Midway, Utah – Jace Long set the early pace at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links, carding a 4-under 67 in the first round of stroke-playing qualifying on Monday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
Long, 22, of Dixon, Mo., was one of a dozen golfers to break par in the morning wave on the par-71, 7,670-yard layout.
Another round of 78 golfers had afternoon starting times.
Sunny skies and calm winds allowed for ideal scoring conditions on a layout featuring length, elevation changes, slick greens and knee-high rough in some areas.
Starting on the 10th hole, Long carded eight birdies, getting as low as five under after a chip-in birdie on the 195-yard fifth hole. After a pulled tee shot, Long faced a difficult shot and thought he would need to sink a long putt to save par.
“I was just dead to the left of the green,” said Long, a rising senior at the University of Missouri. “I short-sided myself, hit a good pitch and it just dropped in. That was huge.”
Like Long, James Erkenbeck, who advanced to the round of 16 in last year’s APL, started on the 10th. After two pars, he reeled off birdies on his next three holes and added a fourth at the par-5 16th hole to turn in a 4-under 31. Despite a bogey at the ninth, his final hole, the 22-year-old San Diego resident posted 68 and is just one stroke behind.
While some players struggled with Soldier Hollow’s 5,500-foot altitude, Erkenbeck, a rising senior at the University of New Mexico, found the conditions very similar to Albuquerque.
“I feel very comfortable out here while I see some of the other guys guessing,” said Erkenbeck. “All the things that come with the altitude – it’s not just distance, it’s controlling your trajectory and spin too – it all makes a big difference.”
The 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links is the first USGA championship held in Utah.
One of the state’s best players, Dan Horner, who won the 2008 Utah State Amateur at Soldier Hollow’s Silver Course, opened with a 2-under 69.
Derek Ernst, runner-up in the 2011 APL, opened with a 1-under 70.
Mike Trostel is the curator/historian at the USGA Museum. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.