A lot of people are trying to convince Scott Harvey that he’s the favorite to win next week’s U.S. Amateur in Pinehurst. But he’s not going along with it.
With the best amateurs in the world lined up on two big, classic golf courses that require a different kind of golf than almost anywhere else on the globe, the Greensboro native is as curious as anyone as to how he or anyone else will play.
“I honestly don’t know,” he said while practicing this afternoon. “I’ve hit some balls, and I’ve been practicing a lot, but it’s not like this a home-field advantage for me. I never play down here.”
He’s a worldwide golfer, but Pinehurst is a mystery to him and most everyone else. The U.S. Amateur is unlike any other golf tournament, a huge field that will play on not one but two Donald Ross courses over the course of seven days. And in the end, the clarion bells will chime for only one person.
And it could be almost anybody.
Harvey is indeed among the most decorated golfers in the field, a former USGA Mid-Amateur champion and a member of the 2015 Walker Cup team who teamed with Todd Mitchell to win this year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball title.
And for all his championships here in North Carolina through the years, not a lot of them were in Pinehurst.
“I’m going to start coming down here more,” Harvey said. “My son is old enough to start playing now, and this is where I need to bring him. This place is special.”
The “cradle of American golf” will test the best, Harvey and all.
The field is strong, Among the players will be Stewart Hagestad, whose remarkable comeback in the 2016 Mid-Am cost Harvey a second title and a second trip to Augusta; Michael McCoy, who was Harvey’s Walker Cup teammate in 2015; and nine other golfers who have won USGA titles.
The oldest player in the field will be Sean Knapp, 57, who played in the U.S. Senior Open in June, and the youngest will be 14-year-old Jay Brooks, who is only a month older than another 14-year-old, Zachary Ong.
There will be several teenagers in Pinehurst including many who came through the Wyndham’s AJGA event at Sedgefield in recent years. Those include Wyndham Invitational winners Karl Vilips and Eugene Hong.
They’ll be here from 27 countries, 41 states and the District of Columbia. North Carolina will have 15 players, including Harvey and five others with ties to the Triad.
Last year’s U.S. Amateur champion, Viktor Hovland, was in Greensboro last week playing in the Wyndham.
So there’s a local flavor to the event that goes beyond the pines and sandy hills of the No. 2 and No. 4 courses at Pinehurst. This will be the first time the Amateur has been played on two courses and the first time it’s been in Pinehurst since 2008.
The golfers will feel the charm of the area while chasing history in the same tournament Bobby Jones won five times and Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods won three each.
Harvey been asked about it a lot. He’s not the host of the tournament, but he’s a bit of a local ambassador. Still, he has no more answers about this place than anyone else.
“It’s not like I have this local knowledge,” Harvey said. “I don’t. The best way to put is this is it's going to be wide-open. But it’s going to be great. The feel of this place is incredible.”
It’s a weeklong event that’s played out in both stroke and match play, an event that tests golfers in ways unlike any other tournament, and this year it will be on two golf courses steeped in tradition and unforgiving to locals and foreigners alike.
The bells are pealing again. The U.S. Amateur has come back to the cradle of American golf. History awaits. And so does Scott Harvey.