Stanford University teammates Viraat Badhwar and Maverick McNealy posted a 6-under-par 64 Saturday to take a one-stroke lead after the first day of the 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Olympic Club.
The 19-year-old sophomores, who helped the Cardinal win the 2015 Pac-12 Conference golf championship in late April, notched seven birdies against a lone bogey on the 6,761-yard, par-70 Ocean Course. The bogey came on the 507-yard, par 4 first hole, after which they birdied four of the next six holes – three from McNealy.
The newly crowned Pac-12 golfer of the year who won the individual title by 10 strokes with a final-round 61, McNealy punctuated their round with flair by holing a bunker shot for a birdie on the par-4 18th hole.
“I thought I’d just go for the bunker shot,” said McNealy, of nearby Portola Valley, Calif. “That’s the fun thing about this format. You don’t have to worry about the next one. You can try to make it and that’s what I did there and it went in.
“I thought he’s not going to make worse than par so I might as well go for the 3 now. I wasn’t that far away. It was a 12-foot bunker shot, I popped it out of there and two hops and it went in.”
Badhwar, who hails from Australia but was born in India, finished T26th at the 2015 Pac-12s and posted a pair of top-10 finishes this collegiate season.
He and McNealy are roommates and both credit the time they spend together as a crucial piece in their success.
“We’ve both seen both our golf games too much,” Badhwar said. “We practice together. We do putting competitions together and off the golf course we have the same classes and the same set of friends and we are the same year in school. We understand each other’s games and how to help each other and when to pick each other up.”
McNealy, who qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur, concurred, saying: “V has an awesome eye for my game and he understands me as a person and knows what to say out there.”
The inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play on the Lake and Ocean Courses of The Olympic Club. The lowest-scoring 32 teams begin five rounds of match play on Monday at the Lake Course, with the 18-hole championship match scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Tim Tucker and Kyle Crawford, a pair of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort caddies from Coos Bay, Ore., posted a 5-under-par 65 on the Ocean Course, during which they posted three birdies and an eagle on their first seven holes. Crawford’s play accounted for all of the sub-par scoring in that nine. They parred the final 11 holes of their round.
“My partner played humongously,” Tucker said simply.
Tucker and Crawford brought fellow Bandon Dunes caddies to work for them this week, and they benefitted from the chemistry. “We were all kind of thinking alike out there,” Tucker said.
The Oregon caddies were matched on the Lake Course by Californians Jordan Nasser, 31, of Irvine, and Taylor Wood, 31, of Rancho Santa Margarita. The former University of Southern California teammates posted six birdies against one bogey.
“I think the key was that both of us hit it well and we had a lot of opportunities,” Nasser said. “We fed off that.”
“We’ll be better off keeping our foot on the gas tomorrow and try to shoot another low one and be the lowest group in the house,” Wood added.
Six sides trailed the leaders by two strokes at 4-under-par 66.
On the Lake Course, the youngest side, a pair of 16-year-olds from Hawaii – Kyle Suppa, the current Hawaii State Amateur champion, and Kyosuke Hara, a karate black belt who qualified for the 2014 U.S. Amateur, tallied six birdies and two bogeys for their 66 as did golf manufacturing engineers Cory Bacon, 25, of Cave Creek, Ariz., and Matt Simone, 30, of Phoenix, Ariz.
The Lake Course has hosted five U.S. Opens and the players are aware of the history.
“Playing the course, you really don’t stop and smell the roses,” Simone said. “But here you have to look around and know who has won here and how they played this course. There is no better place in the world to make two bogeys on your first three holes.”
Posting 66 on the Ocean Course were 18-year-olds Sam Burns, of Shreveport, La., and Austin Connelly, of Irving, Texas; 17-year-old, English-born Florida high school seniors William Wrigley, of Winter Garden, and Jacob Huizinga, of Orlando; Florida mid-ams Jeff Williams, 45, of Narcoossee and Tee McCabe, 38, of Naples; and the Bellevue, Wash., duo of Tom Brandes, 58, and Mike Haack, 35.
“If we are playing and we get under par early it is going to be tough for us to shoot over par because we have so much fun together,” said McCabe, whose side made the turn in 3-under. “Tomorrow on that beast of a course we might get beat up a little but we’ll try to keep it around par.”
Pete Kowalski is the USGA’s director of championship communications. Email him at email@example.com.