NORTHFIELD, ILLINOIS (July 16, 2018) ... Scott Verplank joked Monday at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, Illinois, he owes the Western Golf Association for jumpstarting his professional golf career.
A five-time winner on the PGA Tour and member of the Champions Tour, Verplank, of Edmond, Oklahoma, was the medalist and overall champion at the 1985 Western Amateur at Point O’ Woods in Benton Harbor, Michigan. The victory earned him an invitation to the Western Open, which he won as an amateur at Butler National in Oak Brook, Illinois. That win came with a two-year exemption onto the PGA Tour.
“I might have to do some more special stuff for you guys,” he said. “You set me up. Thank you.”
One of the most accomplished amateur players, Verplank was the medalist at the 1984 Western Amateur at Point O’ Woods and won the 1984 U.S. Amateur. He was the NCAA individual champion as a senior at Oklahoma State in 1986.
Verplank, along with Patrick Flavin, were at the Northfield, Illinois, club as part of Western Amateur media day. The tournament will be held July 30-August 4 and features several of the world’s best amateurs, including top-ranked Braden Thornberry, an All-American at Ole Miss.
After a standout career at Miami (Ohio), Flavin will be playing in his fourth Western Amateur. The resident of Highwood, Illinois, a short drive from Sunset Ridge, Flavin won a program-record four times as a senior and finished with eight career victories, the most all-time at Miami.
“It’s the best of the best,” he said. “I think that the Western Am is the strongest field in amateur golf, for sure.”
Flavin plans to turn pro after the U.S. Amateur and is hoping the Western Amateur serves as a launching pad for his upcoming pro career. Last summer, he won the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open, the first player to win both in the same year since former PGA Tour player David Ogrin did it in 1980.
“I know if I put myself in position to make the Sweet 16 of the Western Am or to try to defend my title at the Illinois State Am or Illinois Open, those will be great experiences for me, and in the long run I think really pay off,” he said.
Four players who made the Sweet 16 last year at Skokie Country Club are back in the field. Min Woo Lee, of Perth, Australia, advanced to the quarterfinals, while Brad Dalke, of Norman, Oklahoma, Will Gordon, of Davidson, North Carolina, and John Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, all lost in the first round of match play.
Defending champion Norman Xiong, of Canyon Lake, California, turned pro after his sophomore season at Oregon.
Next year the Western Amateur returns to Point O’ Woods, where it was played from 1971-2008. While he hasn't been back in more than 30 years, Verplank has fond memories of the golf course and the Western Golf Association.
“It’s the best test in amateur golf,” he said. “Generally speaking, the best player actually won. It’s hard to play eight good rounds in a row.”
Verplank then added, with a laugh, “Obviously, I owe most of my career to the WGA.”
- Matt Harness/WGA