HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. (Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022) – Kelly Chinn barely reacted as his 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club found the middle of the cup during the first round of the 120th Western Amateur Championship on Tuesday.
It was just that kind of day for the 19-year-old from Great Falls, Virginia.
Playing in one of the first groups off on Tuesday morning, Chinn made eight birdies without a bogey, posting an 8-under 63 to match the course record. He was 2 under when he walked off the seventh green, adding birdies on Nos. 8, 9 and 11 to spring to the top of the leaderboard.
“From eight until 18 I was just on autopilot just processing through each shot,” the rising sophomore at Duke said. “It was incredible.”
Chinn tied the course record held by Jake Higginbottom, set during an event before the 2012 Western Amateur at Exmoor, the last time the club hosted the championship. It’s tied for the third-lowest stroke play round at the Western Amateur since 2014.
“This is just the first day,” said Chinn, who missed the match play cut by two shots a year ago. “I’ve just got to stay focused and make good decisions and keep playing this kind of golf.”
Chinn wasn’t the only player fighting for position as 40 players broke par in the opening round. The field of 156 players will be cut to the low 44 and ties after the second round on Wednesday. The players who advance will play 36 holes Thursday to decide the Sweet 16 for match play.
Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, 22, of Beccar, Argentina, is in second at 5-under par after posting a bogey-free 66. He’s one ahead of William Paysse, 22, of Temple, Texas; Neal Shipley, 21, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Derek Hitchner, 22, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Paysse offset four bogeys by making eight birdies, while Shipley was one of two players to make eagle on the 576-yard, par-5 11th hole.
Frankie Capan, 22, of North Oaks, Minnesota, leads a group of nine players tied for sixth at 3-under par. He made the turn in 1 over but chipped in for par on No. 8 and finished with birdies on Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 17 to shoot 4-under 32 on the back nine.
“Just kind of staying patient and getting what you can out here because it’s not easy,” Capan said. “You have to earn everything.”
Capan is drawing on his experience at the 2019 Western Amateur at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan, when he made the Sweet 16 and beat rising PGA TOUR star Sahith Theegala before falling in the quarterfinals.
“It’s such a long week,” Capan said. “I remember just being absolutely gassed by the second match after the Sweet 16 a couple years ago.”
Both former Western Amateur champions in the field got off to strong starts on Tuesday. Mid-amateur Garrett Rank, who won in 2019 at Point O’ Woods, birdied five of his first six holes on his way to shooting 68.
Stanford’s Michael Thorbjornsen, who won at Glen View Club in Golf, Illinois, a year ago, is trying to become the first Western Amateur winner to repeat since Justin Leonard did it at Point O’ Woods in 1992 and 1993. The 20-year-old from Wellesley, Massachusetts, made a double bogey on his opening hole and was 3-over par after two, but fought back with five birdies to finish the day at 2 under in a tie for 15th.
For the full leaderboard, click here.
First played at Glen View Club in 1899, the Western Amateur is the world’s third-oldest amateur championship, behind only the British Amateur (1855) and the U.S. Amateur (1895). It regularly attracts the top players from across the country and around the world, with past champions like Jack Nicklaus, Justin Leonard and Tiger Woods.
A grueling combination of stroke play and match play make the Western Amateur one of the most demanding events in golf. The field of 156 players will compete in 72 holes of stroke play over three days to determine the Sweet 16 for match play.
The match play competition will be streamed live on GOLFChannel.com, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, with more than 12 hours of coverage over Friday, Aug. 5, and Saturday, Aug. 6. Powered by WGA proud partners Peter Millar and Titleist, the stream will be available on GOLFChannel.com and thewesternamateur.com, with replays streaming on Peacock and GolfPass.com.
Attendance and parking at the Western Amateur are free. For more information, visit www.thewesternamateur.com.
For second-round tee times, click here.