U.S. AMATEUR
Once Again, McCoy Rues The Luck Of The Draw August 19, 2015 | Olympia Fields, Ill. By Dave Shedloski

Hunter Stewart overcame an early deficit to defeat Lee McCoy, who he will team up with next month at the Walker Cup. (USGA/Jeff Haynes)

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Lee McCoy took one look at his draw for the first round of match play Wednesday in the 115th U.S. Amateur Championship and just shook his head in disbelief.

Standing in his way was Hunter Stewart, a good friend and a teammate on the USA Team for the upcoming Walker Cup at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, in England.

“I thought, you’ve got to be kidding me,” said McCoy with a forced smile.

A year ago, as the stroke-play co-medalist in the U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club, McCoy drew four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and Walker Cup player Nathan Smith in the opening round and fell in 19 holes.

McCoy played well in defeat. He played well again Wednesday afternoon at Olympia Fields Country Club, but the result was similar. After taking a 2-up lead, the University of Georgia senior couldn’t keep pace with the red-hot Stewart, who strung together five wins in eight holes in the middle of the round for a 3-and-2 victory.

The titanic battle between Walker Cup teammates who were named to the squad Aug. 10 along with three other players featured some impeccable golf amid winds gusting to 20 miles per hour on Olympia Fields’ North Course. Stewart converted six birdies, McCoy three, and only twice did a player win a hole with a par.

“I played my best golf of the week,” said Stewart, 22, of Nicholsville, Ky., who recently graduated with All-America honors after a senior season in which he won three times and finished third in the NCAA Division I Championship.

Stewart next meets Will Zalatoris of Plano, Texas, who defeated Zachary Olsen of Cordova, Tenn., 5 and 4.

Stewart’s reaction when he saw the draw was not much different from McCoy’s. It’s difficult to play against a friend. “I was on the back of the green there on 18 after I got in, and Robby Salomon was standing right there, and he goes, you're the 61 seed, and he looks at the sheet, and he goes, ‘You're playing Lee McCoy. I guess we'll have a Walker Cupper in the Round of 32,’” said Stewart, who survived an 18-man playoff for the last 10 match-play spots earlier in the day. “It just was a tough kind of deal. You know, one of us had to win, one of us had to lose, and I just kind of got out on top today.”

McCoy, 21, of Athens, Ga., who had his own All-America campaign this spring at the University of Georgia, birdied the par-4 second and went 2 up with a par on the fifth before Stewart flipped the score by winning four straight holes, three with birdies. McCoy got one back with a birdie at the 10th, but Stewart birdied 12 and 13 and then ran out the string.

“I’m standing on the 14th tee trying to figure out what I can do differently, and he has just birdied five of the last eight holes,” McCoy said. “I can’t stop a guy from making birdies. I can only try to answer, which I did a few times. He’s on pace to shoot 65, and it’s blowing 20 out there. It was an incredible round of golf.”

“You know, when you're playing Lee McCoy, you’ve just got to kind of go for it, and you can't play cautious and you can't just try to par your way around here,” Stewart said. “He was under par today. I played a really nice round, just had some good stuff going there in the middle and was able to carry the momentum over.”

McCoy said he hoped that they would square off again soon, perhaps in a professional tournament a few years down the road. In the meantime, he wouldn’t mind teaming up with Stewart in the Walker Cup.

“I’m glad he’s on my side and not the other side,” the personable Georgian said. “I could see us team up at the Walker Cup. We have similar games. We could set each other up well in alternate-shot. I’d like to see that.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who writes frequently for USGA websites.

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