That’s “versatile,” as in occasionally selecting a club other
than driver from the tee. Yang has reached Saturday’s semifinal round of the
U.S. Amateur by playing aggressively, and that style was no more evident than
on the 18th hole of his quarterfinal match on Friday, after Yang had just taken
a 1-up lead on Cameron Young.
Yang took on the dogleg of the par-5 hole with his tee shot,
which struck the rock wall lining the water hazard to the left of the fairway.
One foot to the left, and he might have been heading for extra holes. Instead, his
ball bounded forward off the wall and he comfortably reached the green from 135
yards out, leading to a berth in the semifinals against Frederick Wedel.
Afterward, Yang explained, “Whenever I play too passive,
sometimes it goes wrong.”
A native of the Republic of Korea who also spent five years
in Australia, Yang is entering his sophomore year at San Diego State after
graduating from nearby Torrey Pines High School. Yang came to Atlanta Athletic
Club as one of about 50 competitors in the 312-player field who needed a caddie.
According to Grice, who is in his fifth year on the AAC board, club members
filled all the caddie slots.
“Gunn is a serious player, and I have some experience
caddieing for my daughter [Savannah], who now plays at Dartmouth College,” said
Grice, 55, who plays to a 9 handicap. “I’ve caddied for him since the first
practice round last Saturday.”
Grice freely admits that he would not necessarily recommend
all the clubs and lines of attack that Yang has chosen. But he can’t argue with
his player’s success, which includes taking out the No. 1 player in the World
Amateur Golf Ranking™, Ollie Schniederjans of nearby Georgia Tech, in the Round
of 16 on Thursday.
“Over the week, it’s progressed and we’re having more
discussions about it,” said Grice, who works at Alston and Baird, the law firm where Bob Jones was once a partner. “The lawyer in me takes over and I say,
let’s play the percentages. But he wants driver, so let’s play the driver. He’s
in the semis, so who am I to argue?”
Grice has volunteered at previous championships at the
club, including PGA Championships in 2001 and 2011, but he is relishing this
week’s role more than his past duties as a marshal.
“I like to be out on the course anyway, and I thought
caddieing would be pretty cool,” said Grice. “These guys are so good, watching
this level of competition and being a part of it is fun. I’m not sure I bargained
for the entire week – no offense to Gunn, but just the odds of going this far… I
was dreading yesterday [Thursday’s double-round of matches] a little bit, but it’s
been fine. I’m getting my exercise.”
Grice also feels an obvious pride in the club’s role in the
114th playing of the USGA’s oldest championship.
“It’s part of our heritage to host these kinds of
competitions,” said the 24-year member. “We love this event and know how
important it is to the USGA. We want to put on the best possible event that we
can. It’s part of our mission statement.”
Indeed, the last part of the club declaration reads, “… while
preserving our heritage, traditions and reputation for championship golf.”
In this championship, Yang and Grice have encountered the
par-4 13th hole on the Highlands Course five times, with four pars and a bogey.
His results on the 364-yard hole have reinforced Yang’s penchant for aggressive
“If I hit 3-iron to just lay up on the left side, then
sometimes it ended up in the bunker; I would say that’s in the bad area,” said
Yang. “So I think that just makes me a more aggressive player, just trying to
put the driver in the fairway close to the hole.”
So far, closer to the hole has brought Yang ever closer to
the championship match.
Ron Driscoll is the
manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.