Western Amateur tees off today in return

Adrien Pendaries, right, of Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, practices his drive along with other golfers on Monday in preparation for the Western Amateur at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club.

The Western Amateur begins today with the first round of stroke play at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor.

The tournament is making its return to the course where it was hosted every year from 1971-2008. Practice rounds were held on Monday.

A field of 156 of the top amateur golfers in the world will play in a grueling format which will require the winner to play eight rounds of golf in the next five days.

Players will compete in 18 holes of stroke play today and Wednesday before a cut, then another 36 holes on Thursday to narrow the field to 16. The remaining 16 will then compete in a single-elimination match play tournament, with two rounds each on Friday and Saturday.

Defending champion Cole Hammer is in a strong group that begins play at 8 a.m. from the No. 1 tee.

Hammer, who plays for the University of Texas, is No. 2 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking. His group includes the No. 1 player in that ranking, Taiwan native Chun An Yu (Arizona State), as well as No. 5 Isaiah Salinda (Stanford).

Teeing off at 8:10 a.m. from the No. 10 tee are No. 10 Spencer Ralston (Georgia), No. 11 Benjamin Jones (England) and No. 31 Peter Kuest (Brigham Young).

The afternoon will also showcase a strong group which tees off at 1 p.m. from the No. 1 tee. It includes No. 7 John Pak (Florida State), No. 13 Quade Cummins (Oklahoma) and No. 14 David Micheluzzi (Australia).

St. Joseph graduate Matt Zerbel, the Point O’ Woods club champion and only local player in the field, has the latest tee time of the day. He will begin play from the No. 10 tee at 2 p.m. along with Tommy Kuhl and Will Thomson.