There was a time when winning the U.S. Amateur was a solid certification for stardom. That, though, no longer appears to be the case.
Between 1978 and 1990, among the winners of the U.S. Amateur were John Cook, Mark O’Meara, Hal Sutton, Scott Verplank, Billy Mayfair and Phil Mickelson. Since Tiger Woods won three successive national titles from 1994-96, the most recognizable winners have been Matt Kuchar, Ricky Barnes, Ryan Moore and Edoardo Molinari. And in all fairness, some of the more recent winners are still cutting their teeth on professional golf.
Among those who have struggled since winning the U.S. Amateur is Jeff Quinney, winner of the 2000 championship at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
On Thursday, Quinney posted a 7-under 63 to share the opening-round lead at the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.V.
This season Quinney has been playing without his PGA Tour card, a result of finishing 146th on the PGA Tour money list in 2010. And 2011 has been a struggle. In 10 starts, Quinney has made just five cuts and won only $115,780.
“I’ve got to take advantage of this week,” he said. “Sometimes you’re Monday qualifying, you’re watching the alternate list of whether you’re going to get in [each week].
“I think it’s been frustrating. This is my first year I’ve been non-exempt for five years and so I think you just expect it to be somewhere else and it’s a struggle mentally to fight that.”
Quinney, 32, who played collegiately at Arizona State, has not fared much better on the Nationwide Tour either, finishing no better than 39th in four starts. Yet as much of a struggle as Quinney has had, he remains upbeat.
“I still got the game,” said Quinney, whose best season on tour was 2008 when he finished 25th on the money list with $1.99 million earned.
“I just need the opportunities and not to get in your own way and try to force things. Sometimes you kind of play your way into playing better and I didn’t have that opportunity playing some smaller purses and some opposite field events where you don’t get as many points. Maybe put too much pressure on myself and I need to get out of my own way.”
Quinney currently sits 204th on the money list — $422,713 shy of No. 125 on the money list, which would secure his card for 2012. A win would certainly punch his ticket for next season, but even a top-five finish would ease some of the pressure going into the Fall Series.
“The only chance I get in the [FedEx Cup] Playoffs is probably winning this week and so I’m coming with the attitude of all in, you know, basically just push all your chips in and this is what I got [in the first round]. It’s my last chance, so don’t hold back.”
After all, Quinney does not have much else to lose.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.