(Editor’s note: For the final few days of 2021, we’ve been offering up a snapshot of the top 10 stories from each of Golfweek’s most popular sections, including the likes of travel, the PGA and LPGA tours, instruction and equipment. Here’s what we’ve already counted down. But when it came to the top amateur moments of the year, we brought in our friends from AmateurGolf.com to help with the list. The outstanding site is a partner on the Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com player rankings for men, women, and mid-amateurs.)
After the game shut down along with the world around it in 2020, golf came back with a roar in 2021, with amateurs offering some indelible moments that will surely stand the test of time.
Who will ever forget Megha Ganne’s memorable run at the U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club? Stanford’s Rachel Heck announced her presence on the collegiate scene by winning six consecutive tournaments as a freshman, including the NCAA individual championship. Gene Elliott won senior majors on two continents, Cinderella found her slipper in a castle at the Westchester Country Club while Michael Thorbjornsen and Matt Parziale staged a duel for the ages in the finals of the Massachusetts State Amateur.
Here are the top five moments of the amateur golf year (see the bottom of the list for a link to AmateurGolf.com’s full top 20 moments):
Gene Elliott wins two majors on both sides of the pond
Gene Elliott hugs his caddie defeating Jerry Gunthorpe to win the 2021 U.S. Senior Amateur at Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Photo by Jeff Haynes/USGA
After three near misses and five days locked down in quarantine, Gene Elliott won the R&A Senior Amateur Championship, defeating David Mulholland of Northern Ireland by a single stroke at venerable Ganton Golf Club. Less than a month later, the world’s top-ranked senior won his first USGA championship when he clipped Jerry Gunthorpe to win the 66th U.S. Senior Amateur at the Country Club of Detroit.
Megha Ganne thrills U.S. Women’s Open crowd at Olympic
Megha Ganne of Holmdel, N.J. competes in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Championship at the Westchester Country Club Aug. 2, 2021. Photo by Peter Carr/The Journal News
Amateur Megha Ganne’s opening round 68 gave the 17-year-old from Holmdel, NJ a share of the first-round lead at the U.S. Women’s Open held in June at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Ganne played in the final group on Sunday alongside Lexi Thompson and eventual champion Yuka Saso and though she fell out of contention early in the round, she capped a dream week by earning low amateur honors and winning the hearts of the crowd at Olympic.
USA wins Walker Cup at storied Seminole Golf Club
Members of Team USA react during Sunday singles matches on Day Two of The Walker Cup at Seminole Golf Club on May 09, 2021 in Juno Beach, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
The United States team had more to deal with than just the Great Britain & Ireland side at the 48th edition of the Walker Cup played at esteemed Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. With both teams afflicted by a nasty stomach ailment, the U.S. led by only one point entering the 10-match singles session on Sunday but won that decisive final session, 5½-4½, to complete a two-point, 14-12 victory. Ricky Castillo, a Florida sophomore from Yorba Linda, Calif., led the Americans by winning four points. Cypress Point will host the Walker Cup when it returns to American soil in 2025.
One Heck of a year
Rachel Heck tees off on the 10th hole during the first round of stroke play at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y. on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (Darren Carroll/USGA)
Stanford freshman Rachel Heck went wire-to-wire to win the individual NCAA Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale for her sixth victory of the season. The ANNIKA Award winner became just the third player in Division I history to win a conference championship (PAC-12), an NCAA Regional and the NCAA Championship in succession. She is just the ninth freshman in NCAA history to win the individual championship.
History is made at Augusta National Women's Amateur
Tsubasa Kajitani of Japan celebrates with the winner’s cup after the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National Golf Club on April 03, 2021 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
One week prior to Hideki Matsuyama’s victory at the Masters, 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani prevailed over Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio to claim the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, becoming the first Japanese player to win on the famed course.