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Amateurs often pop up on leader boards at the U.S. Open. So who might do it at Pinehurst?

By Ryan Herrington

loop-cameron-wilson-usopen-518.jpgThe Pinehurst Dozen begins the quest early Thursday -- NCAA champ Cameron Wilson (above) tees off in the first group off the first tee at 6:45 a.m. -- to make it 15 of 17 years that an amateur has made the cut in the U.S. Open.

There are some common bonds which tie this group together. The youngest of the bunch is 17, the oldest 22, with the average age being 20 on the dot. Similarly there are few outliers skill wise. Nine of the 12 are ranked inside the top 160 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking, with five being inside the top 15. The average ranking of the 12 is 267.75, but only because high schooler Will Grimmer is ranked No. 2,064. Take him out and the average ranking of the remaining 11 is 104.4.

Certainly, the quality of the 12 players is too strong for them to pitch a weekend shutout in North Carolina. The question is how many will be in the running for low-amateur honors come Sunday and will any of them make a guest appearance on the leader board over the weekend, a la Beau Hossler in 2012 at Olympic Club and Michael Kim last year at Merion.

Here's our look at the group (in alphabetical order) and our educated guess at who's in it for the duration at Pinehurst.

Brian Campbell, 21, Irvine, Calif.
How he qualified:
T-4 at sectional qualifying in Daly City, Calif.
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 38
Odds of making the cut: 8-1
Skinny: The Illinois undergrad is the latest in an impressive line of players coming out of the Illini program. Campbell earned Big Ten player-of-the-year honors this spring after posting a 71.26 average during the 2013-14 season. He also has performed well in big events at the college level, winning the NCAA regional title last month.

Andrew Dorn, 21, West Chester, Ohio
How he qualified: First alternate out of Springfield, Ohio, sectional qualifier
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 147
Odds of making the cut: 15-1
Skinny: The Coastal Carolina senior-to-be has some history at Pinehurst No. 2, having won the North & South Amateur on the course last summer. Among its perks is having his own locker already in the clubhouse.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, 19, England
How he qualified:
U.S. Amateur champion
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 2
Odds of making the cut: 4-1
Skinny: The U.S. Open will be Fitzpatrick’s amateur swan song as he’s announced he’ll turn pro afterward and make his debut at the Irish Open. This is his third start in a major, most of any of the amateurs in the field. Thus far, Fitzpatrick is one for two in making cuts in majors, being low amateur as a qualifier at last year’s British Open and missing out on the weekend at April’s Masters by one stroke. He should be comfortable in the setting (even playing in the threesome with Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson). The question is whether his game is sharp enough to handle the moment or whether he's thinking about the future too much to keep track of the present.

Oliver Goss, 20, Australia
How he qualified:
U.S. Amateur runner-up
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 12
Odds of making the cut: 8-1
Skinny: He finished up his sophomore year at Tennessee with a 71.84 average, winning once and having five top-10 finishes. However, three of his four worst performances of the season came in his final three starts.

Will Grimmer, 17, Cincinnati, Ohio
How he qualified:
Second at sectional qualifying in Springfield, Ohio
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 2,064
Odds of making the cut: 20-1
Skinny: The high school senior-to-be (he has made a verbal commitment to Ohio State for fall 2015) also has a connection to Pinehurst. Playing the resort’s No. 1 course in last year’s North and South Junior, Grimmer shot a 11-under 59.

Sam Love, 22, Trussville, Ala.
How he qualified:
Second alternate out of Memphis sectional qualifier
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 157
Odds of making the cut: 18-1
Skinny: Much was made of Jason Millard’s self-DQ from the Open days after qualifying when determining he had broken mistakenly grounded his club in a bunker during play. Love was the direct benefactor of Millard’s decision, getting his spot. Love just wrapped up his college career at UAB this spring.

Brandon McIver, 20, Billings, Mont.
How he qualified:
First alternate out of Crewsell, Ore., sectional qualifier
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 278
Odds of making the cut: 20-1
Skinny: The Oregon sophomore started in 14 events for the Ducks this past season, carding a 71.95 stroke average. That was an improvement of nearly two full strokes off his number as a freshman. McIver was confident enough he would get in off the alternate list that he made his way to North Carolina last weekend. Sure enough, he got in last Sunday night.

Maverick McNealy, 18, Portola Valley, Calif.
How he qualified:
Third at sectional qualifying in Daly City, Calif.
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 410
Odds of making the cut: 10-1
Skinny: His famous father, Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, will be on the bag this week, but Maverick has made a name for himself after a solid freshman season at Stanford in which he help the squad claim its first Pac-12 title in nearly 20 years.

Robby Shelton, 18, Wilmer, Ala.
How he qualified:
T-8 at sectional qualifying in Memphis
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 6
Odds of making the cut: 4-1
Skinny: The Alabama undergrad was national freshman of the year in 2013-14, becoming a key component of the Crimson Tide team that claimed its second straight NCAA title. While seniors Bobby Wyatt, Cory Whitsett and Trey Mullinax got the publicity for being the leaders of the squad, Shelton was the one on the team to earn SEC player-of-the-year honors.

Hunter Stewart, 21, Lexington, Ky.
How he qualified:
T-12 at sectional qualifying in Memphis
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 80
Odds of making the cut: 20-1
Skinny: Stewart, a junior at Vanderbilt, rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to earn the last spot out of the Memphis sectional qualifier. He quietly had an impressive junior year at Vanderbilt this past season, recording five top-five finishes and seven top-10s. His victory at the 2013 Players Amateur earned him a spot into the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage last April, in which he missed the cut by two strokes in his first start in a pro event.

Cory Whitsett, 22, Houston
How he qualified:
Medalist at sectional qualifying in Houston
World Amateur Golf Ranking:  15
Odds of making the cut: 3-1
Skinny: Whitsett will use his appearance in Pinehurst to cap a standout amateur career that’s included a U.S. Junior title, a spot on the victorious 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team and a lead roll in helping Alabama win back-to-back NCAA team titles.

Cameron Wilson, 21, Rowayton, Conn.
How he qualified:
First alternate out of Purchase, N.Y., sectional qualifier
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 4
Odds of making the cut: 2-1
Skinny: The recent Stanford graduate closed out his college career by winning the NCAA individual title two weeks ago at Prairie Dunes C.C. He’s the only amateur in the field with experience in the U.S. Open, having qualified for the 2012 Open at Olympic Club. He missed the cut, but the experience, along with momentum from an impressive senior season with the Cardinal suggests this time around Wilson might get four rounds in.