Bho Olson has played at the home of golf. He has played at the site of the first Open Championship. But, the 30-year-old Minnesotan considers the St. Augustine Amateur one of his favorite tournaments.
Olson is among the 84 golfers who will tee off in the 14th St. Augustine Amateur today.
He is among a robust mid-amateur contingent (post-college amateurs) who will compete against some of the best high school and collegiate golfers from across the state and Southeast. The St. Johns Golf Club will again host the tournament that has developed a reputation as a challenging, yet fair, test.
“It’s a great amateur golf tournament because it’s three days of stroke play at a good course in a great city,” Olson said. “It’s very fun to compete. You put all those things together and it’s a special tournament.”
This weekend will be Olson’s fourth time competing. The Minnetonka, Minnesota, resident found out about the tournament through an internet search and has found a way to make the trek to the Ancient City on three occasions.
Tournament director Wes Tucker developed a field that has incorporated high school, college, mid-amateurs and even some golfers who are pushing 40. Tucker said he contacted a plethora of Division I and Division II programs as well as some of the top teaching professionals and courses in the Southeast to fill this year’s field.
“Your past fields and your past champions really validate your tournament,” Tucker said. “You have guys like Peter Uihlein who won a Web.com event and has a (PGA) Tour card next year. You have Julian Suri, who has had wins in Europe and a European Tour card — the guy is pretty hot. Zach Suchar played on (the PGA) Tour for a couple of years.”
This year’s field includes Bartram Trail junior and University of Mississippi commitment Brett Schell; St. Joseph Academy senior Taylor Dickmann; Middleburg senior and University of North Florida commitment Cody Carroll; as well as collegiate golfers from Flagler College and elsewhere.
Jeff Golden golfed at Rollins College and has competed in amateur tournaments across the state. The 32-year-old Jacksonville resident heard wonderful things about the tournament, but couldn’t align his schedule until last year. He tied for 13th with a 7-over 217, which was first among the mid-amateurs.
Golden, who works as a tennis pro and is married with children, said the toughest challenge for mid-amateurs is remaining sharp in the short game. He said one of the perks of the St. Augustine Amateur is playing with golfers who have far more potential than he does and will play at big schools.
“I enjoy practice rounds when I’m preparing for a tournament, studying the course, knowing where is the good place to miss it and the bad place to miss it,” Golden said. “I like that there are college kids that are in it. I played pretty well at the Jacksonville Amateur. Each day I was paired with a high school senior and I had a good time beating them. But, I also had conversations with them after the round and said, ‘Look, I made that mistake 10 million times.’ I look to the conversations after the round.”
Golden was the runner-up at July’s Jacksonville Amateur, finishing four shots behind U Minn Woon. The conquistador’s helmet he earned as the St. Augustine Amateur’s mid-amateur winner last year sits on a shelf in his family room next to his Orlando City Amateur trophy and a memento from qualifying for the 2007 U.S. Amateur.
“It’s high-level amateur golf,” Tucker said. “It’s going to be people you see on your TV, potentially, in the next four to five years. We’ve had Ryder Cup (players). We’ve had PGA Tour winners and we’ve had European Tour winners play in the event. You get to see the future of the event up close and you get to interact with them. To experience some of these guys on the way up is a great thing.”
Last year’s winner, Brandon Mancheno, is now a freshman at Auburn who has already carded four rounds in the 60s. Golden did not meet the reigning champion — he watched from a distance having been paired in a group ahead of him — but said Mancheno played and carried himself like a professional. Mancheno will not return to defend his title, joining a list of successful St. Augustine Amateur alumni who have moved on to bigger tournaments.
James Yoon, the 2015 winner who holds the tournament’s scoring record, remains an amateur and recently played in the Abierto del Paraguay Copa NEC in the PGA Tour Latinoamérica. Edward Richardson, the 2014 winner, has played in the English and Scottish amateurs; 2009 winner Blayne Barber carded a top-20 finish at The Players Championship this year. And then there is five-time PGA Tour winner Patrick Reed, who almost won the tournament a decade ago.
Reed played in last year’s Ryder Cup and earned 3.5 points for the United States. Olson was able to watch the event in person and found it to be one of the best sporting events he has encountered. Knowing he will follow in the steps of Reed and Uihlein at the St. Augustine Amateur is a thrill for Olson.
“Wes Tucker has done a great job of setting it up,” Olson said. “… I have enjoyed going down there and playing a great tournament with some great players. I like everything it represents.”