Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cardinal & Gold Colors Could Be Prevalent at 2017 U.S. Amateur

Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club Will Host in August

(LOS ANGELES, Calif.) - There’s nothing better than home cooking and the University of Southern California Trojan golfers will certainly feel at home when the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association (USGA), is held at Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club, Aug. 14-20.

Head coach Chris Zambri’s 11-man Trojans squad is currently ranked seventh in the nation and three team members are among the top 25 amateurs in the world according to the World Amateur Golf Rankings — freshman Cheng Jin, junior Sean Crocker and senior Rico Hoey.  Should they remain in the top 50 WAGR rankings as of the close of U.S. Amateur entries, they will become fully exempt into the field and join USC junior Jonah Texeira, who has already secured a spot in the championship having advanced to last year’s U.S. Amateur semifinals at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Freshman Cheng Jin, who hails from Beijing, China, is ninth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ and is the top-ranked amateur in his country. He certainly knows what it is like to be on the main stage as he played in the Masters Tournament last May after earning the spot by winning the 2015 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

Jin has his eyes set on being a part of the U.S. Amateur in August.

"I will definitely try my best to qualify for the greatest amateur event in the world, but hopefully I can get exempt through the qualifiers,” Jin said. "The U.S. Amateur always gathers the world's most elite players, thus it is a great honor just to be able to participle in it. I believe that having your name on the trophy would not only be meaningful and unforgettable to every player, it would also be a life-changing experience. However there will only be one winner. I will try to play my best, and learn from my fellow competitors and enjoy the opportunity the USGA and other sponsors have provided us.

"As a member of the USC men's golf team. I'm really lucky to say that Riviera is one of our home courses. Riviera is definitely one of the best golf courses I have ever played in my life. I enjoy my time playing and practicing there. Riviera can be really challenging if the greens are firm and the rough is long. I believe it will be an awesome venue for the 2017 U.S. Amateur."

Crocker, who is from Westlake Village, Calif., is an All-American and two-time All-Pac 12 selection, who is 13th in the current WAGR. He was quite successful and consistent for the Trojans in 2016 when he posted five top-10 and seven top-20 finishes.

Crocker was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, and learned the game from his father, Gary, who played before becoming a professional cricket player.

Like his Trojan teammates, Crocker knows the Riviera layout very well plus he has had the most success in the U.S. Amateur.

"Playing the U.S. Amateur at Riviera would be an awesome experience because our team plays there often and it gives me a great opportunity to compete on a course I know really well,” Crocker said. “I feel like I know it like the back of my hand, which is a huge advantage in a big tournament like the U.S. Amateur.

"Playing in past U.S. Amateurs gives me the knowledge to understand that once you make match play, you are giving yourself a chance to win the tournament. So the main goal is just to make it to match play and then play your heart out."

Crocker played his heart out in the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club. He tied for 14th in the 36-hole stroke play and made his way to the semifinals in match play before falling to eventual champion, Bryson DeChambeau, 4 and 3.

Another Trojan likely to be competing for the U.S. Amateur title is Hoey, who will be bidding for his fifth appearance. Currently No. 22 in the world, Hoey is one of two seniors on the USC team and hails from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Hoey led the Trojans in 2016 with a career-best 70.85 stroke average and topped the team with 14 rounds in the 60s and nine top 10s, while earning GCAA second-team All-American, GCAA All-West Region and first-team All-Pac 12 honors.

He capped the season off by placing second at the 2016 NCAA Championship, USC’s highest finish since Jamie Lovemark won the title in 2007.

During this past summer, Hoey represented the USA for a second time at the 2016 Palmer Cup, winning both of his singles matches and later winning the 117th annual SCGA Amateur Championship.

Hoey failed to qualify for match play in last year’s U.S. Amateur and lost a three-hole multi-player playoff for the right to advance to match-play bracket in 2015. He won the CIF Southern Section individual title as a member of the Rancho Cucamonga High team and later advanced to match play in the 2013 U.S Amateur.

"This would be my fifth consecutive U.S. Amateur if I were to make it,” Hoey said. “I wouldn't really do anything differently. I would just play my game. Since I go to USC, we get to play Riviera, so I have some experience, but it should be playing differently from what I'm used to. The course fits me well because it's a long course and I know it well enough to know the dangers of the course.

"If I were to win at Riviera it would mean the world to me because it's practically my backyard and since I'm so close it'll be special. It is very difficult to achieve because there are a lot of talented and great players and with match play anything can happen."

Texeira, who hails from Porter Ranch, Calif., earned GCAA All-West Region and second-team All-Pac 12 recognition last year. A graduate of Granada Hills Charter High School, Texeira reached the 2016 U.S. Amateur semifinals by defeating a pair of top-10 seeds in the bracket. He tied for fourth at last year’s Western Intercollegiate Championship and helped USC advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Championship for the second consecutive year.

Jin, Crocker, Hoey and Texeira hope to get the opportunity to have their hometown fans cheering them on as they take on the Riviera and Bel-Air courses. The goal is to land the most coveted prize in amateur golf - the U.S. Amateur Championship – and join many of golf’s greatest players, such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bobby Jones, who have won the Havemeyer Trophy.

Riviera, the site of the 1948 U.S. Open, will host its first U.S. Amateur Championship. Bel-Air, which will serve as the stroke-play co-host course, held the 1976 U.S. Amateur, won by Bill Sander.

U.S. Amateur tickets are available online at Tickets are $20 (single-day grounds) and $75 for a weekly pass. Military personnel and students receive free admission with valid ID.

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