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You know who’s stoked about the U.S. Amateur teeing off in Denver this year (August 14 to 20 at Cherry Hills Country Club)? Peyton Manning. The former Denver Broncos quarterback is the honorary chair of the USGA tournament, and he wants you to join in the excitement. “I’m confident Colorado’s golf fans will join me in welcoming the game’s best amateur players to Denver,” Manning says.
We’re not about to let No. 18 down, so to help Denverites make the most of this opportunity, we answered a few questions you might have about the event and how to get in on the action.
What is the U.S. Amateur?
Only the biggest golf tournament in the world—for amateurs. Although the event used to be considered one of the sport’s majors (which now include the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and British Open), it doesn’t feature any professionals.
Now, it boasts mainly the best young players in the world—the dudes you’re likely to see winning majors in the next decade or so. For example, future PGA Tour stars Justin Thomas, Max Homa, and Hideki Matsuyama all played in the 2012 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills. Six-time major winner (and big-time gambling man) Phil Mickelson won the 1990 U.S. Amateur there.
Why is that guy cheating?
You may notice that players will sometimes pick up their balls before knocking them in the hole. No need to fire off a tweet about it. The U.S. Amateur is a match-play tournament; instead of adding up all the strokes over the entire round, two players go head-to-head on each hole. Whoever takes the most holes wins the match.
The format also allows one player to “give” his opponent a shot, meaning it’s good. The fun part about this is when one player feels like his short putt is a gimme and the other guy makes him putt it anyway. No one gets in a tussle about it, but expect to see plenty of passive aggressive head shakes on the way to their tap-ins.
How does it work?
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the initial field of 312 players (culled from a record 8,253 golfers who tried to qualify for the event) participated in a stroke-play competition that then cut the roster of competitors down to 64. The tournament then turns to match-play format—a la March Madness—from Wednesday through Sunday, when the finalists will square off over 36 holes.
How do I attend?
Tickets are $25 per day ($20 if you buy a five-pack). But this is an especially good opportunity to entertain the kids on the weekend, as patrons aged 17 and younger get in free, as long as you register them here. Even if your little ones aren’t burgeoning Tiger Woodses, they’ll likely enjoy the USGA’s Junior Experience pavilion, where kids can practice chipping, putting, bombing drives, and (because there is no better conduit to education than golf) STEM stuff.
Where should I sit?
Usually, we’d tell you to stake a spot on the 18th green of a golf tournament. After all, that’s where the fate of the players is typically decided. But not in match play. Because it’s a hole-by-hole competition, the match is over once a golfer is down, say, four holes with only three left to play.
So this weekend, make your way to the first tee. Not only will that give you a chance to see every player come through, it’s arguably the scene of one of the most famous shots in golf history. During the 1960 U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer drove the first green of the par-four first hole at Cherry Hills, sparking a comeback that saw the King storm from seven shots back to win his first and only U.S. Open over none other than Jack Nicklaus. You get chills just reading about it, right?
Who should I root for?
The Coloradans, of course. Nine locals qualified for the initial field of 312, with only two making the cut into match play: Colorado Springs science teacher Colin Prater and Colorado State University star Connor Jones, who already won his first-round match. Sadly, sports books don’t take bets on the U.S. Amateur, so you won’t make any money on the outcome—just like the players.
What if I can’t make it to Cherry Hills?
Every round is televised, albeit not as extensively as regular PGA Tour events. From Wednesday to Friday, Peacock will stream live matches from 3 to 4 p.m., and then coverage switches to the Golf Channel from 4 to 6 p.m.
On Saturday and Sunday, Peacock coverages starts at 1 p.m., before NBC takes over at 2 p.m.