Collin Morikawa Enters 2017 U.S. Amateur As Top-Ranked SoCal Golfers
August 13, 2017
La Canada Flintridge Native and Cal Berkeley Junior Morikawa Set To Compete In His Third Consecutive U.S. Amateur As The 2017 Event Comes to Southern California
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ricky Barnes and Bryson DeChambeau are Californians who have won the U.S. Amateur and leveraged the ultimate amateur experience as a springboard onto fruitful and famous PGA TOUR careers. This is the same path La Canada Flintridge, Calif. native Collin Morikawa hopes to walk along in golf.
Morikawa, 20, is the top-ranked amateur from Southern California within the 312-player field at this week’s 117th U.S. Amateur Championship, positioned at No. 5 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. The 2017 Northeast Amateur Champion is a Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers fan who loves LA and proclaims LA will always be his home.
As he prepares to tee up his ball at the U.S. Amateur for the third consecutive year, this time at The Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club from Aug. 14-20, he’s hoping LA will love him back on a pair of its famed golf courses, and that his third U.S. Amateur will be the charm and land him the Havemeyer Trophy.
“It’s definitely the best amateur event anyone can play in. The strength of the field and the size of the field, allowing any amateur to play, it’s the pinnacle of the amateur events,” Morikawa said. “I take a lot of pride in being from LA, I love it down here. I’ll always live, breathe and bleed LA. Seeing the history and all the players that have been out here, I just hope to represent LA and Southern California as best as I can.
“To have the biggest event of the year for us here in LA, it really means a lot. Hopefully we’ll get some big crowds out there and we’ll have a lot of fun. Hopefully it will be a memorable one.”
Tickets to the U.S. Amateur are available online at usga.org/usam. Tickets are $20 (single-day grounds) and $75 for a weekly pass. Military personnel and students receive free admission with valid ID. The oldest golf championship in America, the U.S. Amateur was first held in 1895 at the Newport (R.I.) Country Club.
The La Canada High School alumnus and University of California (Berkeley) junior participated in the previous two U.S. Amateurs – Morikawa missed the cut through stroke play in 2015 at Olympia Fields CC (Illinois) before reaching match play and the Round of 16 last year at Oakland Hills CC (Michigan).
Morikawa began his U.S. Amateur preparations in earnest over the last week of July, doing reconnaissance at the upcoming U.S. Amateur sites. He played Bel-Air CC for the second time ever and Riviera CC (home of the PGA TOUR’s annual Genesis Open) for the third time on consecutive days.
“They’re great courses. Growing up in California, you kind of get used to the Poa annua grass,” Morikawa said. “The first priority is to make match play. It’s not easy. I hope to make it far and give it a good run. What I learned last year, it’s going to help me a lot. Match play is a completely different game from what we usually play. You have to be consistent. You can’t give away shots because every shot counts.”
Morikawa credits his father, Blaine, and his uncle, Mel, for introducing him to golf. As a child, he would tag along with them to the driving range. Shortly after, he was introduced to golf on television and took inspiration from another Southern Californian’s domination of golf – Tiger Woods – and joined the ultra-competitive California junior golf scene.
“I gave up baseball and basketball when I was about 10, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a professional golfer at some point,” Morikawa said. ”Growing up, I was a Tiger Woods fan. Who wasn’t? What he’s done on the course is absolutely stunning.
“I always loved competing and playing in as many tournaments as a little kid. Growing up in California, I’ve been very fortunate to have such great players to play against and push me towards a higher goal. Competing on the biggest stage is what I live for and what I love to do. It’s not something I get tired of, ever.”
Through his first two years at Cal, the golfing achievements have stockpiled for Morikawa. In his 2015-16 season, he was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, became the Bears’ first GCAA Freshman All-American and tied for 10th at the NCAA Championships. As a sophomore last season, he was named a Division I PING First-Team All-American, a semifinalist for the Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year and Ben Hogan Awards and finished second among all NCAA golfers with a 69.94 stroke average.
Morikawa plans to see his time through at Cal and graduate in two more years before he considers a professional golf career “unless something really big happens, like winning a professional event.” That almost happened during his first foray on a professional circuit last year.
Receiving an exemption into the Web.com Tour’s 2016 Air Capital Classic, Morikawa amazingly advanced to a playoff against current PGA TOUR golfers J.J. Spaun and Ollie Schniederjans, who ultimately won the tournament. In October, Morikawa made his PGA TOUR debut as an amateur exemption at the 2016-17 season-opening Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.
Coming off of his sophomore campaign at Cal, Morikawa was one of 10 members of the victorious U.S. team in June’s Arnold Palmer Cup, posting a 2-2 record at the Atlanta Athletic Club (Georgia). It was one of Morikawa’s most memorable golf highlights and it will lead to another as he was nominated from the U.S. Palmer Cup squad to receive an amateur exemption into next year’s PGA TOUR Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard in Orlando, Fla.
Just two months removed from the Palmer Cup, Morikawa believes the experience on that stage can help him prepare mentally and emotionally for competing at the U.S. Amateur.
“Representing the United States at the Palmer Cup was fantastic, and to be put in that position in match play was amazing,” Morikawa said. “Representing the United States, it’s something that you never forget.”
Morikawa’s sights are now set on Bel-Air CC, which will serve as the stroke-play co-host course and last hosted the U.S. Amateur in 1976 (won by Bill Sander), and Riviera CC, a first-time host to the U.S. Amateur. Morikawa hopes a little hometown karma will help to further polish his golf resume in the same way the U.S. Amateur has done so for Californian starlets who have come before him.
“Collin is among a great group of outstanding youngsters in the field of 312,” said Michael R. Yamaki, corporate office of The Riviera Country Club. “It’s going to be an incredible week of golf for the players and the fans as the U.S. Amateur champion is crowned.”
Riviera will host its first U.S. Amateur Championship this week. Bel-Air, which will serve as the stroke-play co-host course, hosted the 1976 U.S. Amateur, won by Bill Sander.