U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Oh Brother: Siblings Sharing Spotlight at Jupiter Hills May 20, 2018 | Tequesta, Fla. By Jeff Babineau

Eric (right) and Clark Rustand, of Tucson, Ariz., are tight off the golf course and fiercely competitive on it. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

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Asked about the dynamic of playing team golf with one’s own brother, Clark Rustand, partnering with older sibling Eric at this week’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Jupiter Hills Club, does not hesitate, nor does he mince words.

“We hate each other,” said Clark.

Eric doesn’t flinch: “Well,” he responds, “at least he’s honest.”

And then the two started howling together, like some 1960s comedy act. That’s what brothers do. The Rustands may be 11 years apart, with five other brothers and sisters between them (Eric is 49, Clark 38), but they’re tighter than peanut butter and jelly. Neither takes for granted the blessing of a week like this when they can spend quality time together.

The two completed their weather-delayed first round of stroke play on Sunday morning with a 2-over 72 on the Hills Course before immediately heading to the Village Course for Round 2.

“We probably play four or five events a year with each other,” said Eric, who was good enough to make it onto the PGA Tour. He played professionally from 1994-2002, tying for seventh in the 1999 Tucson Open.

“We live about two miles apart, in the same place we grew up (Tucson, Ariz.). My kids are older than his, and we do some babysitting for them. We play a lot together. It’s good.”

Clark got into golf mostly because, well, it’s what his older brother did. He followed Eric’s path by playing two years at Brigham Young University before turning pro for a spell and trying the mini-tours. He coached college golf until it stole too much time away from his young family. Now he does home inspections.

“He was the reason I got into golf,” said Clark. “It was the classic case of looking up to your older brother and wanting to be just like him.”

Devilishly, as a pesky younger brother can do, Clark then tacked on, “Fortunately, I’ve been able to surpass him in talent.”

Another rimshot brother moment. The two looked at one another. “Tons of humility,” Eric said to Clark. “Tons.”

Brian (right) and Jay Csipkes (left) now reside in different states, so they relish the time they can spend on the course. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

There are four sets of brothers competing in the 4th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. For Omaha, Neb., natives Brian and Jay Csipkes, who braved three weather delays and a barrage of rain on Saturday to open with a 2-under 68 on Jupiter Hills’ shorter Village Course, team golf provides a welcome break from their intense, WWE-style cage matches on the course. Most times, when the two are in the same group, the cause is not a common one. They’re busily grinding to beat one another – the way a bat beats a rug.

Brian, 46, who briefly was a professional bowler, is five years older than Jay, and grew up playing a nine-hole muni in Nebraska. Jay was a baseball player who turned to golf at Tulane University after he tore up his shoulder. He jokes that he used to make fun of golfers, then became one. He made the golf team at Tulane as a walk-on.

“When we do go play, it’s knock-down, drag-out,” Brian said. “You always know if you are 1 down, 1 up, or if that 8-footer is going to make a difference. There are no gimmes.”

Brian said on those rare days that he and Jay, who now lives in the Dallas, Texas, suburb of McKinney, would play somewhere on the road, he’d return home to Omaha and be greeted with a reasonable question from his wife: “So, how are Jay’s wife and children?” she’d ask. 

“I don’t know,” Brian would shrug.

Explains Jay: “We’re out there to try to beat each other. We’re not there to talk.”

When did Jay, who works for a nonprofit insurance group, finally beat Brian, a partner in a CPA firm, over 18 holes? The two recite the day in unison: July 4, 1996. Brian remembers that day for a slightly different reason than his little brother. Brian's daughter Elizabeth was born that day. His wife, Suzanne, called him at the turn to tell him he might want to go straight home after golf. No bar stops. So Brian never has given Jay full credit for that victory. He was distracted.

Brian is the more accomplished golfer of the Csipkes brothers (this is his seventh USGA championship to Jay’s fourth). He is the steady Eddie, down-the-middle guy. That allows Jay, in baseball parlance, to swing for the fences. 

Much like the Rustands, the Csipkes don’t miss an opportunity to insert a sharp sibling needle into the other. The brothers were 2 over early Saturday until Brian hit his tee shot onto the fringe at the Village’s inviting 282-yard sixth hole. He then trickled in a downhill, lightning-quick 15-footer for an eagle-2.

Usually, Jay is the one who lands the eagles. He made two in their U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifier at Sunset Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., in October (they shot 8-under 64 and were first alternates and did not get into the field until two months ago). And it was Jay’s eagle in what began as a four-team playoff during their first Four-Ball qualifier in 2015 that propelled the brothers to San Francisco’s Olympic Club for the inaugural championship.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you make eagle before,” Jay told Brian on Saturday.

Brothers Chris and Jack Dukeminier of Oregon shot even-par 70 on Saturday on the Hills Course, Jupiter Hills’ longer, more demanding layout. Chris, 34, is five years older than Jack. Both played at the University of Oregon, though Chris, who runs the marketing group at Nike Skateboarding, says his youngest brother passed him by “quite a while ago.” Jack shot 66 at The Honors Course in the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship and has competed in four U.S. Amateurs.

Both play out of Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland and play lots of weekend rounds together. Funny, but when they partner, they go about their business as if playing with some total stranger. It’s just the way that works best for them.

“We don’t really help each other,” Chris said. “We just play our own game for the most part. You kind of pay some attention to what the other person is doing, but mostly just play your own ball, and don’t get too involved with what the other person is doing.”

Why that philosophy and approach?

“I mostly don’t like people telling me what to do,” Chris said, nodding to Jack. “He’s kind of the same way.”

There is a qualifier for next year’s U.S. Four-Ball Championship scheduled for Columbia Edgewater, the brothers’ home course. And the championship proper will be staged five hours down the Oregon coast at Bandon Dunes, something not lost on the brothers. “We’re already signed up,” Chris said.

Clark Rustand always told the young players competing for him at Pima Community College to enjoy the challenge of the day, whatever any particular round would bring. Saturday’s incessant rains proved a nuisance – heck, the Rustands, who live in the Arizona desert, plunked down $40 apiece to buy umbrellas, which they’ll never use at home. Regardless of their result, they are savoring their week in Florida. Asked if his older brother still shows the talent that landed him on the PGA Tour, Clark quips: “For sure. Flashes. They’re kind of getting to be hot flashes at this point.”

The two share one more hearty laugh, and then Clark looks at his brother and turns more serious.

“No, he’s still got a lot of game,” Clark said, “and he carries me a lot of times.”

That's what older brothers are for.

Editor’s Note: William Peel IV and his younger brother, Brendan, round out the contingent of brothers competing in the 4th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The duo, who hail from the Washington, D.C. area, shot a 2-under 68 in Round 1 on the Village Course.

Jeff Babineau is an award-winning Florida-based freelance writer.

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