USGA to award major exemptions to its junior, mid-amateur national champions

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USGA to award major exemptions to its junior, mid-amateur national champions

PGA Tour

USGA to award major exemptions to its junior, mid-amateur national champions

Noah Goodwin has always wanted to play in an atmosphere like the U.S. Open. He just hasn’t gotten the chance to.

That will change next year.

The U.S. Golf Association released some big news on Thursday. The winners of the U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur will now annually be invited to participate in the U.S. Open, while the winners of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior will receive spots in the U.S. Women’s Open.

The exemptions will begin with the 2018 championships. The 2018 U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills and the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open will take place May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek.

Goodwin, winner of the 2017 U.S. Junior, and Erica Shepherd, winner of this year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, will receive those invites, as will the winner of this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur (Oct. 7-12) and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur (Nov. 11-16).

“It still hasn’t fully sunk in yet,” Goodwin told Golfweek after hearing the news. “To finally have the chance to showcase and play against the best golfers on one of the hardest setups in golf, it’s a huge honor and I couldn’t ask for more.”

Shepherd got the call Thursday morning on the way to school.

“I was kind of in shock at first,” Shepherd said, “and when they hung up I cried.”

The Duke commit was already excited to be exempt into next year’s Girls Junior and Women’s Amateur. Now, she’ll get to play in her second Women’s Open. Shepherd qualified for the 2016 Women’s Open at CordeValle. She tried to qualify for the 2017 event at Trump National but came up short in sectional qualifying.

“I was devastated because I really wanted to go back,” said Shepherd, who still draws on the experience from her first major start, at CordeValle. She was 5 under after 36 holes of last month’s Indy Women in Tech Championship on the LPGA before shooting a final-round 83 to finish 77th.

Goodwin, who is coached by Cameron McCormick, has already started thinking about some players he would like to play practice rounds with. That list includes Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and fellow McCormick student Jordan Spieth.

This will be the 17-year-old Goodwin’s first major start – and first PGA Tour start for that matter – and he’s never played Shinnecock before, so he’s unsure of what to expect. But he’s looking forward to playing in front of massive crowds.

“I can’t say that I’ll know 100 percent of what to expect,” said Goodwin, who will enroll early at SMU this spring. “But playing in front of big crowds, it’s something that gets my adrenaline up. It doesn’t bother me; if anything, I’ll be so excited that I won’t be able to tee the ball up on the first tee. … I’m excited to be playing in an atmosphere that I haven’t experienced yet but that I’ve always wanted to play in.”

– Beth Ann Nichols contributed

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