Sunnehanna Media Day

Sunnehanna Country Club golf course superintendent Mark Leppert places one of the new Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament tee markers into the ground at the 3rd hole on Friday, June 26, 2020.

More than a green jacket and crystal trophy will be at stake when the 67th Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions is played July 21-24.

For the first time in the storied event’s history, the Sunnehanna Amateur will produce two qualifiers for the upcoming 120th U.S. Amateur in August. The Sunnehanna Amateur winner and runner-up each will receive a spot in the event at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon.

“The (USGA) wanted to enhance the U.S. Amateur field, but they also wanted to help incentivize these tournaments to be played. Most importantly it was a recognition of the huge amount of effort that has gone on to make these tournaments take place,” said Sunnehanna Amateur co-chairman John Yerger on Friday. “It’s been a monumental effort.”

Co-chairman Brian Chirillo addressed the media on Friday at the Sunnehanna Country Club. He discussed the date change due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as many guidelines and restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“I don’t think any of us have a crystal ball that is clear on how this is going to pan out, not only in golf but in our lives in general,” Chirillo said. “You can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow let alone a couple months from now.

“Unfortunately the last couple of days there have been some spikes in some areas. You have to pay attention to it.”

Traditionally, the Sunnehanna Amateur is played the week heading into Father’s Day weekend. This year amid COVID-19 concerns, the tournament was pushed back to July after the Pacific Coast Amateur canceled its event set for the same weekend.

Chirillo said approximately 100 players currently are in the field, including three of the top eight amateur golfers in the world rankings.

Alex Smalley, who won the past two Sunnehanna Amateurs, turned professional and won’t return to defend his crowns.

“It’s an odd year. We have 69 guys signed up for the qualifier to be held here and four people will qualify,” Chirillo said of Monday’s qualifying event at Sunnehanna. “We are at 100 and with the qualifier that would put us at 104.”

Davis Thompson (fourth), Cole Hammer (seventh) and Stewart Hagestad (eighth) are in the world amateur golf rankings. 

Hagestad was a member of the U.S. Walker Cup Team that won in 2019.

The Sunnehanna Amateur 2018 runner-up Quade Cummins will return. Cummins tied for fifth last year at Sunnehanna.

Preston Summerhays, the reigning U.S. Junior champion, played at Sunnehanna last year and is in the field.

Michael Thorbjornsen, ranked 34th in the world, won the 2018 U.S. Junior and is headed to Sunnehanna.

“We lost two All-Americans, two players ranked in the top-50,” Yerger said. “Garett Reband, who finished runner-up last year, he broke his hand recently. Yuxin Lin, the two-time Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, could not get into the country because he is home in China.”

Other foreign players remained in the U.S. and will play at Sunnehanna.

“We have several kids who play college golf and did not go home this summer,” Yerger said. “Jovan Rebula won the 2018 British Amateur and he is Ernie Els’ nephew.” 

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

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