Monday, July 15, 2024

Something happened this year in golf. A 23-year-old Swedish rookie, Ludvig Åberg, who had never played in a major was picked for the Ryder Cup along with a lesser-known 22-year-old Danish twin, Nicolai Højgaard. Two 25-year-olds and 21-year-old Ruoning Yin won four of the five women’s majors, and one of the biggest stories in sports became 20-year-old Stanford phenom Rose Zhang going from historic amateur to immediate LPGA Tour winner.

An amateur, Sam Bennett, had his name at the top of the Masters leaderboard through two days in Augusta. Viktor Hovland went on a historic August heater to make his claim as the best golfer in the world — before his 26th birthday. Oh, and South Korean star Tom Kim reached No. 11 worldwide by the time he was 21.

Youth has always been at the core of golf, a sport that has always produced prodigies and superstars in the spotlight since childhood. So maybe this isn’t new. But because this is such an exciting time for youth in golf, it’s a good chance to look at the next wave of golfers that you’ll know very soon: The 25 best golfers under 25.

Some you already know, because their accomplishments have demanded your attention, and some are working under the radar but could very well be next. Without further ado, meet your next generation.

(Note: The list is ordered alphabetically by last name)

Ludvig Åberg (24, Sweden)

He is tall. He is strong. He can drive the ball farther and more accurately than all but one or two players in the world. And Ludvig Åberg is no longer coming. He is here. After winning nearly every national collegiate award at Texas Tech and breaking some of Rickie Fowler’s Big 12 records, Åberg immediately turned pro and hung in the top 40 at almost every event. Then he won the European Masters and earned himself a Ryder Cup spot at 23. He and partner Viktor Hovland absolutely dominated in foursomes winning two matches — including the largest blowout in Ryder Cup history over Scottie Scheffler and Brooks Koepka — on the way to the European victory. And then he got rolling on the PGA Tour fall slate, going T2, T13 and T10 before winning the RSM Classic on Sunday to qualify for the Masters and two signature events. The only question left is if he can compete for majors in 2024.

Akshay Bhatia (21, USA)

Bhatia decided to turn pro at 17 instead of going to college. While many other rising stars his age (and on this list) were winning college accolades and learning how to be the top dogs, Bhatia was learning how to be a pro. And that means learning how to deal with the good and the bad. He didn’t make a single cut in the 2020 season, and 2021 wasn’t much better, so he went down to the Korn Ferry Tour and figured it out. And through all that, he’s still only 21. In 2023, he earned top 10s at smaller events like the Puerto Rico Open, the Mexico Open and Barbasol before winning the alternate field Barracuda Championship. Now, he’s playing quite well in the PGA Tour fall events, indicating he might be ready to take a step. The golf world got to know Sam Bennett during the 2023 Masters. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Sam Bennett (23, USA)

The coolest thing about Sam Bennett is that nobody ever sees him coming. He wasn’t the highly-touted young star when he won the 2022 U.S. Amateur. He wasn’t even the big amateur name at the 2023 Masters, but he still found himself in the final groups on the weekend while tying the 36-hole amateur record. And then, when people still wrote him off as just a nice story, he turned pro and earned a T20 at the Canadian Open and made the cut at the U.S. Open. His form has slowed down this summer and fall, but no longer will we overlook Sam Bennett. He’s a competitor.

Jacob Bridgeman (23, USA)

Bridgeman was a star at Clemson, winning an ACC title and finishing second in the PGA Tour University standings, which gave him immediate Korn Ferry Tour status. And at 23, Bridgeman had an impressively consistent first full professional season. He earned 14 top-20 finishes and ranked No. 14 in the final KFT standings, earning him a Tour card in 2024. He has not won yet, but he proved he could be a week-in, week-out pro and not lose form.

Nick Dunlap (19, USA)

There was Åberg. Then there will be Gordon Sargent (more on him later). And then the next in line of the superstar amateurs is Dunlap. He went to Alabama last year as the top junior golfer in the country, and by the end of his freshman year he announced himself as a star to watch. He won the U.S. Amateur in June, beating Sargent in match play, and earned All-SEC first-team honors. He joined Tiger Woods as the only male golfers to win both a U.S. Junior Amateur and a U.S. Amateur, and he’s already the No. 3 amateur in the world.

Parker Coody (23, USA)

The oldest (by 37 minutes) of the Coody twins, Parker was a key part of the 2022 Texas national title team and finished T2 in the individual national title. Then, he turned pro that summer on PGA Tour Canada and won an event in Manitoba before moving to Korn Ferry in 2023 where he got off to a difficult start. He missed four of his first five cuts, but then he got hot and finished with five top-five finishes and ended with a top-30 season and a PGA Tour card for 2024. The Coody brothers are the grandsons of 1971 Masters champion Charles Coody.

Pierceson Coody (23, USA)

Both Coody brothers earned their PGA Tour cards this year, but Pierceson earned his in slightly simpler fashion. At one point the top amateur in the world, Pierceson was also on the 2022 national title team at Texas and earned immediate Korn Ferry status thanks to finishing first in PGA Tour University. He then won his first professional tournament in only his third event in 2022, and in 2023, he won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour, which easily earned him his card for 2024.

Adrien Dumont de Chassart (23, Belgium)

A former Big Ten golfer of the year at Illinois, Dumont de Chassart turned pro in June and immediately won his first Korn Ferry Tour start at the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Maybe even more impressively, he opened his pro career with six consecutive top-10 finishes, launching himself into the conversation as a wild-card Ryder Cup candidate. So in just a few months on the minor league circuit Dumont de Chassart was able to jump to No. 11 on the KFT standings and earn himself a PGA Tour card in 2024. He’s a very likely candidate to make European Ryder Cup teams in the future.

Austin Eckroat (24, USA)

At just 24, Eckroat announced himself with a U.S. Open record-tying 29 on the front nine at Los Angeles Country Club on Sunday to finish T10 in his first major as a pro. The four-time All-American from Oklahoma State had to fight to earn his PGA Tour card at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2022, and his 2023 was fascinating. He missed 13 cuts but also finished T2 at the Byron Nelson, 5th at Puntacana, T10 at the U.S. Open T16 at Charles Schwab and T24 at the elevated Travelers Championship. But then right when he had a chance to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs, he missed consecutive cuts. Eckroat is a big talent, ending the fall campaign with a top-10 finish at RSM, so he’s a fun one to watch in 2024.

Ayaka Furue (23, Japan)

Furue came up as a star on the Japanese tour, not earning an LPGA card until 2022, but she has established herself as one of the most competitive golfers on the verge of making a leap. In addition to winning eight events in Japan, she earned her first LPGA win in 2022. But maybe most interestingly is how Furue keeps putting herself in the mix at majors. At 21, she finished 4th at the Evian Championship…

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