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.
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.
The gumption of Sam Bennett, the Masters’ most shocking contender
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, and finished 2023 with a run of T8, T6, T36 and T21 at the final four majors. She’s clearly on her way.
Nasa Hataoka (24, Japan)
She is maybe the closest any golfer has ever come to multiple majors without winning one. At 17, Hataoka became the youngest player and first amateur to win a Japanese LPGA major and joined the LPGA Tour the next year. By the time Hataoka turned 23 she had six LPGA wins and six more in Japan. Hataoka has thrived in majors yet come just short — nine top-10 finishes, and she has taken two majors to a playoff and lost both. The first was a three-way playoff in the 2018 PGA Championship at 19, and the second came in the 2021 U.S. Open to Yuka Saso.
Nicolai Højgaard (22, Denmark)
The wild card addition to Europe’s winning Ryder Cup squad, Højgaard didn’t necessarily steal the show or gain attention the way Åberg did, but he had plenty of moments announcing his talent in clutch moments. He’s been racking up accolades for years now, winning the 2018 European Amateur and helping Denmark win the 2018 Eisenhower Trophy, but his win this past weekend at the DP World Tour Championship against many of the best golfers in the world might be final step to show he really is one of those guys. He now has three DP World Tour wins and made the cuts at both the PGA Championship and Open Championship this summer, even getting T23 at Royal Liverpool. Højgaard should be one of the next stars of the generation.
Rasmus Højgaard (22, Denmark)
The second set of twins on this list, Rasmus actually has more wins to his name than Nicolai with four DP World Tour victories. He just hasn’t quite hit a public peak the way his brother has to get Ryder Cup calls already. Still, Rasmus has some big wins like the European Masters and is currently on a European run of 4th, T25, T26, T16 and T6 in his last five events. He just barely the missed the 10th spot in in the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings thanks to a painful finish at the championship, but there’s little doubt he’s a big part of the rise of the Scandinavians.
Tom Kim (21, South Korea)
If this list were a ranking, Kim might be the top male golfer. He announced himself in 2022, at 20 years old, by winning the Wyndham Championship, the Shriners Children’s Open and stealing the show at the Presidents Cup. But 2023 was seemingly the year of proving that hype was valid. He rose as high as No. 13 in the DataGolf rankings with 15 top-20 finishes in his first full PGA Tour season, and he excelled in majors going T16 at Augusta, T8 and the U.S. Open and T2 at the Open Championship. Winning again in Las Vegas in October only made it more clear — Kim might not have the driving length of other young stars, but his iron play and putting have a chance to spark a special career.
A 20-year-old unlike any other is golf’s next global superstar
Christo Lamprecht (22, South Africa)
Remember Christo Lamprecht? The 6-foot-8 South African who won the British Amateur and then held the first-round lead at the Open Championship weeks later? Well, he’s not just some surprise story. He’s a really exciting young golfer who jumped to No. 1 in the world amateur rankings this fall thanks to another amateur win in September. The Georgia Tech star is No. 2 in the current PGA Tour University standings (in which the winner gets an automatic Tour card), and he has automatic exemptions to the 2024 Masters and U.S. Open, so we’ll get more chances to see the absurdly long youngster.
Ingrid Lindblad (23, Sweden)
Once Rose Zhang turned pro, Lindblad took over as the No. 1 amateur in the world. She is a decorated Swedish star most famous for setting the amateur U.S. Open 18-hole scoring record with a 65 at Pine Needles in 2022. She helped Sweden win the European Ladies’ Team Championship in 2019 and 2020, and earned SEC Player of the Year at LSU. The next year she won the 2021 European Ladies’ Amateur Championship by three strokes in Italy and then was runner-up at the 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. She’s made only one major cut thus far, but Lindblad is one of the top young stars in golf.
David Puig (21, Spain)
The lone LIV golfer on this list, Puig leaving Arizona State to turn pro and join LIV was a big coup for the upstart league. He was becoming one of the top amateurs in the world, and in 2023 he joined Torque GC. He finished 31st in the LIV standings and is currently a free agent, but he finished the final two months with a T5 and T3 before going on a heater on the Asian Tour this fall including a win in Singapore. Time will tell what happens with LIV golfers concerning the European Ryder Cup team, but in theory, Puig has the talent to be a mainstay for Europe’s next generation.
Gordon Sargent (20, USA)
Sargent is the top star on the amateur circuit, even if he’s not currently ranked first overall and did not win the U.S. Amateur. He’s the name everyone is talking about, the massively long driver with control who won the 2022 individual national title at Vanderbilt and made the cut at the U.S. Open in June. The excitement around his talent is on the level of Åberg, yet Sargent is four years younger. And thanks to the new PGA Tour U Accelerated program, Sargent immediately has PGA Tour status whenever he turns pro.
Yuka Saso (22, Japan/Philippines)
Saso is a Philippines-born Japanese golfer who turned pro at 18 and won two Japanese LPGA events within a year. Then, weeks before her 20th birthday, Saso made the big leap by winning the 2021 U.S. Open in a playoff against Hataoka, tied for the youngest to ever win the event. She’s currently No. 24 in the Rolex Rankings and racked up two top-five major finishes in 2023.
Caleb Surratt (19, USA)
By the end of his freshman season at Tennessee, he won an individual SEC Championship, became the first-ever first-team All-American in school history, and made the Walker Cup team that took down Great Britain and Ireland at St. Andrews. He was then able to make the cut at the Bermuda Butterfield Championship on the PGA Tour. Still a teenager, he’s likely to be right up there as a top name to watch for years.
Atthaya Thitikul (20, Thailand)
It’s been a dream rise for Thitikul, becoming world No. 1 at 20 and LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year at 19. She made the Open Championship cut at 15 and became the top amateur in the world by 16. So when she turned pro in 2022, it was no surprise she won two LPGA Tour events, but maybe the most impressive feat is that Thitikul has six top-10 finishes in majors all before she turns 21.
Michael Thorbjornsen (22, USA)
For whatever reason, Thorbjornsen hasn’t received the same level of attention as Sargent, Åberg or Dunlap, but he’s been one of the top amateurs for years, winning the Pac-12 title this past year and making the cut at the 2019 U.S. Open while just 18. Thorbjornsen has also done really well in limited professional starts, finishing fourth at the 2022 Travelers Championship and T17 at the John Deere Classic in July, plus a T20 at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic. The Stanford star is the No. 4 amateur in the world, and he’ll likely be one to follow when he turns pro.
Ruoning Yin (21, China)
This September, Yin became world No. 1 at just 21. It’s been a quick rise — she dominated the Chinese amateur circuit, winning nine junior amateur events and the National Amateur Championship. When she turned pro at 17, she won her first three China LPGA Tour events (a record) and then took her stardom international by winning the 2023 PGA Championship for her first major this year while racking up top 10s all season.
Angela Zhang (14, USA)
Meet the 14-year-old golfer from Washington who qualified for the U.S. Open this summer. She reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four Ball Championship (with fellow 14-year-old Alice Zhou) and first made a name for herself winning the girls 7-9 national title at the Drive, Chip and Putt competition at Augusta National in which she drove the ball 33 yards farther than her nearest competitor. She can now drive it 240 yards, and we’ll likely see her at more majors soon enough.
Rose Zhang (20, USA)
Let’s save the biggest phenom for last. Zhang is a Tiger Woods-esque phenom in women’s golf, a former Stanford star who won the 2020 U.S. Amateur and then took back-to-back individual national titles in 2022 and 2023. Oh yeah, and she won the 2023 Augusta National Women’s Amateur and set the women’s record with 142 weeks as the No. 1 amateur in the world. Turning pro this year was already big news that became exponentially bigger when she won her first professional LPGA Tour event. And just to wrap it all up, she then made three consecutive top-10 major finishes this year, only reassuring that she’s on pace to become one of the all-time greats.
The world is ready for Rose Zhang. Is she ready for the world?
(Top photos: Jonathan Bachman, Orlando Ramirez and Dylan Buell / Getty Images)