BENTON TOWNSHIP — Chris DiMarco has seen amateur golfers change a lot since he won the 1988 Western Amateur.
The venue for this year’s tournament will be one he knows well.
The Western Amateur will return to the Point O’Woods Golf & Country Club, its home from 1971-2008, for the first time in 11 years on July 29-Aug. 3.
“I always associated the Western Amateur with Point O’Woods,” said DiMarco, who spoke at Wednesday’s media day. “I think it’s pretty special to have it back here.”
The Western Golf Association has hosted the tournament at a variety of courses since 2008, mostly in the Chicago area.
“Today marks a very special occasion for all of us at the WGA as we celebrate the return to the Point O’ Woods,” said Vince Pellegrino, Senior Vice President of Tournaments for the WGA. “We enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Point O’ Woods, and ever since we announced we’d be coming back in 2014, we’ve been looking forward to the renewal of this partnership.”
DiMarco won the 1988 championship match 1 up over Bill Lundeen. He also competed in 1989 but could not defend his title.
“Without a doubt, winning this was by far the most prestigious event I ever won as an amateur,” DiMarco said. “There’s a couple that rival it — The U.S. Am, the British Am, and this, the Western Am. Those are the three tournaments you strive to win, the three majors of amateur golf.”
This year’s tournament will feature some of the best college golfers in the country. Pellegrino named some of the top players in the field, including defending champion Cole Hammer of Texas, Chun-An Yu of Arizona State, Brandon Wu of Stanford, and Austin Eckroat of Oklahoma State.
DiMarco said he is impressed with the current level of play among amateurs, and suggested that Tiger Woods had a huge effect on the current generation.
Woods won the 1994 Western Amateur on his way to one of the greatest careers in golf history.
“I think what you’re seeing, to me, is a Tiger thing,” DiMarco said. “When they were (kids), they were watching Tiger Woods win these tournaments. How did he do it? He worked out, he stayed in shape, he had the right nutrition, he had a swing coach. So you’re seeing him basically lay the recipe for how to be a successful golfer through the ages.
“These kids saw that. Nobody out there doesn’t have some type of physical trainer, somebody helping with their nutrition, and they all have swing coaches.”
The Western Amateur format will certainly test the players’ conditioning as well as their golf skills. The competition includes two 18-hole stroke play rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a cut to the low 44 scores and ties.
Remaining golfers play 36 holes on Thursday, with the top 16 advancing to single-elimination, 18-hole match play. Two rounds are held Friday, with the semifinals and finals on Saturday.
“When you play that much golf, it’s kind of nice because you really don’t have time to think,” DiMarco said. “You don’t have time to let the nerves sink in. By the time you play the first 36-hole day, you eat something and you fall asleep. You’re getting up bright and early, you play another 36, you eat something and you fall asleep.”
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