McDaniel set to defend AZ Amateur Championship title

Defending champion David McDaniel will tee it up against 143 of the state’s top amateur golfers to defend his title at the 86th Arizona Amateur Championship July 19 through 24 at Pinnacle Peak Country Club. The event consists of 36 holes of stroke play, with a cut to the top 64 players for the match play portion. Match play will begin Wednesday, July 21.

McDaniel has had some excellent amateur tournament finishes this year. In March he stormed out of the gate at the AZ Publinks Championship at Randolph North with an opening round 64, en route to a one-stroke victory. On an even bigger stage at the Arizona Open, he finished tied for fourth overall and low amateur at Desert Mountain in June. “Contending at the AZ Open helped give me confidence that I can contend on an even bigger stage,” says McDaniel. “As for the AZ Amateur, I have not played Pinnacle Peak before, but it does help having previous success in the event. Being a shorter course it opens up the possibilities on yardage, which doesn’t help me, but it will make it more exciting.”

This week he is competing on a national level at the US Public Links Championship at Bryon Park Golf Course in North Carolina. He qualified for the USGA championship in June by taking the medalist honors in Phoenix, firing rounds of 65 and 66 for a two-day total of 131 at Aguila Golf Course. “There are a lot of great players in this year’s AZ Amateur, so it should be a good test of golf for everyone,” notes McDaniel.  

Four of the other higly-skilled players, who top the Arizona Golf Association’s performance points rankings, are Phoenix’s Ken Kellaney, a five-time past champion, Tucson’s Patrick Geare, Surprise’s Kyle Kallan and Tucson’s Takuya Fuji. Past champions Jin Song of Scottsdale (2008), John Davis of Snowflake (2000) and Fritz Naumetz of Phoenix (1990) will also compete in the event.

This year’s AZ Amateur venue is a traditional-style course, which differs from the typical cactus-lined desert courses that blanket the desert southwest. Pinnacle Peak was the venue for last year’s Goldwater Cup, where Arizona’s top amateur golfers defeated professional golfers from the Southwest Section PGA for the first time in 25 years.

“Pinnacle Peak Country Club is a great, treasured layout,” said Brian Straight, the club’s general manager. “Our claim to fame is our unique, 18-hole, traditional-style, walkable golf course rather than the customary desert golf courses found in Arizona. Our course offers dramatic views, lush fairways and pristine greens. Pinnacle Peak Country Club shares the common goal of supporting both the young and experienced amateur golfer, and promoting the overall interest in the future of the game.”

Kellaney, who tops the AGA performance points list with 595 points, is looking forward to the tournament’s course style change. “I played well three years ago when the event was at traditional-style course at Tucson Country Club,” he said. “Once match play begins, anything can really happen and it will depend on who gets hot with their putter.” Kellaney has earned top five finishes this year in several events including the AZ Publinks Championship (4th), Short Course (4th), East Valley Short Course (5th), Phoenix City Amateur (4th) and Falcon Amateur (4th).

Geare also noted the course difference. “I’m very excited about the championship,” he said. “Being a traditional-style golf course lined with trees, it should be a great test of golf for all the players. There are a lot of great players in the championship which will make for an exciting week.” Geare has had a solid year so far, winning the Master’s Divisions of the Senior Stroke Play and Southern Divisional Stroke Play, as well as the Southern Amateur.