HARRY ELLIS will make his PGA Tour debut at Jack’s Place – after the golfer who has won more majors than anyone in the game’s history went out of his way to extend an invite to the British amateur champion, writes Andrew Griffin.
Ellis called time on his US college career at Florida State University earlier this month when the Tallahassee team missed out on a place in the NCAA finals.
When the 22-year-old, from Meon Valley, who claimed the British title with a famous comeback from four holes down at Royal St George’s a year ago, was making his schedule he and FSU coaches Trey Jones and Robert Duck were expecting FSU to come through regional qualifying after a strong season in which Ellis had been a star performer.
The date for the NCAA finals – which are being played at Oklahoma’s Karsten Creek this week – meant he was unable to accept the invitation to play in the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village as the amateur champion – just as former Hampshire team-mate Scott Gregory, from Corhampton, had done in May last year.
But the disappointment of missing out on a second NCAA final in a row was sweetened for Ellis by Jack Nicklaus honouring his promise to find a spot in the tournament for him.
Gregory and Ellis have both been thrilled to spend time with Nicklaus previously when they have had the opportunity.
Gregory called the experience a meeting of a lifetime when he got to speak to the legend, who won 18 Majors, during last year’s Memorial Trophy.
And Ellis was over the moon at meeting him during the Masters, at Augusta, in April.
Unfortunately the youngest player to ever win both the English and British Amateur crowns, missed the cut there by 16 shots.
Ellis will tee off last at Muirfield Village at 6.49pm UK time and play with Japan’s Yusaku Miyazato and American European Tour winner Julian Suri.
As soon as Ellis moves on from this week’s event in Ohio, his mind will turn to preparations for the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, on New York’s Long Island, from June 14 to 17.
Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie will attempt to add the English Amateur Strokeplay title to the Spanish Amateur crown he claimed at La Manga, in March, when the Brabazon Trophy gets under way at Frilford Heath, in Oxfordshire, today.
Hampshire have an outstanding record in the event after Rowlands’ Darren Wright claimed the title at Hoylake in 2010.
And Corhampton’s Neil Raymond became the first player to win the trophy outright and back-to-back in some 50 years with wins at Burnham and Berrow and Walton Heath, in 2011 and 2012.