The Philadelphia Amateur will sport a different look when it begins Monday with stroke-play qualifying at Lancaster Country Club. Then again, the contestants are delighted to simply be playing the 120th championship in the middle of a pandemic.
For starters, 80 players are in the field, well down from the average of around 138 the last five years. They will play 18 holes, instead of the usual 36, to determine the 32 contestants who will advance to Tuesday’s start of match play.
Because golf courses were closed at the time that qualifying events were scheduled, the field was selected on the basis of exemptions (60) and players with a handicap index of plus-3.3 or better (20).
No caddies are permitted for the event, so players may either take a cart — one contestant to a vehicle — or carry his own bag. No spectators will be permitted on the course.
“The Philadelphia Amateur is one of the oldest and longest-running competitions in the United States,” Golf Association of Philadelphia president Quinn Spitzer said. “As such, it’s really important for us to go ahead and try to maintain the heritage.
“One of the very first decisions you have is, can you actually run it so that it is consistent with the way it’s been run in the past, that has the same quality, the level of competition is still strong, the winner can honestly walk away saying, ‘I won the Philadelphia Amateur,’ because if you can’t do that, you don’t run the competition.”
Two-time champion Jeremy Wall of Brielle, N.J., a member at Manasquan River Golf Club, begins his round Monday with a chance to make history. Wall, 24, the 10th player to win back-to-back championships following his victory last year at Stonewall, will seek to become the first ever to win three in a row.
“To win the Amateur twice was very neat,” Wall said on the GAP website, “and to have the opportunity to win it a third straight time is pretty neat. Not a lot of guys could say they had a chance to win a third straight Philadelphia Amateur. It’s very exciting.”
The contestants will go off Monday in groups of two. Spitzer said officials will monitor play, making sure that the golfers keep their distance, and that CDC protocols are followed.
“We’re obviously interested in making sure that the health and safety of our competitors and staff are protected to the greatest degree possible,” he said. “So I have no qualms or concerns whatsoever about the issue in terms of health and safety.”