15 Aug 2022 | Amateur golf |

Australian Amateur champ eyes off US crown

by Dane Heverin

Connor McKinney.

Reigning Australian Amateur champion Connor McKinney is hoping his luck will turn as he looks to add the US Amateur crown to his collection at The Ridgewood Country Club and Arcola Country Club in New Jersey this week.

McKinney, who also won the St Andrews Links Trophy at the Old Course in June, has been in stellar form this year but in the past few weeks the golfing gods have not been smiling upon him.

“I’ve played some really good golf but not won matches,” the West Australian said. 

“At the Western Am, I was bogey free, five-under, and lost on the 21st hole. I’m hoping things will swing my way this week. It’d be a good week to get through and do some damage.”

Advancing to the match play section will be a big effort in itself with the 312 players in the field being dwindled down to the Round of 64, and McKinney will face stiff competition for those lucrative spots from his fellow Australians Karl Vilips, Hayden Hopewell, Harrison Crowe and Jack Buchanan.

That quintet are vying to become the first Australian to win the event since Curtis Luck triumphed at Oakland Hills Country Club in 2016 and for McKinney, Hopewell, Crowe and Buchanan - who have been touring the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States together as part of Golf Australia’s high performance program - victory would provide some much sought after bragging rights.

“We do everything together. We stay together. We’re getting sick of each other now,” McKinney said with a laugh.

They spent five days at Golf Australia’s Florida house together before heading to New Jersey where fiercely contested table tennis tournaments slotted into their schedule in between recovery and practice sessions which included spending time with Australian DP World Tour player Jason Scrivener.

The focus of their preparation was to be ready for the unique challenges that a USGA event produces and McKinney was not shocked by what he saw during his practice rounds.

“I played Arcola on Sunday and the general manager said for member competitions that they get the greens running at 14 or 15 on the stimp (meaning the greens are lightning fast),” he said. 

“They’ve had to slow them down for this week. Royal Melbourne is the closest I’ve played to that which is 13 or 14.

“It’s your traditional American golf course. The greens are not huge and they’re real slick, real slopey and there’s thick rough everywhere. I probably hit 4-iron into par-4s about four times yesterday at Ridgewood. 

“If you hit it into the rough off the tee it’s just a chip-out. It’s just playing so long because they’ve added new tee boxes and there’s seven par-4s over 450m. For a USGA setup, it’s kind of what you expect. I’m looking forward to the challenge though.”

Tee times - Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th August AEST

11.42pm* (Ridgewood) Connor McKinney, AJ Ewart, Andrew O’Leary

12.23am (Ridgewood) Karl Vilips, Nicklaus Staub, Conor McGrath

1.06am* (Arcola) Hayden Hopewell, Richard Dowling III, Michael Crowley

4.36am (Arcola) Harrison Crowe, Patrick Gareiss, Justin Hastings

6.30am (Ridgewood) Jack Buchanan, Alex Scott, Adam Hooker

Live scores

Player profiles

Connor McKinney

  • WAGR ranking: 30

  • Age: 20

  • State: Western Australia

  • Club: Joondalup Resort

  • Best results in 2022: Winner Australian Amateur, winner St Andrews Links Trophy and winner South Australia Amateur Classic

Karl Vilips

  • WAGR ranking: 54

  • Age: 20 (turns 21 on August 16)

  • State: Western Australia

  • US college: Stanford University

  • Best results in 2022: Runner-up Northeast Amateur Invitational and 9th North and South Amateur Championship

Hayden Hopewell

  • WAGR ranking: 40

  • Age: 20

  • State: Western Australia

  • Club: Royal Fremantle

  • Best results in 2022: Runner-up TPS Murray River (pro) and runner-up WA Open (pro)

Harrison Crowe

  • WAGR ranking: 45

  • Age: 20

  • State: New South Wales

  • Club: St Michael’s

  • Best results in 2022: Winner NSW Open (pro), winner Australian Master of the Amateurs and winner NSW Amateur

Jack Buchanan

  • WAGR ranking: 242

  • Age: 20

  • State: South Australia

  • Club: Glenelg

  • Best results in 2022: Runner-up Australian Amateur and runner-up South Australian Amateur Classic

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