Nov 07, 2019: When the decade started, the golf world featured a different cast of characters. Six of the current top 10 ranked golfers in the world were still amateurs. The top 10 then included Steve Stricker and Kenny Perry. Rickie Fowler was No. 249 in the world. All ten of the current women’s world top 10 were junior golfers. The women’s No. 1 was Lorena Ochoa.
Jordan Spieth was the reigning U.S. Junior champion. Peter Uihlein and Lexi Thompson were named players of the year by AmateurGolf.com, which was approaching its 10th birthday. Nathan Smith had just won his second of four U.S. Mid-Amateurs. Matteo Mannassero topped the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), while the women’s ranking hadn’t yet been created. Texas A&M and Arizona State were the defending NCAA champions.
A lot has happened since — rules changes, new USGA championships, golf’s return to the Olympics, junior and amateur golf’s welcome to Augusta National, and wave after wave of fresh faces and ever longer tee shots. As we prepare to move into a new decade, we take a look at the top amateurs of the 2010s, most of whom have gone on to stardom in professional golf, or are well on their way.
How deep is the list of top amateurs of the 2010s? The No. 10 player on the list is a two-time USGA champion. Kang won back-to-back U.S. Women’s Amateurs in 2010-2011, as well as the Women’s North & South Amateur. She went on to make the cut in three of four women’s professional majors in 2011, and earned low amateur honors in the Women’s British Open.
Won the Sunnehanna Amateur, Northeast Amateur, Trans-Mississippi Amateur (by 7 shots at the age of 18), Western Junior, and six college tournaments for Cal. Nearly won a Web.com Tour event in 2016, losing a playoff at the Air Capital Classic. His longevity and consistency kept him near the top of the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com world rankings for over three years, finishing 6th, 3rd and 2nd in 2016-2018. Became the first Cal player to ever earn PING Division I All-American honors for four straight years.
Won the NCAA Championship, Jones Cup and Sunnehanna Amateur in the same season (2017); also won the Patriot All-America and 11 college tournaments for Ole Miss. Finished T4 in the 2017 PGA Tour FedEx St. Jude Classic, the best amateur finish in the tournament since 1965. The next year, he returned to finish T26.
Won two U.S. Women’s Amateur championships, the first in 2014 at the age of 16 and the second four years later; played in 5 straight U.S. Women’s Amateurs, making match play each time; also won the Women’s North & South and the Century 21 Ladies Golf Tournament on the Japanese LPGA Tour. Finished T27 in the U.S. Women’s Open before earning her LPGA Tour card, as an amateur, through Q-School.
Won the U.S. Amateur, Northeast Amateur, Dixie Amateur (back-to-back), Sahalee Players, Terra Cotta, New Year’s Invitational, and 5 college tournaments in three years at Oklahoma State. In one stretch he won nine amateur and collegiate tournaments within an 18-month span. Made it to the quarterfinals of three straight U.S. Amateurs, the first player to do so since Tiger Woods. Ranked No. 1 in the WAGR for 49 weeks, third most all time.
Holds the record for the most consecutive weeks (54) ranked No. 1 in the WAGR. Won four tournaments and won the Nicklaus Award as player-of-the-year as a freshman for UCLA. Finished as semifinalist and runner-up in back-to-back U.S. Amateurs, and was the low amateur in the U.S. Open (finishing T21 in 2011) and the Masters. Made the cut in his first four PGA Tour events, finishing T9 in the Canadian Open and T20 in the AT&T National hosted by Tiger Woods. Holds the amateur record for low round in a PGA Tour event, a 60 in the Travelers Championship.
Holds the record for most weeks ranked No. 1 in the WAGR at 135, including 83 weeks in a row. Won the British Women’s Amateur, Ladies British Stroke Play, Scottish Women’s Open Amateur, Portuguese Ladies Amateur Open (by 15 shots), and 10 college tournaments including three ACC Championships. When she left Duke University, Maguire held the NCAA records for most par-or-better rounds, rounds in the 60s, and stroke average (minimum 100 rounds). Low amateur in the Olympic Women’s competition in Rio de Janeiro with a T21 finish.
Won the World Amateur Team individual title, the Spanish Amateur, the Spanish Stroke Play, the Europeans Nations/Sotogrande Cup, and 10 college tournaments for Arizona State. Became the first player to win the Ben Hogan Award twice. Had two top-10 finishes in the PGA Tour as an amateur in 2015, including a fifth-place finish at the Phoenix Open. Finished T23 at the 2016 U.S. Open in his final event as an amateur. Holds the record for most weeks ranked No. 1 (60) in the WAGR.
Won NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in the same season (only the 5th player ever to do so–the others are Nicklaus, Mickelson, Woods, and Ryan Moore); also won Trans-Mississippi Championship. Qualified for the U.S. Amateur 5 times in a row, winning in his 5th attempt. In pro events, he finished 2nd in the Australian Masters, made the cut in three straight European Tour events and finished T27 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational before being low am at the Masters with a T21 finish.
The best amateur golfer of the past 10 years is also the best amateur golfer since Tiger Woods and one of the best of the last 50 years; the last feat that eclipses what Ko did was Catherine Lacoste winning the U.S. Women’s Open in 1967 as an amateur.
• In 2012, at the age of 15, she won the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the Australian Women’s Amateur and the Women’s World Amateur Team individual championship.
• That same year, she became the youngest player ever to win an LPGA Tour event, winning the Canadian Open.
• The next year, at the age of 16, she successfully defended her Canadian Open title to become the only amateur ever to win two LPGA Tour events. She also won the New Zealand Women’s Open on the Ladies European Tour that year, and nearly won a major championship, finishing runner-up in the Evian Championship.
• As an amateur, she played in 25 professional tournaments and never missed a cut.
• She was the No. 1 ranked amateur for 130 consecutive weeks.
Ko turned pro at the end of 2013 and a year-and-a-half later became the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world.