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NORTON, Massachusetts – Shannon Johnson, Matt Parziale and Michael Thorbjornsen will be among the few players who will be exempt into either the U.S. Amateur or U.S. Women’s Amateur this year. The three Mass Golfers have different reasons for getting in, however, they all said they’re excited to get an opportunity to play in one of the few 2020 USGA events since they’re all taking place with exemption-only fields.
“Playing any of the USGA events is a treat,” said Thorbjornsen, who qualified via playing in the 2019 U.S. Open and winning the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur. “They’re some of the best-run tournaments, they have the best venues and the best players.”
Thorbjornsen’s reaction comes in light of the USGA’s announcement earlier this week that unveiled the exemption categories for both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur. The U.S. Women’s Amateur, which will be played August 3-9 at Woodmont Country Club, in Rockville, Maryland, also had its field size reduced to 132 (normally 156). The U.S. Amateur, set for Aug. 10-16 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, in Bandon, Oregon, will now have 264 competitors (normally 312).
“Making the decision to forgo qualifying for our championships this year was extremely difficult, but we’re glad to be able to continue the legacy of these competitions and provide the best amateur players in the world the opportunity to compete for a USGA title,” said John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director, Championships. “We aimed to create fields that most closely resemble those for a typical Amateur and Women’s Amateur, and are confident we will crown two worthy champions in August.”
Johnson (Thorny Lea GC) earned her exemption through winning the 2018 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship. She has played in eight USGA competitions since 2015, including the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.
A two-time Anne Marie Tobin Player of the Year Award winner, Johnson said the exemption means more this year since there are limited opportunities to compete on the national stage.
“Competing in USGA events is always a highlight in my playing schedule,” Johnson said. “With all the different precautions they will be taking, it won’t be like events in the past, but the golf itself will always be the same. I look forward to playing with some of the best amateurs in the world.”
Thorbjornsen (Wellesley CC), who made the cut at the U.S. Open last year, will be playing in his sixth USGA Championship. The U.S. Amateur will be the last event Thorbjornsen plays in before heading to Stanford University for his first year. He said he’ll also compete in the Sunnehanna Amateur in Pennsylvania and Western Amateur in Indiana to prepare for the U.S. Am. Before those events, he said he’s making a trip to Bandon Dunes at the end of the month for a practice round.
“I’ve heard great things about the place,” Thorbjornsen said. “It’s going to be different being more of a Links style.”
Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) qualified through playing in the U.S. Open and winning the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur. He has played in 12 USGA events, including the last two U.S. Amateurs.
The six-time Richard D. Haskell Mass Golf Player of the Year said he’s excited to have the opportunity given the uncertain landscape with competitive events this year.
“It’s something to look forward to, to compete for a national championship,” Parziale said.
Parziale played at Bandon Dunes with Herbie Aikens (Old Sandwich GC) in the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. However, he played on the Pacific Dunes Course, and the U.S. Amateur will take place on the Bandon Dunes & Bandon Trails courses.
The USGA also announced this week that entries for the 2021 USGA Four-Ball championships will begin in August. Both Johnson and Parziale said they intend to play the qualifying events in the fall.
“I’m happy to be able to compete again,” Parziale said. “I’m glad we’re able to figure out a way to be able to get this to work.”