The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 18, 2013

Add tourney to bucket list | Sunnehanna keeps getting better

JOHNSTOWN — After 60 years, the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions isn’t slowing down at all.

If anything, the local event appears to be gaining momentum. That was in evidence last weekend, as the 83-player field was one of the strongest in the tournament’s storied history.

The field was so good that defending champion Bobby Wyatt, who is the nation’s top-ranked amateur, didn’t even make the cut and

wasn’t around to see Steven Ihm of the University of Iowa win the green jacket on Sunday.

Not even a line of thunderstorms that soaked the course and pushed Thursday’s start times back by four hours could dampen the enthusiasm surrounding the Amateur. Ben Little, the club’s superintendent, and his staff did a wonderful job to get the historic course ready for play.

“The course was in great shape for all the rain we got,” said Brady Moran, a recent Richland High School graduate who earned an invitation to the event by winning the Greater Johnstown Open.

Despite the soggy start, Sunnehanna earned rave reviews from players in the field.

“It’s an awesome course,” said Anders Albertson of Woodstock, Ga.

We agree, but it’s more than just the course that attracts the world’s best amateur golfers each year.

It’s also not just the event’s history, although 14 U.S. Open champions and nine Masters’ winners have walked the Westmont course, so there is plenty of that.

No, it takes more than a great legacy to continually be one of the top amateur events on the planet.

The fact that the tournament continues to thrive is a testament to those who run Sunnehanna Country Club, the tournament and to the people of Johnstown.

“I think this is one of the best, classiest tournaments in the country,” said Jim Holtgrieve, who is the captain for the prestigious Walker Cup event that pits a group of top amateur golfers from the United States against their counterparts from Great Britain.

Holtgrieve won’t find any dissenting opinions here.

Denver Wharton and James Hargreaves have done a fantastic job while serving as co-chairmen of the Amateur for the past 12 years. Both are stepping down from their roles – though they will remain on the Sunnehanna Amateur Committee – opening the door for Brian Chirillo and John Yerger, who will share the duties next year.

We’re confident that Chirillo and Yerger will make sure the event stays at the top of the leaderboard when it comes to amateur events. They have some wonderful resources at their disposal, including the people in and around Johnstown.

Local families play host to the players during the tournament, opening their homes to total strangers and then going to the course to cheer on their newly found friends.

It’s a great relationship that Sunnehanna and the people of our region have formed. We just wish that more people in and around our area would take advantage of the ability to see the world’s best amateur golfers. It’s free and open to the public. If large crowds could turn out for the tournament – especially to greet the golfers as they tee off on the opening hole – it would make an already-fantastic event a little bit better.

And it would go a long way toward ensuring that the next 60 years for the tournament are even brighter.


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