The Silver Medal is one of the most prized possessions of any player who has ever won it. This year, eight amateurs will be vowing for that crown at Royal St George’s. We take a look at five of the top runners for the title.
Although Bairstow was the last of the eight amateurs to qualify for The 149th Open, and the second lowest ranked, he may well be one of the favourites for the Silver Medal. The only amateur to make it through Final Qualifying, Bairstow shot a stunning course record 63 in the morning at St Annes Old Links, before seeing the job home with a composed round of 69 in the afternoon.
While Bairstow’s 12-under total was eye-catching, his recent results have been perhaps more so. A smooth-swinging left-hander, the 21-year-old had finished sixth at the Scottish Men’s Open, fourth in the St Andrews Links Trophy and fifth in The Amateur Championship in his three events preceding Final Qualifying, losing to eventual champion Laird Shepherd in the latter of the trio.
Riding the form of that consistent play on links courses and in big events, Bairstow earned a debut appearance in The Open, one he will be surely looking forward to immensely.
The highest-ranked amateur in the field at The Open, at number eight in the world, Cole Hammer has considerable pedigree. A former world number one amateur with two Walker Cup appearances under his belt, the University of Texas student has played in the last two U.S. Opens and has also made a cut on the PGA Tour in an already distinguished career.
The young American talent brings a great deal of experience to the table already at such a young age of 21, playing a prolific total of 41 WAGR events in the past two years alone. While Hammer has little experience of playing competitive links golf, he had some success at the Walker Cup in 2019 at Royal Liverpool, so will be looking to claim the Silver Medal at the first time of asking in his debut Open appearance.
Laird Shepherd found his way into The Open Championship through one of the most dramatic Amateur Championship finals in history. Having been eight down at one point, and still four down with four holes to play against Monty Scowsill, Shepherd produced a comeback for the ages to claim the title, and in so doing earn a spot at The Open.
“I was honestly more concerned about not making an embarrassing record-breaking defeat,” the 23-year-old said tearfully afterwards. “To turn it around was unbelievable. The last 18 holes I thought, ‘I’m not going to win, but at least I could get a few highlights that I can watch on YouTube one night.”
Shepherd was ranked outside of the top 800 amateurs in the world prior to his victory, and has not participated in much golf at the highest level in his career, often battling injury. He will now get a chance at Sandwich, and has the opportunity to add to his Amateur title by claiming the Silver Medal, joining Jin Jeong, Matteo Manassero and Stuart Wilson as the only other players to do that in the same year this century.
A back-to-back winner of the European Amateur Championship, Matthias Schmid is the second highest ranked amateur in the field, and the only non-professional at The 149th Open not making his debut.
At Royal Portrush in 2019, Schmid earned a spot through his first European Amateur Championship win, but he could not make the cut as the Silver Medal went unclaimed. The German star also managed to qualify for The U.S. Open last month at Torrey Pines, and produced a superb performance at the BMW International Open just a few weeks ago, recording a top-15 finish on the European Tour as an amateur.
Schmid, like Hammer, has played a huge number of WAGR events in the last two years and has had considerable success. With his recent performances at a high level, and with experience of The Open, Schmid is certainly a contender to claim the Silver Medal.
Joe Long has had a wait that is true to his name to play in The Open. Firstly, he narrowly missed out on qualifying for The 148th Open at Royal Portrush when finishing third in the 2019 European Amateur Championship behind Matthias Schmid.
A year later in 2020, Long went all the way at the Amateur Championship to claim one of the top prizes in amateur golf and earn his place in The 149th Open Championship. Yet as The Open last year was cancelled, Long has had to wait another 12 months to get his chance in golf’s original major.
Finally, after playing in the Masters, U.S. Open and Walker Cup earlier this year, the 24-year-old will be able to play at Royal St George’s for his debut Open appearance. An improvement on his first two major outings will be required, however, if he is to win the Silver Medal, with two missed cuts in his first attempts.