Sunnehanna tournament begins Elite Amateur Golf Series on Wednesday | Sports -

Sunnehanna tournament begins Elite Amateur Golf Series on Wednesday | Sports

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Over the past 68 occasions the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions has occurred, its reputation throughout the golf world has only grown.

This coming Wednesday begins a new chapter at one of the top amateur golf tournaments in the country.

A seven-event gauntlet called the Elite Amateur Golf Series kicks off at Sunnehanna Country Club.

“It’s great for the club,” Sunnehanna Amateur Co-Chairman John Yerger said. “This being the first tournament in the Elite Amateur Golf Series, which is really going to be a big deal within amateur golf, and certainly going to be followed not across the country, but in a lot of aspects, across the world. It’s a big, big deal.”

The Elite Amateur Golf Series will feature a summer-long competition – the Elite Amateur Cup. Using the seven series event results from the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) as the Elite Amateur Cup point system, top finishers in the final standings will earn exemptions into the PGA Tour, the Korn Ferry Tour, USGA Championships and other professional playing opportunities.

The first PGA Tour event to support the EAGS and offer an exemption to the Elite Amateur Cup winner is the Butterfield Bermuda Championship for their event in October.

The six other tournaments in the Elite Amateur Golf Series include the Northeast Amateur (June 22-25; Wannamoisett Country Club; Rumford, Rhode Island); North and South Amateur (June 26-July 2; Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Pinehurst, North Carolina); Trans-Mississippi Amateur (July 6-9; Denver Country Club, Denver, Colorado); Southern Amateur (July 13-16; Sea Island Golf Club, St. Simons Island, Georgia); Pacific Coast Amateur (July 19-22; Columbia Edgewater Country Club, Portland, Oregon); and Western Amateur (Aug. 1-6; Exmoor Country Club, Highland Park, Illinois).

Over Sunnehanna’s vast history, 44 contestants have won 96 majors with 38 of those championships coming since 2000. Phil Mickelson, Collin Morikawa, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods are a handful of players that have played at Sunnehanna over the past nine decades, heading back to the invitational that started in 1936.

This year’s field for the four-day event is numbered at 101. A crop of familiar names along with some fresh faces should give the tournament a solid blend of new and old.

“Palmer Jackson, who finished fourth last year, he’s from Murrysville,” Yerger described the field.

“He won the (2022) Jones Cup. Preston Summerhays is obviously the prominent name that’s returning. He won the tournament in 2020.

“He’s an outstanding young player. He was Pac-12 Freshman of the Year (at Arizona State).

“His family’s reputation within gold speaks for itself. They are golf royalty. We’re excited to have him back.

“Overall, it’s kind of a new field in many respects. We lost Travis Vick, who finished runner-up and third the last two years, to the U.S. Open. We have a lot of new faces. We’re excited to see another champion.”

Summerhays’ father, Boyd Summerhays, played in the 1997 Sunnehanna Amateur. Boyd Summerhays was a three-time Junior World Champion and a four-time AJGA All-American who played at Oklahoma State and was on the PGA Tour. He now is a coach.

Nick Gabrelcik, a 2021 semifinalist at the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club, and Nathan Smith, captain of the 2025 U.S. Walker Cup team, are slated to play at Sunnehanna as well.

There will be 105 players from 21 different states competing for six spots in Sunday’s qualifier. Prominent names in the field include local products Derek Hayes, a four-time City Golf Championship winner, and Paul Pentz. Sean Karl Dobson, a rising freshman at Stanford, 2020 Sunnehanna competitor Gregor Meyer and 2021 Pennsylvania Amateur champion John Peters are top names to follow as well.

While many traditions have stayed the same at Sunnehanna, a new scoreboard will be installed on the course to stay up to date in the constant arms race.

“You’re going to see an LED (light-emitting diode), electronic scoreboard behind the 16th hole, which I think is going to be an interesting addition that you typically see at professional events,” Yerger said.

Yerger was quick to point out the event would not be possible without the help of around 130 volunteers.

“We’re the only tournament within the Elite Amateur Golf Series that is run exclusively by volunteers,” Yerger said. “I think the one thing we all want to really emphasize is the tournament wouldn’t be continued without the support of Johnstown. Ninety-five percent of our volunteers come from outside of this club. Thirty-five percent of our housing comes from outside of this club. The bottom line is because of the generosity of the people that live here, we’re able to continue a great golfing tradition that everyone takes pride in.”

Beginning Wednesday, the tournament is free and open to the public.

The club’s hospitality keeps golfers wanting to come back.

“The players and their families rave about the experience,” Yerger said. “The friendliness, about how things are done, about how people are treated. It sets us apart from everybody else.”

Jake Oswalt is a copy editor for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TheWizOfOz11.

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