Western Amateur Championship – Illinois, USA

The Western Amateur has been a prestigious national tournament since its founding in 1899. Many of the great names in golf have won the Western Amateur. Many more have competed in the championship but were unable to conquer the gruelling test that is the Western Amateur.

156 invited players come from across the globe to play one of the toughest formats in amateur golf. They play 18 holes of individual stroke play on the Tuesday and Wednesday after which the field is cut to the low 44 scores and ties. Those remaining play 36 holes of individual stroke play on Thursday to determine the low 16 finishers. The "Sweet Sixteen" then compete in Match Play on Friday and Saturday to determine the champion.

The Western Amateurs' Sweet Sixteen have tuned out to be quite an elite group in the golf world. Over the years, Sweet Sixteen members have accomplished the following….

  • 22 major championships since 2000
  • 15 PGA Tour Player of the Year awards since 1990
  • 4 FedEx Cup titles
  • 13 events on the 2014-15 PGA Tour Schedule
  • 5 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year awards since 1990
  • 9 participants in the 2015 Presidents Cup
  • 7 of the top 20 on the PGA Tour career money list
  • 11 of the last 20 US Amateur Champions

Nick was invited to play in this tournament which was held between the 31st of July and the 5th August at the Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois.

Nick and his former Iowa State teammate Ruben Sondjaja made the "Sweet Sixteen" finishing tied for 3rd on 11 under after 72 holes. Nick played Dylan Perry first up and won the match 5 and 4. Unfortunately Ruben got beaten by Derek Bard – if he had progressed to the next round he would have been playing Nick. Nick then played Derek and unfortunately went down 2 and 1. Derek would then lose in his semi final match to the eventful winner Norman Xiong who had also finished at the top of the leaderboard after 72 holes.

In Nicks own words……….

The coolest thing about my week at the Western Amateur was my mindset. I entered the event with minimal swing thoughts and progressively played more and more freely as the week went on. My mindset was more about seeing how good I could play imperfectly rather than my usual attitude of seeing how close to perfect I could play. This was evident in my quarterfinal match against Derek Bard – I snap hooked a 2 iron into a tree and it kicked into the fairway. Instead of being annoyed with my second shot on a par five and trying to figure out what went wrong, I got up to the ball and hit a low nipper wedge to 9 feet and drained the putt for a birdie. I didn't care how I made the birdie, I cared that I made the birdie.

I hit 79% of my fairways. As the week went on my driving did get more and more scrappy but I managed it well and went to my go to shots when things weren't going so well or when I was under pressure. All in all it was a successful week and I have a good action plan for the next few weeks in terms of working on the inconsistent or not as mentally strong and resilient parts of my game.

Playing in the Pro-Am

Skokie Country Club

Skokie Country Club is a private country club in Glencoe, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Founded in 1897, it features a 7091-yard 18-hole course.

In 1843, President John Tyler granted, through purchase, a large tract of land to a man named Marcus Gormley. In 1897 a piece of the property was purchased by a group of Chicago businessmen who had come together to form a golf club.

The land stood atop a ridge and overlooked a broad oak savannah plain and in the distance, a wetland area. This portion, known as the “Skokie”, probably got its name from a Potawatomi Indian word for swamp or marsh. From this came “The Links of Skokie Country Club”.

There have been 4 course layouts here.

The first, designed by a member, had 9 holes. All that remains today is the small pond on No.18 and the routing of No. 8.

In 1904, the members hired Thomas Bendelow to design an 18 hole course. An acclaimed architect in his day, it should be noted that he also designed Medinah No. 3 and Olympia Fields Nos. 1 and 2.

Skokie is known as a “Donald Ross Course”. The legendary designer came to Skokie in 1914. With his signature “fore bunkers” 20 to 30 yards short of the green, lofted shots to mounded greens were promoted.

In 1922 Skokie was chosen to host the U. S. Open. Called the “National Open” at the time, a first-ever admission fee of $1 was charged. With the best golfers of the day including Walter Hagen, John Black and Bobby Jones, it drew 15,000 spectators, the largest crowd in Open history to that point.

A 20-year-old former caddie named Gene Sarazen won the tournament with a birdie 4 on the par 5 18th hole.

At the Skokie Centennial in 1997, Mr. Sarazen stood on the 18th green to address the membership. Standing on the terrace, on the slope down from the clubhouse and extending out to the putting green were most of the club’s 300 members. They were dressed in formal attire to pay homage and listen to the man who had meant so much to Skokie Country Club and who had become a legend in the history of the game. Emotion was palpable.

With the sunset at his back, Mr. Sarazen stood up to the microphone, “My grandfather won the U.S. Open here in 1922.” When the laughter passed, the 95-year old champion continued -“Boy, the trees sure have grown!

In 1938, the Club acquired land adjacent to the lagoons in the southwest “footprint” of the course. That land and real estate transactions in the north section enabled a substantial reworking. The architectural team of William Langford and Theodore Moreau were hired. Fresh from their “masterpiece” at Lawsonia Links in Green Lake, Wisconsin, they redesigned much of the layout with respect paid to the integrity of Mr. Ross’s intentions. With the exception of some modifications by the firm of Rees Jones in 1981, the current course is much as Langford and Moreau left it in the late 1930’s.

In 1999, the membership overwhelmingly approved the engagement of Mr. Ron Prichard to update the course. His extensive experience as a Donald Ross disciple was impressive and work began immediately. Mr. Prichard redesigned the greens and bunkers to the original Ross specifications and oversaw the removal of trees of poor or insignificant value. The result is classic Donald Ross.


This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
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