The 35th edition of the European Amateur Championship takes place this week.
144 competitors, representing 42 countries, will tee it up at Parador de El Saler, Spain on Wednesday for four rounds of stroke play competition.
The championship, first played in 1986, is consistently ranked amongst the strongest amateur events in the world for strength of field and regularly attracts the top talent in the amateur game.
Several Ryder Cup stars and major champions have featured in the European Amateur Championship in the past. Rory McIlroy (2006) and Sergio Garcia (1995) both won the event before turning pro, while Lee Westwood (1993), Paul Casey (1999), Danny Willet (2007) and Tommy Fleetwood (2010) have all previously medaled in the tournament.
Rory McIlroy after winning the 2006 European Amateur Championship
More recently, Nicloai Hojgaard, who has started making a name for himself on the DP World Tour alongside twin brother Rasmus, won the 2018 edition of the tournament. Two-time PGA Tour winner, Viktor Hovland also finished runner-up in the championship in 2016 and 2018.
Having their name engraved on a trophy alongside European greats is not the only prize on offer for the competitors this week. The winner will be invited to compete at The 150th Open in St Andrews in three weeks' time. Those finishing in the top-5 will also be invited to compete in The Open final qualifying stage.
Ludvig Åberg is the top ranked player in the field for a second year running. The Swede finished runner-up at Golf du Médoc in 2021, and is currently ranked third in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He'll be looking to go one better this year and secure a spot in his first major championship.
The last Spanish player to win the event was none other than Sergio Garcia 27 years ago, although a very strong Spanish contingent will fight for this year’s title. 15 home players are in the field this week. Amongst them is 2021 bronze medallist, David Puig. The two-time Jacques Léglise Trophy player currently sits in 7th position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and will be looking to go two-better than his 3rd place finish last year.
Sergio Garcia at the 1995 European Amateur Championship
Other Spaniards in the field this week include Jose Luis Ballester Barrio, ranked 73rd in WAGR and Jorge Siyuan Hao, the 2021 Boy's European Young Masters champion.
Former Jacques Léglise Trophy players, Jaime Montojo (2021) and Alvaro Mueller-Baumgart (2019) will also tee it up at El Saler sporting Spanish colours. Tiger Christensen (GER), Yannick Malik (GER), Marco Florioli (ITA), Flavio Michetti (ITA) and Daniel Svärd (SWE) from the winning 2021 Continent of Europe team are also competing in the event this week.
Amongst the notable players in the field is Netherland's Kiet Van der Weele, who finished in a tie for 8th in 2021, and is currently ranked inside the top-100 of the WAGR. The dutch player has also represented the Continent of Europe in the Jacques Léglise Trophy, and helped Rosendaelsche Golf Club to the European Men's Club Trophy title last October.
Lithuania's Giedrus Mackelis and Scotland's Connor Graham are the two youngest players competing, both just 15 years of age. England's Frank Kennedy is another young player to look out for. The 16-year-old won the Portuguese International Amateur earlier this year, helping him reach the top-200 of the WAGR.
Connor Mckinney is in excellent form and could feature at the top of the leaderboard this week. The Scottish-Australian player has won the St Andrews Links Trophy and the Austrilian Men's Amateur Championship this year, raising him to 25th in WAGR.
Parador de El Saler, will present the challenge to the players this year. The par-72, located in the El Saler nature reserve near Valencia in Spain, is regularly ranked amongst the top courses in Europe. Setup at just over 6300 metres in length this week, and with lower than normal winds forecast for the tournament days, it could take a score deep into red numbers to claim the title this week.
Parador El Saler, Spain