Famous Golfers Who Played The Open As Amateurs

Golf Care, 14th June 2018

open amateurs


The Open Championship was last won by an amateur golfer in 1930 – but the tournament always features a selection of top amateur players.

Here, we look at some of the most famous golfers who have competed in the grand old championship as amateurs.


Bobby Jones

Best Open Finish as an amateur – 1st in 1926, 1927 and 1930

The greatest amateur of all time, Bobby Jones only played in The Open Championship four times between 1921 and 1930…winning three of them.

On his first outing at St Andrews in 1921, he found trouble in Strath Bunker on the 11th hole of round three and ripped up his scorecard in a fit of pique.

He didn’t return to The Open until 1926 at Royal Lytham, but on this occasion he was a little more successful – winning by two from Al Watrous. He won again at St Andrews in 1927 and then for a third time at Royal Liverpool in 1930.

He retired from competitive golf at the end of that year, aged just 28.


Sir Michael Bonallack

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 11th in 1959

Sir Michael Bonallack played in 13 Open Championships between 1959 and 1973 and was twice the Silver Medal winner as low amateur.

The five-time British Amateur champion enjoyed his best Open finish during his first outing at Muirfield in 1959. He ended that week in a tie for 11th, six shots behind the champion Gary Player.

However, Bonallack didn’t actually finish low amateur that year, Scotland’s Reid Jack took the honour in 1959.

Sir Michael went on to become secretary of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club from 1983 to 1999.


José María Olazábal

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 25th in 1985

The Spaniard, who went on to win The Masters twice and captain Europe to Ryder Cup victory in 2012, played the 1984 Open at St Andrews as an amateur.

He missed the cut in that event, but then watched his countryman Seve Ballesteros claim a memorable win.

In the 1985 Open at Royal St George’s, Olly finished in a tie for 25th to claim the Silver Medal as low amateur.


Phil Mickelson

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 73rd in 1991

Phil Mickelson travelled to the 1991 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale as a sensation, having won the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open earlier in the year as a 20-year-old amateur.

Phil made the cut, but finished in a tie for 73rd. He was four shots behind Jim Payne, who was the low amateur that year.

As a professional, Mickelson went on to win The Open Championship of 2013.


Tiger Woods

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 22nd in 1996

Tiger played in the 1995 and 1996 Opens as an amateur. At St Andrews in 1995, Woods made the cut but struggled through the final round, closing with a 78.

Five years later at “The Home of Golf”, he would claim his first Open victory, and followed this up with victories at St Andrews in 2005 and Hoylake in 2006.

Tiger’s best finish in The Open as an amateur came at Royal Lytham in 1996, when he was tied 22nd.


Sergio Garcia

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 28th in 1998

Aged just 16, Sergio missed the cut in his first Open outing at Royal Lytham in 1996.

He won the Amateur Championship and returned to the event at Royal Birkdale in 1998. He produced a great performance to finish in a tie for 28th but he was outshone in that event by another teenage amateur – Justin Rose.

Sergio has finished in the top-10 10 times as a professional, including two runners up placings.


Justin Rose

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 4th in 1998

At Royal Birkdale in 1998, 17-year-old Justin Rose burst onto the scene as an amateur by finishing in a superb tie for fourth place.

On the 72nd hole, Rose holed out from 80 yards to create one of the most memorable moments in the history of the Championship. He claimed the Silver Medal as low amateur.

Amazingly, his tie for 4th in 1998 remains his best Open finish.


Rory McIlroy

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 42nd in 2007

Rory played just one Open as an amateur – Carnoustie in 2007. He was already one of the world’s leading amateur golfers, having briefly topped the World Amateur Golf Ranking earlier that year.

But he really captured the public attention at Carnoustie with his brisk, aggressive and powerful play.

McIlroy has since gone on to win four Major Championships, including the 2014 Open.


Paul Dunne

Best Open Finish as an amateur – tied 30th in 2015

At St Andrews in 2015, Ireland’s Paul Dunne shared the lead as an amateur through 54 holes.

It provided evidence of the decreasing gap between the world’s leading amateur players and their professional counterparts. Even though Dunne fell away in the final round, his performance demonstrated that it may, once again, be possible for an amateur player to win The Open Championship.

It’s now 88 years since Bobby Jones was the last amateur winner.


Golf Care offer
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons