PINEHURST, N.C. - The oldest golf championship in America was the U.S. Amateur. It was held in 1895 at Newport Country Club — one day before the U.S. Open.
There was a time when amateur golf was celebrated, and professionals were not allowed into the locker room.
Now it's a professional game.
The last amateur to win the U.S. Open was John Goodman in 1933 at North Shore Country Club outside Chicago. In fact, Goodman is the last amateur to win any major. The last amateur who even had a chance at the U.S. Open was Jim Simon, and it was a good one. He had the 54-hole lead at Merion in 1971 until closing with a 76. Lee Trevino wound up beating Jack Nicklaus in a playoff.
That kind of history doesn't bode well for the 12 amateurs at Pinehurst No. 2, whether it's U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick of England or Cameron Wilson, the NCAA champion from Stanford who got in as an alternate on Monday.
The five amateurs to win the U.S. Open, ranked here in reverse order, still have their place in history:
5. JOHN GOODMAN
Goodman not only is the last amateur to win one of the four current majors, he joined an elite group at North Shore in 1933 by winning the "professional" championship before winning the "amateur" championship.
He tied the U.S. Open record with a 66 in the second round to take the lead, and he was never seriously challenged after that. He followed with a 70 in the third round to take a six-shot lead over Ralph Guldahl. He closed with a 76 for a one-shot victory.
Goodman won the U.S. Amateur four years later. The only other amateurs to win the U.S. Open before they won a U.S. Amateur were Francis Ouimet, Chick Evans and Bobby Jones.
4. JEROME TRAVERS
Travers was a leading amateur in the early 20th century, winning the U.S. Amateur four times, including back to back in 1912 and 1913.
In 1915, he became only the second amateur to win the U.S. Open.
Travers opened with round of 76-72 at Baltusrol and was two shots behind Jim Barnes, who would win the first PGA Championship a year later. Travers took the outright lead with a 73 in the third round, and then closed with a 76 to hold off Tom McNamara for a one-shot victory.
That was his only top-10 finish in four appearances at the U.S. Open. Not only did he choose not to defend, he never played another U.S. Open.
3. CHICK EVANS
Evans' victory in 1916 continued a run started by Frances Quimet in 1913 during which amateurs won the U.S. Open three out of four years. Evans became the first to win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in the same year.
And this was a dominant win.
Evans opened with a 70 at Minikadha Club in Minnesota to share the lead with Wilfred Reid. He followed with rounds of 69 and 74 to break the U.S. Open scoring records for 36 and 54 holes, giving him a three-shot lead over Jim Barnes.
Evans closed with a 73 to hold off Jock Hutchison, who had a 68.
2. FRANCIS OUIMET
In what remains one of the most celebrated U.S. Opens in history, Francis Ouimet put American golf on the map by bringing down two titans.
Ouimet became the first amateur to win the U.S. Open in 1913 at The Country Club, across the street from where he lived. He made up a five-shot deficit with a 74 in the third round, and then shot 79 to match Harry Vardon and Ted Ray and set up a playoff.
In the playoff, it came down to Ouimet and Vardon with two holes to play, and the 17th hole proved pivotal. Vardon tried to cut the corner of the dogleg, found a bunker and had to pitch out sideways on his way to a bogey. Ouimet made a birdie putt, and suddenly the lead was three shots going to the final hole.
Ouimet closed with a par for a 72, while Vardon made double bogey for a 77, making the margin of victory appear greater than it really was. Ray shot 78.
1. BOBBY JONES
Jones not only was the best amateur in U.S. Open history, he remains one of the greatest to ever play the game and is celebrated for his "impregnable quadrilateral" — the Grand Slam — by winning the U.S. Open, British Open, British Amateur and U.S. Amateur in 1930.
His first U.S. Open was at Inwood Country Club in New York with a two-shot victory in a playoff over Bobby Cruickshank in 1923. He won his second U.S. Open at Scioto with a one-shot victory over Joe Turnesa in 1926. That was the year Jones became the first player to win the British Open and U.S. Open in the same year.
The most improbable might have been his 1929 U.S. Open title at Winged Foot. He made a tough, breaking par putt on the 18th hole for a 79 that led to a playoff against Al Espinosa, but the final hole in regulation was far more riveting than the playoff. Jones beat Espinosa by 23 shots in the 36-hole playoff.
The fourth U.S. Open title was the most important. Having already won the British Open and British Amateur, he built a five-shot lead over Harry Cooper going into the final 18 holes, closed with a 75 and won by two over McDonald Smith at Interlachen in 1930.
Jones then won the U.S. Amateur at Merion to complete the Grand Slam.
© Coast Reporter