Western Amateur coming to Moraine Country Club this summer

Last weekend’s European Championship winner among top contenders

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Framed photos from the 1945 PGA Championship fill a wall inside the clubhouse at Moraine Country Club. The largest photo shows golf legend Byron Nelson accepting the trophy, which came with a prize of $5,000 in war bonds. It was the last of Nelson’s five major championships.

Moraine Country Club opened 15 years before it hosted that major tournament, and now six years short of its 100th birthday, the club will host one of the most important amateur tournaments in the country.

The 122nd Western Amateur will take place at Moraine from July 29-Aug. 3. The Western Golf Association held a press conference Monday at the club to publicize the event. Tommy Morrison, a golfer from the University of Texas who’s expected to be a top contender, spoke via a Zoom call after travel issues prevented him from getting to Ohio from Denmark, where he became the first American to win the European Amateur last weekend.

Morrison has yet to visit Moraine but has heard it’s an old-school course, the type of course he loves. It measures 7,270 feet.

“It’s not a place where you can just tee up the driver and hit it as hard as you can and then figure out what happens,” Morrison said. “I think we get a lot of that on modern golf courses. This is somewhere you have to put your thought into it. I think those (courses) are more fun.”

Past Western Amateur champions include the two golfers with the most major championships. Jack Nicklaus won the event in 1961 at New Orleans Country Club. Tiger Woods won it in 1994 at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor, Mich. Austin Greaser, of Vandalia, won the Western Amateur in 2022.

The Western Amateur has been held in Illinois or Michigan in recent decades with a few exceptions. The 2020 event took place at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind. In 2013, it was held at The Alotian Club in Roland, Ark.

This will be the first time since 1923, when Mayfield Country Club in Cleveland hosted the tournament, that it has taken place in Ohio.

Moraine Country Club President John Haley, who will serve as tournament chairman, ran down a history of the course at the press conference Monday and said it has “unforgettable holes and firm and fast playing conditions” similar to what golfers at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst saw earlier this month.

“The 156 world-ranked amateurs who come to Dayton later this month will be tested not only by the golf course,” Haley said, “but also by the demanding format of the Western Amateur.”

The Western Amateur comes to Moraine eight years after the course underwent a major renovation that saw all 18 tees and greens rebuilt.

Golfers who reach the final round will play as many as 144 holes. The tournament starts with practice rounds on July 29. On July 30-31, golfers play 18 holes of individual stroke play each day. Then the field is cut to the low 44 scores and ties. Those players play two rounds each on Aug. 1 to compete for spots in the final 16, who then compete Aug. 2-3 in match play to determine a champion.

“It’s nothing like any other amateur event we play,” Morrison said. “It’s the only week of the year where we get two cuts and then multiple rounds of match play. It’s a grueling week. I’ve had some friends who have done really well at the Western Amateur before. I think I know what it takes to win a Western Amateur. I’ve played multiple Western Ams in the past. I’ve made that first cut but haven’t made it to match play. It’s difficult. It’s mentally taxing. I’m probably making it sound brutal, but it’s really fun and it’s something I look forward to every year.”

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