Bandon, Ore. – Ask Jonathan Randolph if he is the kind of person who likes to procrastinate and you get a response often typical of a 22-year-old college student.
“That’s an answer my parents are probably not going to like,” admitted Randolph. “I wait closer to the last minute.”
For those watching the 2010 University of Mississippi first-team All-American at this week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, that might be difficult to fathom.
Randolph has been a study in efficiency, at least since match play began on Wednesday.
The only thing blowing away the participants harder than the wind at Bandon Dunes Resort has been Randolph.
Through four rounds, including Friday morning’s 5-and-3 quarterfinal victory over 19-year-old Todd Baek, Randolph has played a total of 58 holes. He hasn’t played holes 16, 17 and 18 at Old Macdonald since Tuesday’s second and final stroke-play qualifying round, where he shot an even-par 71 to snare the No. 2 seed in the match-play draw.
Compare that to Harris English, who has needed 70 holes to reach the final four.
Nobody has been off the course faster than Randolph.
“I’m not the quickest guy in the world,” said Randolph, who is 15 credits shy of receiving his marketing degree. “Once I commit to something, I don’t take too long with it.
“But it’s very nice to get done early.”
Those who follow college golf might have thought this kind of run at a USGA championship would have happened last year when Randolph became an All-American and was selected to represent the U.S. at the Palmer Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition featuring American college players against their European counterparts. After playing the event at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, he made a stop at the British Amateur in Scotland, where he missed the match-play cut at Muirfield.
But don’t say Randolph isn’t a quick study. While in the British Isles, he received some advice from former European Ryder Cup member Ken Brown, whose son, Tom, plays for Ole’ Miss. Randolph absorbed everything he could about playing links golf, a practice that would come in handy at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, which features four courses very similar to the classic seaside layouts in Great Britain and Ireland.
It didn’t hurt to have a plus-2 handicap caddie who has been toting bags around the 72-hole property for the last seven years. Randolph and 30-year-old Adam Vaneo bonded quickly and with his caddie’s local knowledge and Randolph’s ball-striking skills, the two have been the quite formidable duo since the APL started on Monday.
“Jonathan is one of the most consistent people I have ever been around,” said Vaneo, a Eureka, Calif., native who works at the resort from June to November. “You can see his attention to details. He’s got a lot of shots.”
After a few days, Vaneo had a firm grasp of Randolph’s game, so much so that he talked him out of hitting a 2-iron stinger at the 350-yard ninth hole on Friday morning. Randolph has fallen in love with long iron in the windy conditions this week, but Vaneo knew with a strong north wind, his man could reach the green with a driver. Sure enough, Randolph found the fringe and holed a 60-foot right-to-left curling putt for an eagle-2 that gave him firm control of the match.
Randolph had become so disgusted with his putting after the Monroe Invitational a few weeks ago that he went to his local pro shop and bought a new model. With guidance from Vaneo, he has been making plenty of putts at the APL. Along with the 60-footer on nine, he holed a 50-footer that broke 10 feet on No. 5. Peter Blaisdell, the USGA walking official with the match, said you could drop 100 balls from that spot and not make a single one.
“He really seems at home on this course,” said Mississippi teammate Joseph David, who was eliminated by Derek Ernst, Randolph’s semifinal opponent, in the first round. “It just seems like he fits in with this type of weather.
“He’s got great imagination, a great feel with wedges, and he doesn’t get it out of play. I know it’s kind of hard to do that out here, but you can find some of those pot bunkers and fairway bunkers that can just kill you on a hole. He really thinks his way around before he makes every swing.”
Randolph seemed primed for a stellar senior year after his strong junior campaign. He appeared to be completely healed from a sternum injury that he suffered in back-to-back years at the same golf course. He first tore the cartilage during the final round of the 2008 Mississippi Amateur at Tunica National. With a seven-shot lead, Randolph tweaked his chest at the seventh hole. He finished the round, but wound up as the runner-up.
A year later, playing a Hooters Tour event a day after U.S. Open sectional qualifying, Randolph re-aggravated the injury as a storm blew in. “I could hardly breathe.”
Both injuries cut short his summer amateur schedule. And just to play it safe, he didn’t put Tunica National on his registration form as a sectional site for U.S. Open qualifying this year. “I signed up for Maryland this year because I wasn’t going there,” said Randolph smiling.
Randolph thinks what happened this past season was a good learning process. He maintains he was grounded after the All-American junior year, but thought he lost some structure to his swing.
“This is a crazy game,” said Randolph, who also developed strep throat prior to the NCAA Regionals and failed to qualify for nationals at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla. “I was top 30 [in the country] going into the [regionals] and I was sick and I had a bad tournament. That cost me All-American [honors].
Since then, Randolph has been on the rebound. His short game, which he said never left him all year, has been strong. He’s comfortable with his swing and now his putter has heated up. That is a good formula for match-play success, let alone any competition.
Randolph elected to stay amateur this summer to make a run at the 2011 USA Walker Cup Team. He will play the Southern Amateur, Porter Cup and likely the Western Amateur. He also hopes to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills, although a win over Ernst in Friday’s semifinals would exempt him into the field. This fall, he’ll complete his degree requirements at Mississippi while also entering PGA Tour Qualifying School.
Right now, however, he’s focused on winning the James D. Standish Trophy.
So far, he’s yet to be seriously challenged in four matches.
Asked if he was worried that he had not played the final three holes at Old Macdonald since Tuesday, Randolph shook his head.
“I’m just saving up some energy,” he said. “I just try to go out there and be as efficient as possible and accept the outcome. I’m not afraid to go 18 [holes], it’s just fun when you don’t have to.”
Kind of like turning in that college paper right at the deadline.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. E-mail him at email@example.com.