For virtually every competitor at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links, it's been a major adjustment in thinking when it comes to playing Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald. Most players are accustomed to playiing the ball in the air. But on the links courses being used for the championship, it's all about the ground game.
"I've pretty much kept my two wedges in the bag," said Anthony Degol of Hollidaysburg, Pa. Except when he has to play a bunker shot. Degol posted a 2-over-par 73 on Tuesday at Old Macdonald for a 36-hole total of 145 (four over)
Charlie Hughes of Canada, a junior-to-be at the University of Washington, has gone from launching high, arching shots to low stingers. He hasn't had too much trouble as his 71-73 scores at Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald, respectively, have indicated. Then again, Hughes got a taste of this kind of golf in March when he won the Bandon Dunes Championship, a college event that has been hosted by Gonzaga the past two years. This year's event was held on Bandon Dunes, the original 18-hole course at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
"I thought it might be hard," said Hughes. "But it’s going pretty smoothly so far."
Hughes said the University of Washington occasionally plays at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., another firm-and-fast links-style layout that hosted the 2010 U.S. Amateur and will host the 2015 U.S. Open. But for the most part, the team plays at tree-lined country clubs.
"You’ve got to adapt and adapt quickly," said Hughes of the conditions here at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Ben Geyer of Arbuckle, Calif., also competed here in March for St. Mary's College. Geyer's coach, Scott Hardy, had tremendous success at Bandon Dunes four years ago, advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur. Geyer posted a 1-under-par 70 on Tuesday and sits at 4-over 145. That score will easily qualify for match play, which starts on Wednesday at Bandon Trails.
For those who can make the mental and physical adjustments to the ground game that links golf requires, success will likely come this week.
"I've spent a couple of hours over in the chipping areas," said Degol, who plays at Penn State and works with Mike Taylor at Sea Island in Georgia. "If you don't have a good short game, you can come to a course like this and totally be lost. There's a lot of putting, a lot of bump and runs and a lot of keeping the ball in play. And you have to get your speed right on the greens." -- David Shefter