KARACHI: Pakistan No.1 Omar Khalid and No.3 Yashal Shah are all set to feature in the 74th US Junior Amateur Championship.
The Championship is one of the biggest junior competitions in international golf, at the world-famous Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, United States. It is a rare occasion for Pakistan golf as Omar and Yashal earned exemptions to play in the prestigious championship to be held from July 25 to 30.
A total of 264 players from all over the world will take part in the championship. Only 47 of them have earned an exemption on the basis of their positions in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WGAR), while the rest won tickets to Bandon Dunes via qualifying rounds which took place in various parts of the US earlier this summer.
Omar, who holds the record of being the youngest ever National Amateur champion of Pakistan, rose to a career-high No.294 in the world rankings. He was ranked among the top-ten players in the world aged 17 or younger. Apart from winning the 2021 National Amateurs at age 16, Omar has claimed a number of major titles including Pakistan Open (amateur winner), CAS Open, DHA Open, Governor's Cup and Faldo Series Pakistan. He is also the youngest ever player to become Pakistan No.1.
Last month, he took part in the prestigious British Amateurs at Royal Lytham and St Annes after earning an exemption and also played in the British Open Regional Qualifiers in London.
The talented Yashal has also achieved a lot of success at the national level winning the CNS Open and Sindh Amateurs. Recently, he took part in the Egyptian Amateurs and finished fifth with a series of exceptional rounds. He was in contention for the title till the final round. He is currently ranked No. 503 in WAGR.
Both the Pakistani teenagers, who have been sponsored by Engro Corporation, have proven their mettle at home but the windy and challenging Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails courses would provide a huge challenge for them.
Top players from 25 nations will be competing in the US Amateurs. Following is the list of players representing each nation: USA (206), Canada (14), People’s Republic of China (6), Australia (5), Mexico (5), Chinese Taipei (2), Costa Rica (2), Ecuador (2), Germany (2), India (2), New Zealand (2), Pakistan (2), Thailand (2), Bulgaria (1), Cayman Islands (1), Guatemala (1), Norway (1), Paraguay (1), Peru (1), Republic of Korea (1), Singapore (1), South Africa (1), Spain (1), United Arab Emirates (1), Venezuela (1).
The legendary Tiger Woods is one of three golfers who have won the US Junior Amateur and then went on to win the US Open. Woods won the Junior Amateur in 1991, 1992 and 1993 and won the US Open in 2000, 2002 and 2008. Johnny Miller won the Junior Amateur in 1964 and followed up with a US Open win in 1973. More recently, Jordan Spieth won Junior Amateur titles in 2009 and 2011 and followed up with a US Open victory in 2015.
USA's Nick Dunlap, the 2021 US Junior Amateur champion, will be looking to defend his title in the championship.
A field of 264 golfers will compete in the stroke-play competition on Monday and Tuesday. The top 64 will advance to the match-play competition which will begin on Wednesday and conclude on Saturday with a 36-hole match between the finalists.
The stroke play will be split between the Bandon Dunes and the Bandon Trails courses, with all of the match play taking place at Bandon Dunes. The semifinals and final would be shown live on Golf Channel. The winner of the championship will earn an exemption into the 2023 US Open to be played at the Los Angeles Country Club. He will also earn an exemption for the next two US Amateurs.
A top official of the United States Golf Association (USGA) believes Bandon Dunes would provide a huge challenge to the participating players.
“We want Bandon Dunes to be Bandon Dunes when we come here in July,” said Greg Sanfilippo, the director of the US Junior Amateur and the Senior Amateur Championships. “We will not deviate from the comprehensive test (that the USGA always strives for), but truly, Bandon will provide what we are looking for organically: the wind, the rolling terrain, the ground game, the shot type, the rain, the risk-reward, multiple teeing grounds, drivable par-4 considerations, turf firmness and fog.”
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