By Alex Podlogar
The North & South Amateur, played every year since 1901 in Pinehurst, is the longest consecutively running national amateur championship in the United States. Past winners include such giants of the game as Francis Ouimet, Harvie Ward, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton, Corey Pavin, Davis Love III and many others.
And a year ago, amidst so much turmoil, we witnessed one of the most fulfilling championships culminate in Tyler Strafaci’s heartfelt triumph over fan favorite William Holcomb V, making the Strafaci’s the first grandfather-grandson duo to win the North & South. Strafaci then went on to win the 2020 U.S. Amateur later in the summer, matching the feat by 2019 Women’s North & South Amateur champion Gabi Ruffels.
What will happen this year as the championship kicks off on Tuesday? That is anybody’s guess. But here is a look at just a few of the notable players who will be competing this week in the 121st playing of the North & South Amateur.
JACKSON VAN PARIS – Bidding to become the first local player to win the North & South since Southern Pines’ Jack Fields in 2011, Van Paris has been a big-game hunter for all of his junior golf career. A recruit of Vanderbilt, Van Paris has consistently been ranked among the top juniors in the country, most notably reaching the Round of 32 at the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach at the age of 14, becoming the youngest participant to win a match since Bobby Jones in 1916. Van Paris won the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley in 2020 and won the AJGA Simplify Boys Championship at Carlton Woods in February with rounds of 69-68-66, beating top-ranked junior David Ford by five shots.
PETER FOUNTAIN – The 2020 North & South medalist after stroke play (shared with Travis Vick), Fountain continued his hot summer following his 2020 North Carolina Amateur win by claiming the ACC Championship as a freshman for the North Carolina Tar Heels. The first UNC freshman to ever be named First Team All-American, Fountain set a new UNC scoring record, winning twice and finishing second at the Wake Forest Invitational, which was played on Pinehurst No. 2.
KARL VILIPS – The Australian is no stranger to Pinehurst and certainly no stranger to amateur events around the world. Vilips, nicknamed “Koala Karl” when he a kid, won the 7- and 9-year-old U.S. Kids Golf World Championships at Pinehurst before returning to reach the quarterfinals of the 2019 U.S. Amateur here. He was a four-time Rolex Junior All-American, matched Bobby Jones as the youngest winner of the men’s Southern Amateur when he prevailed in 2017, and even holds the course record at nearby Country Club of North Carolina (63). Vilips just completed his freshman year at Stanford.
ABEL GALLEGOS – From Argentina, Gallegos won the 2020 Latin America Amateur Championship, earning a berth in The Masters in the fall of 2020, where he shot rounds of 79 and 81. He won again in March 2021 by taking the Azalea Invitational by three shots. He has also earned a berth into the 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in July.
LOUIS DOBBELAAR – The Australian has been on a tear since 2019. Dobbelaar won the Australian Men’s Amateur Championship in February and has kept his form into June, winning the Dogwood Invitational just a couple of weeks ago. In the last two years, Dobbelaar has won five times with a staggering 16 Top 10 finishes.
JONATHAN YAUN – Why is Liberty’s Yaun considered a contender? Two things: 1. He made the North & South Semifinals in 2020. 2. He’s the guy who made seven straight birdies on No. 2 and shot a 28 on the front nine. So yeah, a contender.
OTHER NAMES TO WATCH – Maxwell Moldovan, who advanced to the second round of match play at the 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, falling to eventual champion Andy Ogletree…Like Van Paris, A.J. Beechler seeks to become a hometown champion. Beechler had the lowest scoring average for East Carolina this season and is always a threat on No. 2…N.C. State’s Easton Paxton won the 2015 North & South Junior…Marshall’s Tyler Jones won the 2018 North & South Junior…Jonathan Griz, the top-ranked junior in South Carolina, won the 2020 North & South Junior and is the reigning South Carolina Amateur champion.
The 120-player field will compete with two rounds of stroke play on Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the low 32 players seeded for match play. No. 2 will host all match play rounds, with the Round of 32 played on Thursday, the Round of 16 and quarterfinals on Friday and the semifinals and championship matches on Saturday. Spectators are welcome and there is no fee for admission. Pinehurst.com will provide daily coverage of the North & South Amateur, which can be found here. We will also share news on our social channels here and here.
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