seven. I think this is for the better,” Jackson said.

There are bumps to get over, to be sure. Those seven events will, in some cases will be held on the same weeks as major events in local golf associations, like the West Penn Golf Associations. While those events are mostly played on Mondays and Tuesday, getting from those to the Elite Series will be the issue.

“Amateur golf had some real issues and some events were struggling,” said Yerger. “We’re getting help from the USGA and that will be very helpful. This will be something similar to the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup.”

It is a revolutionary concept, one that could reshape the face of amateur golf if the Elite Amateur Series reaches the kind of success it might achieve.

About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.