U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Five Groupings to Watch
May 18, 2017 | Far Hills, N.J.
By David Shefter, USGA
For the third consecutive year, the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be contested on a U.S. Open venue, with Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2 joining The Olympic Club (inaugural championship in 2015), in San Francisco, and Winged Foot Golf Club (2016), in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
The stroke-play portion of the competition will be held on Course No. 2, the Donald Ross masterpiece that hosted the 1999, 2005 and 2014 U.S. Opens (with the 2024 U.S. Open to come), and Course No. 8, a Tom Fazio design that opened in 1996. Each of the 128 sides plays one course on Saturday, May 27 and the other course on Sunday, May 28, with the low 32 sides advancing to match play, which begins May 29 on Course No. 2.
One of the most popular formats played at golf courses nationwide, four-ball consists of two-player sides, with each member of a side playing their own ball and the better score counting as the team’s score for the hole. Part of the fun of four-ball play is seeing which sides have their games and minds in sync to be among the 32 to qualify for match play. Here are some notable groupings to keep an eye on during stroke play (all times EDT, all rounds begin on hole No. 1):
Nathan Smith and Todd White/Blake Hilliard and Craig Toler
Course No. 2, 7:48 a.m., May 27/Course No. 8, 11:12 a.m., May 28
Smith, 38, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and White, 49, of Spartanburg, S.C., are eyeing a second title in three years after claiming the inaugural title in 2015 and advancing to the Round of 16 in 2016. Smith also owns a record four U.S. Mid-Amateur titles, while White was a U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinalist in 2012. Both were members of the victorious 2013 USA Walker Cup Team. They are grouped with Illinois residents Hilliard, 31, of Effingham, and Toler, 34, of Sullivan, whose lone USGA championship start came 17 years ago in the U.S. Junior Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge. This is Hilliard’s first USGA championship.
Doug Hanzel and Bob Royak/Scott Harvey and Todd Mitchell
Course No. 8, 7:36 a.m., May 27/Course No. 2, 11 a.m., May 28
Hanzel, 60, of Savannah, Ga., and Royak, 55, of Alpharetta, Ga., might be the best senior team in the field. Hanzel won the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur, and is a two-time low amateur in the U.S. Senior Open. Royak, the 2007 Atlanta Open champion, is competing in his 11th USGA championship, having advanced to the Round of 16 in last year’s U.S. Senior Amateur. Harvey, 38, of Greensboro, won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur and was the runner-up last fall. He also was a member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team. Mitchell, 38, of Bloomington, Ill., was the runner-up in the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur. He’s also a former minor-league infielder.
Patrick Christovich and Garrett Rank/John Slayton and Cy Young
Course No. 8, 9:24 a.m., May 27/Course No. 2, 12:48 p.m., May 28
Christovich, 38, of New Orleans, and Rank, 29, of Canada, return after advancing to the semifinals last year at Winged Foot. Rank, the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up, just completed his first full season as a National Hockey League referee. He has also won three consecutive Canadian Mid-Amateur titles (2014-16). Christovich advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur. They are grouped with Jackson, Tenn., residents John Slayton, 30, and Cy Young, 34, who is not related to the winningest major-league pitcher of all time.
Stewart Hagestad and Sam Smith/Jake Kuwitzky and Scott Roden
Course No. 8, 11:36 a.m., May 27/Course No. 2, 8:12 a.m., May 28
Hagestad, 26, of Newport Beach, Calif., the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, has joined forces with former University of Southern California teammate Smith, 26, of Turlock, Calif. In April, Hagestad became the first invited Mid-Amateur champion to make the 36-hole cut at the Masters Tournament, earning low-amateur honors. They are grouped with one of the championship’s youngest sides who hail from the Dallas Metroplex. Kuwitzky, 17, of McKinney, just completed his junior year at Spring Creek Academy in Plano, while Roden, 15, of Dallas, is a rising sophomore at Highland Park High.
Erik Hanson and Ben Garrett/Doug Albers and Ryne Fisher
Course No. 2, 9:12 a.m., May 27/Course No. 8, 12:36 p.m., May 28
Since retiring from professional baseball in 1998, Hanson, 51, of Kirkland, Wash., has found golf as a competitive outlet. A right-handed pitcher who played for four major-league teams (Seattle, Cincinnati, Boston and Toronto), Hanson has qualified for three U.S. Mid-Amateurs and represented Washington in four USGA Men’s State Teams. This is his first foray in the Four-Ball, as he partners with Garrett, 34, of Seattle, who won last year’s club championship at Sahalee Country Club, where Hanson is a longtime member. Albers, 38, of Kansas City, Mo., is making his second U.S. Amateur Four-Ball start after missing the cut two years ago with Tyler Shelton. Fisher, 30, of Overland Park, Kan., is competing in his first USGA championship.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.