U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
They Might Be Giants: SMU Pair Thrives at Winged Foot May 24, 2016 | MAMARONECK, N.Y. By David Chmiel, USGA

Andrew Buchanan and his partner, Benjamin Baxter, have sported New York Giants shirts all week, despite their Dallas roots. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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Frank Mara is vice president of community relations for the New York Giants. His community has grown by two, in what will most certainly be considered hostile territory.

Mara and his wife, Lynn, are hosting Benjamin Baxter, 20, of Flower Mound, Texas, and his partner, 21-year-old Andrew Buchanan, of Los Altos, Texas, a pair of Southern Methodist University golfers – and Dallas Cowboys fans – who made it into the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship quarterfinals with a 1-up victory over Scott Shingler and Justin Young on Tuesday morning at Winged Foot Golf Club.

“At the Mara's last night, I was looking at a book and a line stuck with me,” said Buchanan. “It was like, ‘Just like your body needs a proper diet, your mind needs a proper diet too. You need to feed it the right stuff.’ We played horribly today but we kept saying, ‘We’re going to win this match.’”

The partners, who have spent the championship wearing Giants golf shirts supplied by their hosts, beat the pair of mid-amateurs from Virginia; the 44-year-old Shingler, a dental assistant of Haymarket, and Young, a 38-year-old salesman, of Roanoke. Shingler and Young, veterans of USGA’s Men’s State Team Championships, battled Baxter and Buchanan in a cautious match that was all square through the 15th hole – until Shingler and Young’s approach shots into the 16th green led to bogies. Buchanan won the hole by sinking a 4-foot par putt. The 17th hole was halved with pars and the SMU teammates went into the last hole with a one-hole lead and no signs of nerves.

“No matter what happens, we decided that we weren’t going to say ‘sorry,’” said Buchanan. “The longer we stay in it, the more likely it is that we are going to hit terrible shots. We were on the clock on the third hole and we deserved it, but there is no sense getting upset. We just have to chip and putt, especially on a course as tough as the East Course.”

Buchanan and Baxter’s promise to stay positive was rewarded on the 18th green. Baxter’s drive landed in the first cut of rough; his approach shot flew 60 feet behind the flag. Buchanan hit a soaring wedge over a TV truck and a massive tree in the right rough to about 30 feet. Shingler and Young both faced birdie putts of approximately 20 feet. Baxter studied the 60-foot putt he was facing, listening intently to caddie Duane Cunningham, who has been at Winged Foot for more than 20 years.

“It had about 15 feet of break,” Baxter said. “Duane told me to hit it at the tree, try to get it close so Andrew could take a run at the birdie.”

Then the putt went in, and the SMU pair reacted in disbelief at their good fortune. “It just kept looking better and better as it got closer to the hole,” he said with a smile. He and Buchanan advanced to face medalists Brandon Matthews and Patrick Ross in the quarterfinals. Before Baxter focused on that side, he made it clear whose side he was now on.

“I have a new favorite team now and I will be wearing this shirt on Sundays from now on!” said Baxter.

David Chmiel is the manager of members content for the USGA. Email him at dchmiel@usga.org.

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