U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Round of 16: Five Storylines
May 29, 2017
Sixteen matches on Monday reduced the field in the 3rd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club to 16 sides. On Tuesday, the knockouts will continue with two more rounds of match play, and by day’s end, only four teams will be left standing.
While the lone father/son and brother/brother tandems to make match play were eliminated in the Round of 32, plenty of interesting storylines remain. There is a past champion (Nathan Smith and Todd White) and several sides who have come close to winning in the two short years of the competition. There are junior phenoms – Davis Shore sits at No. 41 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and his partner, Wilson Furr, is No. 89 – and mid-amateur stalwarts (see Scott Harvey/Todd Mitchell and Patrick Christovich/Garrett Rank).
Anyone who has survived thus far has a chance to win the title on the iconic Course No. 2, site of three previous U.S. Opens, a U.S. Women’s Open and a U.S. Senior Open.
Here are five storylines worth following:
Kyle Hudelson wanted to ignore his ringing cellphone. Why would his friend be calling on a random Wednesday afternoon? Besides, his Scottsdale, Ariz., club has a no-cellphone policy.
But the phone kept ringing.
“I figured it was an emergency, so I answered,” said Hudelson. “Clark’s like, ‘We’re in.’”
“In” referred to this week’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. The two Oklahoma City natives – Collier now works as a geologist for a Dallas-based oil and gas company and Hudelson is in the property and casualty insurance business – had been first alternates from the Glen Ellyn, Ill., qualifying site last fall. But last week, Philip Barbaree and Cole Hammer, an exempt side, withdrew because Barbaree’s Louisiana State University golf team qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Suddenly, Memorial Day weekend plans changed. Hudelson was no longer going to an Oklahoma lake to “chill” with friends. Collier canceled a trip to visit his in-laws in Vail, Colo.
“My family and friends were asking me why are you blowing us off to go to a golf tournament,” said Hudelson. “They didn’t understand.”
Neither were about to give up a chance to play in a USGA championship for the first time.
And they’ve made the best of the opportunity, not only qualifying for match play, but advancing to Tuesday’s Round of 16 where they’ll face Brendan Borst and Thomas McDonagh, another team taking advantage of their situation. They were the final survivors of an 8-for-6 playoff on Monday, and then bounced the top-seeded duo of Will Grimmer and Clark Engle.
“Everything was icing on the cake,” said Hudelson, who has known Collier for nearly 20 years. They grew up playing junior golf together at Gaillardia Country Club in Oklahoma City. “It was like, ‘Dude, we get to play Pinehurst for a couple of days. We had already won [by being here].”
Besides sending Barbaree, the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, a thank-you note, the two friends are just grateful to still be playing meaningful golf at Pinehurst. Two years ago, they flew out to Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach, Calif., with the hope of qualifying for the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at The Olympic Club. They came up short.
This time, they chose the Chicago suburbs and Glen Oak Country Club.
“One of us is going to have to travel, so we figured why not both of us go somewhere we’ve never been,” said Collier of the logistics.
They shot 67 and won a playoff for first alternate. Now they’ve taken advantage of a fortunate break.
“It’s so cool,” said Collier. “It’s surreal.”
As birthday gifts go, this one could be special for Scott Harvey. The 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion turns 39 on Tuesday, and he has a chance – with partner Todd Mitchell – to reach the final four of a USGA championship.
Most of his previous birthdays included golf, but never with these stakes.
Outside of, hopefully, playing two matches – starting with a Round-of-16 encounter against Kenny Cook and Sean Rowen at 7:36 a.m. – Harvey, of Greensboro, N.C., didn’t know how he planned to celebrate.
But it’s a good bet a certain libation would be in the mix.
“I don’t care where we eat,” said Harvey, “but I am getting a Dairy Queen chocolate milkshake.”
Indeed, that would make this birthday sweet.
Miami (Ohio) University teammates Patrick Flavin and Brian Ohr quietly moved into the Round of 16 with a 5-and-3 win over Tyler Carson and Austin Hannah.
But if they can produce another victory on Tuesday morning, the two Illinois natives would make headlines. Their Round-of-16 foes are 2015 champions Nathan Smith and Todd White, two of the best mid-amateur players in the country.
Then again, the underdog role perfectly suits a couple of guys playing at a mid-major school. The two have been roommates since they stepped on campus three years ago. Despite playing at rival high schools in the same conference, Flavin was the one to tell Miami coach, Zac Zedrick, about Ohr, the Illinois 3A high school champion.
In fact, if you had mentioned Miami to Ohr prior to his senior year, he might have guessed you were talking about the better-known school in Florida. “I didn’t know what it was,” said Ohr.
Their friendship has grown since they enrolled at Miami together, and they’re now a formidable tandem.
“We kind of feed off each other,” said the 21-year-old Flavin. “We know what works for each other. We ham-and-egg it really well.”
They have been consistent the past three days, shooting a pair of 67s in stroke play and making eight birdies over 15 holes in Monday’s match. They might need that kind of effort to eliminate Smith and White.
“We just have to keep what we’re doing and give ourselves a bunch of chances,” said Ohr. “We need to keep the pressure on [our opponents], and keep it rolling.”
Last spring, Ben Warnquist and Brandon Cigna almost wrapped their arms around the Four-Ball trophy. They reached the championship match before losing to Benjamin Baxter and Andrew Buchanan. A day doesn’t go by where they don’t think about that defeat.
Now the two Manor Country Club (Rockville, Md.) members are chasing the trophy again. They advanced to the Round of 16 with a 1-up win over Spencer Dunaway and Peter Kuest.
“We’ve been talking about this [championship] for about a year,” said Warnquist. “It’s our favorite event and we enjoy competing, and we know we can win out here.
“It’s a format we enjoy, and we’re good at.”
On Tuesday morning, they’ll look to continue the journey against Justin Kaplan and Scott Loving.
If anything, the two have adopted a deep appreciation of Course No. 2.
Said Cigna: “We were both saying it’s probably one of our most favorite courses that we’ve seen in our life.”
By The Numbers
Of the 32 players remaining, 37.5 percent (12) are between the ages of 30 and 49. The oldest remaining team is Smith/White, whose average age is 43.5, while Frankie Capan and Shuai Ming Wong are the youngest side at 17. Texas, Illinois and North Carolina are the most represented states with three. And there are two international players left: Wong (Hong Kong China) and Garrett Rank (Canada).
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.