U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Notebook: Players' Patience Tested; Meteorologist Working OT July 24, 2015 | Bluffton, S.C. By Stuart Hall and David Shefter

Weather delays and marathon days have tested the competitors' patience at this week's U.S. Junior Amateur at Colleton River. (USGA/Darren Carroll) 

Andrew Orischak can attest that winning will lift the most tired of spirits at this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

After finishing his 1-up Round-of-16 win over Spencer Ralston, of Gainesville, Ga., on Friday morning, Fox Sports’ Holly Sonders interviewed Orischak. The 16-year-old from Hilton Head Island, S.C., had the gumption to ask Sonders if she would be his prom date next spring if he won the championship.

Sonders said yes.

“If I’m feeling tired, I’m thinking Holly at prom,” joked Orischak following his 3-and-2 quarterfinal win over Ryan Grider, of Lewisville, Texas, that advanced him to a semifinal matchup at Colleton River Plantation Club’s Dye Course against Eugene Hong.

Philip Barbaree, 17, of Shreveport, La., could relate to Orischak, even though he does not have a prom date hanging in the balance.

"I thought I would be pretty tired, but I’m actually fine right now,” said Barbaree following his 4-and-2 quarterfinal win over Kristoffer Reitan, of Norway. "I think the moment is helping me stay awake."

The championship is a taxing test of not only physical skill, but of mental endurance. The six-day schedule includes two rounds of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, including a 36-hole final. In total, players could log more than 162 holes.

Ten hours of weather delays have had players starting and stopping and sitting.

“I just relaxed and tried not to think about it too much,” said  Hong, 15, of Sanford, Fla., of the delays. “I sat down and talked to my friends.”

Efficiency serves a player well.

Of the four semifinalists, Hong has played the fewest holes in match play (60) through the quarterfinals. Barbaree has logged 64, followed by Orischak (67) and Won Jun Lee (69), 17, of the Republic of Korea.

In addition to playing fewer holes, Hong has conserved mental energy, leading in 53 of the 60 holes. 

"It’s definitely better,” Hong said of leading. "I don’t have to attack the pins as much; definitely more comfortable. When the match gets tight, it takes a lot of energy and focus to stay in it, so there is an advantage to leading the match."

Fatigue, though, is inevitable.

“I figured the guy who wins this week … is going to have to be the mentally toughest out of everyone just because of all the stops and gos and stops and gos,” Orischak said.

Colleton River Goes Hollywood

As golf movies go, Al Thiess believes “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” did right by Colleton River Plantation Club.

“If you look at golf movies, most of them, from my perspective, have a difficult time portraying the game in a realistic way,” said Thiess, the general chairman of this week’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

“I have seen it many, many times. I have seen it enough times that the plot isn’t new, but it’s interesting to see your own golf course portrayed in the movie. They changed the look of the holes in the sense of the angles they used."

The movie, based on the 1995 Steven Pressfield book that takes place in Georgia in 1931, starred Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron. While historic Savannah, Ga., was a natural choice for the period piece, finding a course that could easily portray the era was difficult.

“[The producers] scouted clubs that had the look they wanted,” Thiess said. “They approached the club, which let them in to review it, and an agreement was done. It was done just after the course opened [in 1998], so there were no homes on the course, and that was one of the things they really wanted."

In addition to Colleton River’s Dye Course, which had only been open about a year and sits on a peninsula bordered by the Port Royal Sound, the Ocean Course’s seaside 18th hole at Kiawah Island Golf Resort up the South Carolina coast was also used.

The bulk of the golf filming, though, was done on the Dye Course’s second, fourth, eighth, 10th and 17th holes.

The second hole was portrayed as the first hole and is shown when Walter Hagen, played by actor Bruce McGill, drives up in his car, honking the horn. The scene in which Matt Damon’s character, Rannulph Junuh, is standing in the forest with an opening ahead of him was shot to the right of No. 4.

The par-4 10th hole was portrayed as a par 5 and the par-3 17th was the hole in which Junuh made the hole-in-one.

Thiess said between 20 and 30 club members were cast as extras in the movie, which was filmed in October and November of 1999, along with some retakes the following spring. The movie opened on Nov. 3, 2000.

The movie also served as a promotional tool for the new club, which now features pictures from the film throughout its clubhouse.

Daily weather issues have kept on-site meteorologist Kristie Kubovic busy at this week's U.S. Junior Amateur. (USGA/Darren Carroll)  

Junior Amateur’s ‘Other’ Major Player

Generally, it’s the players and golf course that take center stage at USGA championships. This week at Colleton River Plantation Club, another individual has entered the spotlight through no fault of her own.

Meet Kristie Kubovic, the on-site meteorologist for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

Kubovic, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pa., has been busier than usual due to the multiple weather suspensions.

“I think I’ve had more suspensions this championship than my past few events combined,” said Kubovic.

Kubovic is an independent contract employee for Thor Guard, the vendor used by USGA at all of its national championships. This is her first USGA event of the season, but her 13th overall.

“Unlucky 13,” said Kubovic.

The microclimate of the South Carolina Lowcountry makes for volatile weather patterns during the summer months. Kubovic said it is interesting to watch the interaction between boundaries with the sea breezes combining with the warm air from the west to produce late-afternoon thunderstorms.

“When the two combine, that’s when you see the storms pretty much exploding,” said Kubovic.

It’s also meant a lot of visits from Greg Sanfilippo, the USGA’s director of the U.S. Junior Amateur, and William E. Fallon, the chairman of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship Committee.

“He doesn’t venture too far in the afternoon,” said Kubovic, adding that she’s gotten very little sleep this week. “Back in 2000, I had a lot of weather, but the last couple of years it’s been docile in comparison.”

Kubovic, whose primary job is with the Shale Media Group (oil and gas industry), has arrived each morning at 5:30 a.m. EDT and hasn’t left until well after play has concluded each evening. Besides providing a daily weather update, her eyes are focused on computer screens showing the latest radar and lightning strikes.

“Whenever you travel, each location has its distinct features,” said Kubovic, who will also be working the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in Choudrant, La., in October. “This one has been actually interesting to watch.”

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites. David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org

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