TRUCKEE, Calif. – One putt can change everything.
Two weeks ago, Will Grimmer faced a 20-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 1 during the North & South Junior at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C. Whether he made it or not, Grimmer was going to post a remarkable round.
But in the golf world, the gulf between a 60 and a 59 is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Grimmer, of Cincinnati, who opened the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship on Monday at Martis Camp Club with a 2-over 74, became an overnight sensation when he made the putt to complete a second-round 59. Four television stations in Cincinnati interviewed him and WLW-AM, the talk-radio station that carries the Cincinnati Reds and the Cincinnati Bengals, brought him in for a segment. But it wasn’t just local media – amateur video went viral on YouTube and social media, and Golf Channel also talked to him.
“Fifteen minutes of fame,” said Grimmer, 16, who has been called Mr. 59 by some of his friends. “It’s been cool to get a bunch of attention for it.”
Grimmer, however, has not allowed the round to define him as a golfer. In fact, he didn’t even win the North & South Junior, which was also contested on the Nos. 5 and 6 Courses at Pinehurst. Will Blalock posted a 15-under 198, six strokes ahead of Grimmer, who finished fourth.
“I would have had to shoot seven under [the last day] just to get into a playoff, which is tough to do after shooting a 59,” said Grimmer.
Grimmer did return to Ohio, where he won an American Junior Golf Association event at Ohio State University last week by six strokes for his first win on that circuit.
The victory provided some momentum heading into his first U.S. Junior Amateur, where a gaggle of college coaches followed him around the course on Monday.
Grimmer, who started at No. 10, didn’t disappoint, finishing strong with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 7 and 8. At the 250-yard eighth, he knocked a 5-wood tee shot to 6 feet.
“This is probably the toughest golf course I’ve played in my entire life,” said Grimmer of Martis Camp, a 2008 Tom Fazio design that, at 7,740 yards, is the longest in Junior Amateur history. “No 59s [today], but I understand I just want to make match play because anything can happen. This is just awesome getting out here [and competing].”
The town of Yellowknife, population 18,000, in the Northwest Territories of Canada, is located 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle and boasts one golf course – with sand fairways and artificial-grass greens. That’s where Patrick Murphy first learned to play the game.
“If you hit it in the fairway, you get to pick it up and put it on some fake turf,” said Murphy of Yellowknife Golf Club.
The family eventually moved to Crossfield, Alberta, about 30 miles north of Calgary, when he was 6. There, Murphy could play more traditional courses. Given the extended daylight in the summer – 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. – Murphy can play a lot of golf during the season, which lasts only a few months.
During the late summer and early fall, you can also find Murphy on one of the many farms owned and operated by friends and family. One of his favorite pastimes is driving a swather, a farm machine that cuts hay or small grain crops.
“I like to go out and help with the harvest,” said Murphy, who carded a 5-over 77 in the first round on Monday at Martis Camp Club. “It’s fun.”
Murphy, who played competitive hockey for 10 years before narrowing his focus to golf, also finds plenty of enjoyment on the course, where one of his mentors is PGA Tour winner Stephen Ames, a Calgary resident who plays out of The Glencoe Club, which has given Murphy an honorary membership.
“I was good at hockey, but I didn’t have the same drive I did for golf,” said Murphy.
Murphy said two double bogeys soured what was a solid round at Monday’s stroke-play qualifying. A couple of errant swings led to the mistakes, something that Murphy feels can be corrected going into Tuesday’s final round of stroke-play qualifying.
“I just have to keep playing solid,” he said. “I don’t think my score reflected the golf shots I hit.”
Last year, Murphy was the runner-up in the 16-and-under division of the Canadian Junior, and recently he verbally committed to attend UCLA in the fall of 2015. Murphy liked what he saw on campus and he got an opportunity to connect with Bruins coach Derek Freeman.
Ray of Sunshine
One of the four golfers who owns a piece of the Martis Camp competitive course record was on property during Monday’s first round. In 2011, the Pacific Coast Amateur was contested at Martis Camp, and Stanford golf coach Conrad Ray carded a 66 to join college players Chris Williams, Andrew Putnam and Martin Trainer at that figure. Williams posted rounds of 66 twice – in the third and fourth rounds of the competition.
Ray three-putted the 18th hole in the final round to settle for 66.
Scottie Scheffler flirted with tying the course record on Monday, but bogeyed the ninth hole, his last of the day, to finish at 5-under.
Ray said the course setup is similar to that for the Pacific Coast Amateur.
“We played all of the back tees,” he said.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.