Notebook: One Round, One Houseguest Down


Jimmy Mullen, of England, defeated fellow housemate Todd White in a well-played first-round match that went the distance. (USGA/John Mummert)
By Dave Shedloski
August 13, 2014

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Todd White didn't have to go far to run into his first-round match-play opponent Wednesday morning in the U.S. Amateur. He just walked down the stairs in the house where he was staying and there was Jimmy Mullen.

"First thing I told him was that the USGA had delayed the tee times by 30 minutes," White said with a grin.

"It was all in good spirit," said Mullen, who just laughed at White's obvious prank.

Mullen ended up having the last laugh, too. Despite hitting into the water on each of the last two holes, the 20-year-old from England hung on for a 1-up victory over White, a member of the winning 2013 USA Walker Cup Team.

"It worked out OK. If I could do that in every game and I still come out on top, then it doesn't matter what happens. I will take it," Mullen said.

White, 46, of Spartanburg, S.C., and Mullen, of Bideford, England, had gotten acquainted in the five days before their match because they happened to be staying in the same private residence. Mullen had called the USGA looking for a place to stay, and he was sent to the home of Charles and Brenda Brown. White already was set up to stay there because he had played golf with the Browns' son, Scott, when they both attended Furman University.

The way the seedings worked out after the two rounds of stroke play, Mullen, with his 4-under 139 total, ended up paired against White, who shot 1-over 144.

"It was crazy. We saw that we were going to be close according to scores, but the odds of that happening are still pretty high. Charles and Brenda were not happy," Mullen said.

Indeed, they were assured of losing one houseguest right away. White was disappointed, but he enjoyed the day against an opponent less than half his age. 

"You talk about the essence of the amateur game, and our game is played in the right spirit," White said. "It's a gentleman's sport and that's the way it played out. In the end, he putted a little better than me and that was the difference. He played well."

McIver Finds His Match

Brandon McIver's first match ever in a USGA event couldn't have been much tougher, as he faced Doug Ghim, who a few weeks ago was runner-up in the final U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

Who says match play is all about experience?

Taking advantage of a few loose shots from Ghim down the stretch, McIver overcame a 1-down deficit through 13 holes to register a 2-and-1 triumph.

"I played well. I settled down nicely after not really knowing what to expect," said McIver, 20, of Billings, Mont., who will be a junior this year at the University of Oregon. "It's a totally different kind of game than I am used to, but I guess that good golf gets rewarded no matter the format."

McIver shot 2 under through 17 holes, and he won three of the last four after a seesaw affair. But he never led until his par at 15 against Ghim's bogey.

"I have to say, it was interesting," McIver said.

Ghim, 18, who is heading to the University of Texas this fall, was naturally disappointed after the setback, especially after reaching the APL final. "I'm leaving a lot earlier than I would have liked," he said, before adding that he already was looking forward to next year's championship at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago.

Ghim is a native of Arlington Heights, Ill., and has played a couple of times at Olympia Fields. "I think a home game is going to be a lot of fun," he said.

Healy Had Local Knowledge on His Bag

Zach Healy was eliminated in the Round of 64 on Wednesday, falling to three-time All-American and former world No. 1 Cheng Tsung-Pan, 4 and 2, finally succumbing after he won holes 14 and 15 when he was dormie 5. Drawing an opponent such as Pan is a stiff assignment for someone competing in their first USGA championship, but the Peachtree Corners, Ga. native had plenty of local supporters following his match, as well as a caddie who had been in his shoes.

Bailey Tardy is a week removed from competing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, where she advanced to match play in a USGA championship for the fourth time, and she was the first competitor to tee off in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 this June. Add to the fact that Atlanta Athletic Club is Tardy’s home club, and Healy’s good friend from Norcross High School made the perfect bag toter for the week.

“She knows what you’re going through and what you’re thinking, kind of knows how to calm me down a bit,” said Healy, who will be a freshman on the University of Georgia golf team this fall, a year before Tardy, 18, is slated to arrive on campus. “She’s been here, she’s done it, she knows what to do.”

Not that there hasn’t been a learning curve for Tardy, who is used to thinking her way around AAC and through the rigors of a national championship, but as someone who is hitting the shots instead of providing counsel.

“It’s definitely a different experience being on the other side and not playing. He’ll say, ‘What do you think, 7-iron?’ and I just say uh, how far do you hit that?” She laughed. “I just try to stick to yardages, I think that is different compared to when I’m playing because then I’m thinking about the club I want to hit. That’s definitely different as a caddie.”

Veteran Smith’s Savvy Sinks Co-Medalist

One of the oldest remaining players to reach match play, Nathan Smith endured the longest day at the U.S. Amateur. And he'll have another long day tomorrow, if all goes well.

Smith, 36, the four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Pittsburgh, advanced to the round of 32 for the first time in nine years Wednesday when he outlasted co-medalist Lee McCoy of Clarkesville, Ga., in 19 holes. Smith's day began at 8 a.m. when he found himself in a 17-man playoff for four spots in match play. He earned the last berth.

"It was a long day," said Smith, who tried to prepare by going back to his hotel room to rest between the playoff and his match against McCoy. "That was a lot of fun. Yeah, I was so excited to get in match play, and playing Lee is one of the best – I played with him before. He's a great player. You know, I think it's one of those, I was so excited to be there. Kind of nothing to lose and I just got lucky. I played well and you know, he's a great player and has a tremendous future in the game."

Smith, a member of last year's winning Walker Cup Team, showed his veteran savvy down the stretch. After losing the 16th hole, he immediately squared the match at the tough par-3 17th by knocking a 6-iron to 8 feet and converting the birdie. On the 18th, he saved par after driving well right of the fairway and then getting up and down from behind the green.

On the first extra hole, both players came up short of the green after driving into fairway bunkers. McCoy came up 10 feet short on his chip while Smith executed a perfect bunker shot to within 3 feet. He drilled the par putt after McCoy misfired.

"The way Nathan played coming in was unbelievable," said McCoy, 20, who attends the University of Georgia. "To birdie 17 [being] 1-down and to make 5 from where he was on 18 was just stellar. So you know, you can't commend him enough for making those two numbers that he did there. So I don't feel like I beat myself. I got beat and that's a better feeling than the other way."

Smith won, but he felt beat, too, and he faced an early turnaround for a potentially long day with two rounds of match play Thursday.

"I'll be ready to play. I haven't looked at the brackets," Smith said with a tired smile. "I don't know anything. I mean, everybody is good, and I'll be ready to play and try to play my best. I'm not going to say you're just satisfied and you're ready to get out of here. I'm ready to keep trying to play hard and see what happens. It's exciting."

A Win on Lefthanders’ Day

Isaiah Logue, one of two left-handed players to reach match play at the U.S. Amateur, had no idea that Wednesday was International Lefthanders Day.

"I didn't know anything like that existed until I saw it on Twitter this morning," the 18-year-old from Fairfield, Pa., said. "But I figured it might be an omen or good luck or something."

Whatever it was, Logue enjoyed the day. A natural right-hander (like Phil Mickelson) who since age 2 has played golf left-handed, Logue advanced to the second round of match play with a 2-and-1 victory over England's Sam Horsfield.

After losing the first two holes and three of the first eight, Logue, playing in his first USGA championship, went on a tear. He won four straight holes starting at the 11th and then matched pars to close out the victory.

"I was so nervous early on. You just don't know what to expect with match play," Logue admitted. "But once I settled down I just went on a mission to beat him. I played really well."

Logue, who once shot 45 for nine holes playing right-handed, meets Cameron Young of Scarborough, N.Y., at 8:35 a.m. Thursday. He will play left-handed. "I don't think I want to switch now," he said, laughing.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on usga.org and usopen.com. Scott Lipsky of the USGA contributed.

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