Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland
2007 – World number one for 1 week
Rory McIlroy holds the distinction among former World Amateur Golf Ranking® number ones: the Northern Irishman is the only male player to become the number one player in professional golf. The four-time major winner is currently top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a position he’s held for a total of 101 weeks throughout his career.
McIlroy might only have held the number one spot on the WAGR® table for one week before he turned professional in 2007, but he was more than worthy of that ranking. McIlroy closed out his amateur days by competing for Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down, not far from his home town of Holywood. It capped a dream season in which he won the silver medal as leading amateur in the Open Championship at Carnoustie, where he finished 42nd.
McIlroy gained entry to that 2007 Open by winning the previous season’s European Amateur Championship. He also successfully defended his Irish Amateur Close Championship in 2006 and went on to win the Irish Amateur Order of Merit.
Many successful amateurs find it difficult to transition to the professional game. Not McIlroy. He earned his European Tour card for the 2008 season by finishing third in the 2007 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, just his second event as a professional.
It wasn’t a question of if McIlroy would win in professional golf, but when and how many. He notched his first victory in the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic and has earned another 13 European Tour wins since, including those four major championships. He has another 14 wins on the PGA Tour. Most importantly, this former amateur number one still has many years to add to his impressive CV.
Cecilia Cho, New Zealand (Korea)
2011 – World number one for 1 week
Cecilia Cho was born in Korea before moving to New Zealand at age eight. Cho reached number one on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® in March 2011 following an impressive couple of years which had seen her win consecutive New Zealand Amateur Championships in 2009 and 2010, and the 2010 Australian Stroke Play Championship. She had a great rivalry with friend and compatriot Lydia Ko during her amateur days, with Ko eventually succeeding her as world number one.
Cho turned professional in 2012 and reverted to her Korean citizenship and her Korean name of Cho Jeong Min. She has spent her career almost entirely on the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Tour.
After a couple of seasons on the KLPGT fringes and playing the development Dream Tour, Cho made significant progress in 2015 when she had five top 10s including a runner up and two third places finishes. Her maiden win came in 2016 when she triumphed in the Dalat Championship in Vietnam. She added the Caido MBC Ladies Open to make it a two-win season to close outthe year ninth on the KPLGT money list.
The 2018 season saw Cho add another victory with the 8th Lotte Cantata Ladies to finish ninth on the order of merit. The 2019 KLPGT season is her best to date. Last year she won the Celltrion Queens Masters and the BC Card Hankyung Ladies Cup to finish a career high seventh on the order of merit.