U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Notebook: Birdie Barrage on the Sixth July 23, 2014 By Stuart Hall

Most players attempted to drive the green on the par-4 sixth hole on Thursday, which was playing an enticing 273 yards. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – For Will Grimmer, the sight of Thursday’s par-4 sixth hole playing 273 yards was too tempting to resist.

Grimmer is a self-professed short hitter as his 5-feet-11-inch, 125-pound frame continues to fill out. So the sixth represented one of his few opportunities to drive a hole at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course. On Wednesday, he even took a pass on attempting to drive the 298-yard, par-4 10th hole.

There were only two bunkers up there [by the sixth green] and I was 1 up, said Grimmer, of Cincinnati, Ohio. I hit my driver straight and I saw the gap up in the middle [between the bunkers]. I thought if I could hit the speed slot right there on the downslope just short of the green, then it would bounce up there.

Grimmer executed the shot as he hoped and the ball came to rest hole high, 30 feet away. He two-putted for birdie and walked off the green with a 2-up lead that he continued to build on in a 5-and-4, round-of-32 victory over Cole Madey, of West Linn, Ore.

A number of players took a similar approach as Grimmer, hoping a birdie, possibly an eagle, might change the complexion of the match.

I hit 3-wood off the tee, said Sahith Theegala, of Chino Hills, Calif., who posted the day’s only eagle in his 20-hole loss to top-seeded Sean Crocker.

The 3-wood was the predominant club of choice of the players, especially since the penalty for an errant drive was finding one of the two bunkers on either side of the green’s entryway.

During stroke play, when the yardage was 369 and 377 yards, respectively, the hole played to stroke averages of 4.14 and 4.09. In Wednesday’s opening round of match play, with the hole lengthened to 378 yards, the hole played to a stroke average of 4.14.

The numbers were dramatically different on Thursday. After six birdies were recorded in 32 rounds of play on Wednesday, there was one eagle and 25 birdies in 24 rounds of combined play on Thursday. The field scoring average was 3.44.

Arasu Sees Beauty, and Beast, of Match Play

Match play can be a vexing format, as Ashwin Arasu can attest.

Less than 24 hours after Arasu, of San Diego, holed out for a tear-inducing, walk-off 1-up victory against Jorge Villar, he dropped a 5-and-4 decision to Davis Riley, last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up.

Yet, Arasu played better in Thursday’s loss than he did in Wednesday’s win.

[Wednesday] was really pretty awesome because for a while it looked like I wasn’t going to win, Arasu said. Today, I fixed a lot of the things that didn’t go well for me yesterday. My putting was a little better, my driving was better … everything was a little better. It’s just that Davis played really well today.

Well might be an understatement.

Arasu birdied the 412-yard, par-4 first hole and held the lead until Riley birdied the 178-yard, par-3 third hole. Riley totaled four more birdies on his outward nine and shot a 5-under 31 given the usual match-play concessions. 

So there wasn’t much I could do, Arasu said. On the back nine, he kept doing his own thing, and I tried a little too hard I think and that’s why I lost.

Dickson in Role of Caddie Master

The USGA does not keep records on caddies, but Will Dickson has easily staked his claim as having the most caddies in a USGA championship.

Through Thursday’s round of 16 at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, Dickson, of Providence, R.I., had gone through five caddies in five rounds of competitive play.

The lineup of loopers includes Cameron Young, of Scarborough, N.Y., who lost to Dickson in Wednesday’s opening round of match play. Making the story even more unique is that Dickson had a sixth caddie during his practice round.  

The domino effect of caddies began when Dickson’s original caddie had to leave the bag due to a leg injury after about five or six holes. Dickson then turned to a local student, who worked Monday’s opening round of stroke play but had a scheduling conflict for the remainder of the week. The student’s father picked up the bag on Tuesday.

I can’t remember who I had [on Wednesday], but obviously some other guy, said Dickson of his 2-and-1 victory over Young.

Later, over lunch, Dickson and Young talked about the victor’s need for a new caddie.

Dickson’s sister, Sarah, is a PGA Professional and worked for Young’s father, David Young, the head golf professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough-on-Hudson, N.Y.

[Cameron] was just real classy and asked me if I needed a caddie, Dickson said.

So on Thursday, it was Young’s turn. He helped Dickson to a 4-and-3 victory over John Pak before having to say goodbye in order to make a flight.  

We were probably the most talented pair on the course, Dickson said.

A.J. Grammer, a full-time caddie at The Club at Carlton Woods, was last out of the bullpen for Dickson in the round of 16. Alas, the 15-year-old Dickson was ousted by William Zalatoris, 1 up.

A Historical Perspective

Doug Martin is likely living vicariously through Will Grimmer’s run at this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur.

Thirty years ago, Martin was the No. 1-ranked junior player and defeated Brad Agee, 4 and 2, to win the 37th edition of this championship at Wayzata Country Club in Wayzata, Minn.

Today, Martin coaches the University of Cincinnati’s men’s golf team and serves as Grimmer’s swing coach.

He’s been talking to me a lot, said Grimmer of Martin, who was a three-time All-American at the University of Oklahoma, reached the 1988 U.S. Amateur semifinals and was a member of the 1989 USA Walker Cup Team before an eight-year pro career.

He’s not only a great swing coach and knows a lot about swing mechanics, but he is a great mentor. Especially for match play, him having played on a Walker Cup team and having obviously won this, he knows exactly what it’s all about.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.