U.S. Amateur returning to Oakmont in 2021
Sean Knapp was walking his dog in Oakmont late Thursday afternoon when he learned the U.S. Amateur Championship will return to Oakmont Country Club for a sixth time in 2021.
Knapp said he let out a “woo-hoo” before thinking, “Too bad it’s not this year. I’d be exempt.”
Knapp, who lives two blocks from Oakmont Country Club, has played in the U.S. Amateur 16 times, including 1995 when he reached the field of 16 at Newport (R.I.) Country Club only to lose in match play to the eventual champion, a then 19-year-old Tiger Woods.
“He played brilliantly. It was easy to see how revolutionary he was,” Knapp said of Woods, who has since won 14 professional major golf championships. “I played as good as I could, which was really good that day.”
Knapp, 56, missed the cut at the 2003 U.S. Amateur, the last one held at Oakmont. The 116-year-old Oakmont course previously hosted the tournament in 1919, ’25, ’38 and ’69.
“I’ll say, unabashedly, it didn’t matter (missing the cut). It’s the biggest amateur tournament in the country. This is a great testament to Oakmont and its membership,” said Knapp, who has won the West Penn Amateur a record-tying eight times.
Knapp qualified for the 2018 and 2019 U.S. Amateur when he earned a two-year exemption by winning the 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur, but he probably will need to qualify for the 2021 tournament. His competition at the local qualifier could include Palmer Jackson, a Franklin Regional senior headed to Notre Dame on a golf scholarship. Jackson played in last year’s U.S. Amateur.
Australia’s Nick Flanagan won the last U.S. Amateur in Oakmont.
“Whenever I’m asked where I won the U.S. Amateur and I say Oakmont, the usual reaction is wide eyes followed by ‘Wow, what a place to win,’” said Flanagan, who was a teenager when he won the 2003 tournament.
“I’m thrilled to hear the U.S. Amateur Championship is headed back there so that the future of golf can get a taste of one of, arguably, the best and toughest courses in the world. It is one of my proudest moments to win at Oakmont and it propelled my career forward to success as a professional golfer,” Flanagan said.
Also Thursday, the USGA awarded the U.S. Amateur to five other golf courses from 2022 through 2026. The courses include Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. (2022); Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. (2023); Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. (2024); The Olympic Club in San Francisco (2025); and Merion Golf Club in Ardmore (2026).
“This distinguished group of future U.S. Amateur sites aligns the USGA’s oldest championship with courses of historical significance and proven competitive excellence, which will be beneficial to both the player and fan experience,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director of championships.
“Amateur golf is primary to the USGA’s mission and the partnerships with these prominent clubs affirm our commitment to supporting and growing amateur competition,” Bodenhamer said.
Oakmont Country Club is no stranger to big events. The U.S. Open will return there for a record 10th time in 2025. Dustin Johnson won Oakmont’s last Open in 2016 by three strokes.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .