General Storylines At The U.S. Amateur

2004 U.S. Amateur Championship
Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Aug. 16-22

ALL IN THE FAMILY: Four players have a strong bloodline in golf - Tyson Alexander, Ryan Cochran, Jim Lehman and Sam Saunders.

Tyson Alexander, 16, of Gainesville, Fla., is playing in his first Amateur.  His golf pedigree is long.  First, his father, Stewart 'Buddy' Alexander, is the head golf coach at the University of Florida and the 1986 Amateur winner (dad will caddie for him this week).  His grandfather is Skip Alexander, who played on two USA Ryder Cup squads.   The Alexander House 'Trophy' is a monkey.  Tyson's most memorable golf moment is taking possession of the monkey for the first time, the first time he beat his dad.  Currently, Tyson holds possession of the monkey, which is the same porcelain replica that Buddy and Skip played for.  Also, Tyson's stepmother, Joan is a PGA Tour media official and has caddied for Buddy in USGA championships.

Ryan Cochran, 20, of Paducah, Ky., is the son of Russ, a PGA Tour player. Like his father, Ryan also plays left-handed. Cochran attends the University of Florida, where he is coached by 1986 U.S. Amateur champion Buddy Alexander.  Ryan was the leading scorer in Kentucky's Region One in basketball in his senior year of high school.

Jim Lehman, 46, is the younger brother of PGA Tour player and 1996 British Open champion Tom Lehman.  Jim is playing in his first Amateur after playing in the 1991 and 2003 Mid-Amateur.  He is an attorney and a sports manager.  His last golf victory was the 2003 Minnesota Mid-Amateur.

Sam Saunders, 17, of Windermere, Fla., is playing in his first U.S. Amateur after shooting his career low round of 66 in qualifying at Rio Pinar in Orlando.  Sam's middle name is Palmer, a tribute to his grandfather, 1954 U.S. Amateur champion Arnold Palmer.  Sam is a two-time all-Florida HS selection in golf and has won several Future Collegians World Tour events.

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Quarterfinalists from 2003 are fully exempt from having to qualify for the 2004 championship.  Those exempt and entered (3) are Patrick Carter of Lesage, W.Va., Lee Williams of Alexander City, Ala., and George Zahringer of New York, N.Y.

PAST CHAMPIONS: No past champion who is fully exempt for this year's U.S. Amateur championship has entered.  Each of the winners over the past 10 years, who would have been exempt, has turned professional, forfeiting their eligibility for the Championship.

USGA CHAMPIONS: Six USGA champions, who were fully exempt for the 2004 U.S. Amateur, are listed below. 

Danny Green, Jackson, Tenn. - 1999 U.S. Mid-Amateur

Brian Harman, Savannah, Ga. - 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur

Sihwan Kim, Fullerton, Calif. - 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur

Ryan Moore, Puyallup, Wash. - 2002 and 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links

Kemp Richardson, Laguna Niguel, Calif. - 2001 and 2003 USGA Senior Amateurs

George Zahringer, New York, N.Y. - 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur

Two more past USGA champions earned their place in the field through qualifying:  Tim Hogarth of Northridge, Calif., the 1996 Amateur Public Links champion, and Greg Reynolds of Grand Blanc, Mich., the 2002 Senior Amateur champion.

EXEMPT PLAYERS: There are 18 golfers who are exempt from having to qualify for the 2004 U.S. Amateur, including the five USGA champions listed above, and three who qualified for the 2004 U.S. Open.  Here is the current list of fully exempt golfers and their exemption categories:

Frank Abbott, Napa, Calif. - 2003 USGA Senior Amateur runner-up

Oscar Alvarez, Provo, Utah - 2004 U.S. Open qualifier

Patrick Carter, Lesage, W.Va. - 2003 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist

David Chung, Fayetteville, N.C. - 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up

Danny Green, Jackson, Tenn. - 2001 USA Walker Cup team member

Brian Harman, Savannah, Ga. - 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur champion

Sihwan Kim, Fullerton, Calif., -- 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur champion

Trip Kuehne, Irving, Texas - 2003 USA Walker Cup team member

Spencer Levin, Rancho Murieta, Calif. - 2004 U.S. Open qualifier

Ryan Moore, Puyallup, Wash. - 2003 USA Walker Cup, 2004 APL champion

Chris Nallen, Hackettstwon, N.J. - 2003 USA Walker Cup team member

Bryan Norton, Mission Hills, Kan. - 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up

Kemp Richardson, Laguna Niguel, Calif. - 2003 USGA Senior Amateur champion

Dayton Rose, Midwest City, Okla. - 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up

Nathan Smith, Soquel, Calif. - 2004 U.S. Open qualifier

Lee Williams, Alexander City, Ala. - 2003 Amateur quarterfinalist and 2003 USA Walker Cup

Gary Wolstenholme, England - 2003 GB&I Walker Cup and 2003 British Amateur champion

George Zahringer, New York, N.Y. - 2003 USA Walker Cup team member

LOCAL AREA QUALIFIERS: Here are the regional area qualifiers:

Gary Blados, Shelter Island, N.Y.

Nick Cook, Shelton, Conn.

John Crowley, Greenwich, Conn.

Pat Fillian, Neptune, N.J.

Tyler Hall, Wayne, N.J.

John Keller, Bayside, N.Y.

Matt Kleinrock, Lincoln Park, N.J.

Timothy Schmitt, Garden City, N.Y.

Todd Shagin, Ridgewood, N.J.

Andrew Svoboda, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Abbie Valentine, Bayville, N.Y.

Brian Williams, Skaneateles, N.Y.

INDIVIDUAL STORYLINES (listed alphabetically)

Brandon Christianson, 19, of Valencia, Calif., who will be a freshman at UCLA in the fall had a cameo appearance in the movie "Jerry Maguire." He played the little golf phenom in one of the opening scenes.  He will enroll at UCLA this fall.

Frank Abbott, 61, of Napa, Calif., the runner-up at the 2003 USGA Senior Amateur, is the oldest player in the field.  He has already played in the 2004 U.S. Senior Open, shooting 77-75 to miss the cut.  His oldest son, Keith, lost in a playoff at Amateur qualifying this year.

Nicholas Baker, 20, of Madison, N.C., was born with a severe case of club feet.  Two surgeries relieved the problem.  He qualified in Raleigh, N.C., using a belly putter for the first time in competition.

Michael Castleforte, 22, of Springboro, Ohio, is scheduled to being Law School at Columbia University in New York City on August 17, which is the second day of stroke play.  The two-time Academic All-American and 2004 Duke graduate hopes his instructors are flexible.

Spencer Dennis, 21, of Arroyo Grande, Calif., began playing golf at age 17, less than two years after undergoing major back surgery.  He was barely able to walk and couldn't sit for more than a year.  He qualified at Saticoy CC and birdied three of his last five holes to earn his berth.

Pat Fillian, 18, is having a summer to remember. In July, Fillian broke the course record at Cream Ridge Golf Club in New Jersey by firing a 63, including eight birdies and no bogeys, in a New Jersey Summer League event. But that was just a warm-up for the incoming freshman at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. Fillian then proceeded to win the Metropolitan Golf Association's Junior Amateur Championship, the nation's oldest junior amateur title. Fillian then moved on to win the MGA's Carter Cup, a 36-hole stroke play championship held annually at historic Baltusrol Golf Club, with a dramatic birdie on the final hole.

J.T. Griffin, 17, of Wilson, N.C., was a bone marrow donor for his younger sister, who suffered from leukemia.  Sadly, his sister passed away but he lists his most memorable moments as 'spending time' with her.  He had two of his three career holes-in-one before he was 10 years old.

Kevin Hall, 21, of Cincinnati, Ohio, won the 2004 Big 10 Championship by 11 strokes playing for Ohio State, setting a conference mark for 54-hole score and he is deaf.    The minority player of the year in 1999, he also won the Franklin D. Roosevelt Inspirational Award that year.  He's also won the U.S. Deaf Federation Player of the Year.  He's also left-handed.

Japan-born Ryota Ito, 14, of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., is the youngest in the field (7/3/90), and the youngest Amateur contestant on record.  He finished second at the 2004 Japan Amateur, the youngest runner-up in the history of the event.  He's played in four Japanese Tour events since he was 12.  His lowest score is 62, which he shot when he was 10.

David Jones, 42, of Norwich, Conn., is playing in his first Amateur.  In 2002, part of his right lung was removed because of a viral infection and he did not play golf for nine months.  In 1996, at age 34, he graduated cum laude from Central Florida with a degree in finance.  He is computer/technology teacher and basketball coach (middle school) at Sayles School.  His wife, Jo Ann, will caddy for him.

Kevin Miller, 24, of Greenville, N.C., became the all-time leading scorer in East Carolina University football history in his senior year in 2001.  He was the starting kicker for four years and earned all-conference honors.  He is still trying to make an NFL roster as a kicker.

Brothers Trent (18) and Tyler (20) Leon of Dallas, Texas, are the only siblings at this year's Amateur.  Tyler is playing for the third time, Trent for the second time.  Trent is a sophomore at Oklahoma State and set the course record at Champions CC in Houston to earn medalist honors in qualifying earlier this month.  Their younger sister, Taylor, has also played in USGA championships and was a quarterfinalist at this year's Girls' Junior.

John O'Donnell, 39, of Los Angeles, Calif., is the older brother of actor Chris O'Donnell.  The younger O'Donnell will caddie.   John is playing in his first Amateur after six unsuccessful tries.  He qualified for the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur.

Greg Peterson, 38, of Rochester, Minn., is the owner/publisher of  He writes a monthly column for Successful Farming magazine, which focuses on trends in used equipment valves.  He played college golf at Gustavus Adolphus and was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame this year.

Jay Reynolds, 21, of Austin, Texas, has an unusual skill.  He can take a string and hold it in one hand and throw knots in it.  In fact, he is a three-time International One-Minute String Off champion.  He scored a hole in one at the 2004 NCAA championship while playing for New Mexico.  He finished second at the 2004 Dogwood Invitational.

Allan Small, 52, of Florham Park, N.J., is an oxymoron at 6-foot 8.  He won the New Jersey State Amateur in July.  The president of an electrical service company, he is playing in his seventh Amateur.  The former golf coach at Seton Hall University, Small had both knees replaced in November of 2003.  He is also a member of the Metropolitan Golf Association executive committee.

Brendan Steele, 21, of Idyllwild, Calif., has an uncle with a familiar face.  Steele's uncle is actor Anthony Geary, who played Luke Spencer on daytime TV's 'General Hospital.'   Steele is playing in his first Amateur but has advanced to the round of 16 in the last two Amateur Public Links Championships.  A senior at California-Riverside, he was the school's male athlete of the year in 2004.  A two-time all-Big West Conference choice, he's won three collegiate events.

Zess Willis, 41, of Montgomery, Ala., is playing in his first Amateur despite trying 18 times.  He was the college roommate of PGA Tour professional Gene Sauers at Sam Houston State.  He carries a 54 degree gap wedge to remind him of his younger son Brad, who died in a car accident last September.  He calls his son, 'his 15th club.'

Harold Wyatt, 36, of Atlanta, Ga., is an athletic legacy.  His great uncle, Whitlow Wyatt, played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and went 1-1 (both complete games) as a starter against the New York Yankees in the 1941 World Series.  He is playing in his second Amateur, the first being in 2001 at East Lake GC in Atlanta.