THE FLATS – Looking to complete a strong summer finish and perhaps playing in the event together for perhaps the final time, Georgia Tech’s Noah Norton, Andy Ogletree, Luke Schniederjans and Tyler Strafaci begin competition Monday at the 120th United States Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes Resort in Bandon, Ore.
Bandon Dunes golf course will host all seven days of the championship, with Bandon Trails serving as the co-host for the two rounds of stroke play Monday and Tuesday. Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, all qualifying events for the U.S. Amateur were canceled, and the 264-player field (down from the normal 312) was set using a set of exemption categories, expanded use of the World Amateur Golf Ranking and finishes in recent United States Golf Association championships.
Ogletree, playing in the U.S. Amateur for the fifth time, will defend the 2019 championship he won last August at Pinehurst Resort and attempt to become the first player to win back-to-back championships since Tiger Woods won three consecutive titles from 1994-96. Norton, Schniederjans, and Strafaci are competing in the U.S. Amateur for the fourth time each and received spots in the field on the strength of their WAGR rankings.
Strafaci’s victory in the North & South Amateur in July also came with an exemption into the U.S. Amateur, and he won the Palmetto Amateur a week later. His father, Frank, who was his caddie at the North & South, will be on the bag again for the U.S. Amateur. The family traveled to the West Coast Wednesday, and Strafaci and his brother Trent will play a couple of rounds in the area before they get to Bandon Dunes.
“It will be good to get out to the West Coast again. I’ve heard awesome things about it, a links-style course that will be different for everyone,” said Strafaci, who is playing in his fourth U.S. Amateur. Along with Norton, Ogletree, and Schniederjans, who have formed the core for 14 Tech tournament victories in the last three years, they 13 U.S. Amateur appearances between them. “The last year spending time with Luke, Andy and Noah, has been terrific. I don’t see any team that’s got four guys like that and is so deep. It’s cool and reassuring when you’re playing with them.”
Norton, 21, of Chico, Calif., has competed in three U.S. Amateurs and advanced to the Round of 16 in 2017 at The Riviera Country Club. Norton also qualified for last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and has reached match play in two U.S. Junior Amateurs. Norton, a rising senior at Georgia Tech ranked No. 60 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, is a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) selection and won the Patriot All-America Invitational last December. He finished runner-up to Cooper Dossey in the 2019 North & South Amateur and was the 2017 California State Amateur runner-up.
Ogletree, 22, of Little Rock, Miss., became the third Georgia Tech player to win the Amateur last August. He has competed in four U.S. Amateurs and was a member of the winning 2019 USA Walker Cup Team. He earned second-team All-America honors for the second time as a senior in 2019-20. An All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) selection, Ogletree was chosen to this year’s USA Arnold Palmer Cup Team. He was also a quarterfinalist in the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur. Ogletree is fully exempt into the U.S. Open and Masters this fall and has competed in three PGA Tour events this year. He was a quarterfinalist in the 2020 Western Amateur and enters defense of his 2019 U.S. Amateur title ranked No. 9 in the world.
Schniederjans, 22, of Alpharetta, Ga., is the third member of his family to play sports for Georgia Tech. His older brother, Ollie, won the 2014 Mark McCormack Medal as the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking® and has played on the PGA and Korn Ferry Tours, and another brother, Ben, was a baseball pitcher. Luke, who has competed in three U.S. Amateurs, earned third-team All-America and All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) honors as junior and has won three collegiate tournaments. He won the 99th Georgia Amateur with a birdie on the first playoff hole on July 12 and is ranked No. 76 in the world.
Strafaci, 22, of Davie, Fla., won the 2020 North & South Amateur, defeating William Holcomb V, 3 and 1, in the final. His grandfather, Frank, won two North & South Amateurs (1938, 1939) and the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public Links. Tyler, who competed in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and two U.S. Junior Amateurs, has played in three U.S. Amateurs and advanced to the Round of 32 in 2017. Ranked No. 51 in the world, Strafaci also won the Palmetto Amateur this summer, a week after his North & South triumph. He will return to Georgia Tech for a fifth year in 2020-21 and is a three-time All-East Region and two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) performer.
The quartet will be chasing a title won five times by Georgia Tech’s legendary Bobby Jones (1924 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930), by Matt Kuchar in 1997 and last year by Ogletree.