There will be no shortage of great players descending on E. Providence, R.I. later this month for the 49th playing of the Northeast Amateur at venerable Wannamoisett Country Club (June 18-21), but some of the top amateurs, including last year’s defending champion, Casey Whitsett of national champion Alabama, won’t be here because they have elected to turn pro.
In addition to Whitsett, individual NCAA titleist, Cameron Wilson of Stanford has turned professional as has top-ranked Patrick Rogers.
Not to worry. The field of 88 is still loaded with the cream de la cream of amateur golf. Among those slated to compete are Bryson Dechambeau of SMU, who is on this year’s Palmer Cup team and finished ninth in the NCAAs, Jordan Niebrugge of NCAA finalist Oklahoma State and a former Walker Cupper, Roman Robdelo of Houston who won five events in nine outings this year, Cheng- Tsung Pan, an All American at Washington, and Steven Ihm of Iowa, who won last year’s Sunnehanna Amateur.
Another outstanding player is junior star Sam Horsfield, a 17-year-old who won the Florida State Am by 11 shots last year and is headed for the University of Florida next fall. Horsfield is considered the top junior golfer from Great Britain and is passing up playing in the British Amateur to compete in the Northeast.
For the first time in many years the Northeast has a tournament chairman other than Denny Glass, who has given the reins over to Ben Tuthill.
Tuthill, one of R.I.’s top amateurs and the State Amateur Champion in 2000, has been around the tournament his entire life and has played in the Northeast four times, one of the perks of being the Wannamoisett Country Club Champion.
“Ben has taken on his new role with enthusiasm, creativity, intelligence and good cheer and I couldn’t be more pleased with having Ben as my successor,” said Glass. “I am confident he will take the tournament to greater heights. Wannamoisett’s contributions to amateur golf will continue to grow and be appreciated by all involved in amateur golf.”
Tuthill admitted that he wasn’t even on the committee’s or Glass’s radar for the post until he suggested it. “There were a few guys on the committee who Denny was thinking about and I wasn’t one of them,” Tuthill said. “So I approached him to let him know that I would be very much interested and I told him the reasons why. It was a surprise to him. He hadn’t thought of me and Denny is not the kind of guy who makes snap decisions. I sat down with him and discussed with him why I thought I was the right guy for the job, one of the reasons being that as a younger guy I can more easily connect with these younger players today.”
Three members of the LSU team – Stewart Jolly, Smylie Kaufman and Curtis Thompson (brother of LPGA star Lexi Thompson) – will be in the field this year as well as last year’s Challenge Cup champion Brian Carlson of Purdue.
The Northeast has always welcomed mid amateurs into the field and this year is no different. Among those coming back are Todd White, the 1990 champion, who is coming off a great Walker Cup last year. Also USGA Mid-Am champion Mike McCoy and runner-up Bill Williamson are playing as is are Walker Cupper Nathan Smith.
As usual the field will have a strong local contingent. While Tuthill will not be playing, his fellow club members, Charlie Blanchard (eight-time club champion and two time R.I. Amateur titleist) and defending club champion Dan Blessing, will compete.
Also in the field are defending R.I. State-Am champion and RIGA Player of the Year, Brad Valois, R.I. Stroke Play champ, Johnny Hayes IV, multiple RIGA champion Bobby Leopold and Cumberland’s Jamison Randall, who was the team MVP at Old Dominion this year.
“We are very excited about the field,” said Tuthill. “There are so many great players out there that we never heard of that makes putting the field together very difficult.”
He indicated that more and more junior players are getting considered just because they are so good. “We’re inviting more juniors now than in previous years because the players start so much earlier now,” he said. “We take players from the AJA ranking system and the Challenge Cup Champion (Carlson).
Stepping into Glass’s shoes was not easy in one sense, but in another it was. “Denny has left an incredible footprint in the event,” said Tuthill, “But also we don’t have to change much of anything because the template is so good.”