NEWTON, Kan. – If he had won two matches on Friday, Jess Bonneau would have had to renege on a commitment. But he didn’t quite manage it, and so he was headed home to Houston on Friday evening, to play in a three-man scramble with two friends on Saturday.
"It looks like we’ll be scrambling tomorrow, said Bonneau, 43, who lost to Byron Meth, 6 and 5, in the semifinal round of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. If I don’t make it, they don’t get to play. We’re playing at a local municipal course, and you can be sure I’ll be taking a cart.
The fact that Bonneau was discussing playing in any kind of tournament the day after having completed seven days and nine grueling rounds – counting practice – in the APL drew a shake of the head from his caddie, Mike Herold, Bonneau’s next-door neighbor, who had toted the bag for all 149 holes.
You’ve got to be kidding me, was all he said. Bonneau’s announcement that his Saturday tee time had been moved back to 1 p.m. from 8 a.m. did little to reduce Herold’s incredulity. They planned to split the driving on the 9½-hour trip back to Houston Friday night.
That’s what golf is about for me, said Bonneau, who added with a chuckle of the Saturday game, It’s gonna be a doozie.
Bonneau is counting on a little less stress after qualifying as the APL’s No. 55 match-play seed by grinding out a 76 in Tuesday’s second round of stroke-play qualifying. He reeled off four consecutive match-play victories to reach the semifinals against Meth, who used the same formula Bonneau had employed against his previous opponents: get an early lead, and make your opponent earn holes by making birdies.
I jinxed myself by saying I hadn’t trailed all week, said Bonneau with a laugh. He put me down right away with a couple of birdies, and I don’t think he made a bogey after the fourth hole. I was on the other side of it this afternoon.
Bonneau, who described himself as a weekend golfer at his home course, Black Horse Golf Club, in Cypress, admitted to hitting a wall on Friday afternoon. I got a little out of rhythm and hit three or four shots in a row to the left, and before I knew it I was 4 down.
Bonneau failed to make match play in his two previous USGA starts, the 2011 and 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateurs. He admitted that the match-play format was helpful to his game.
To be honest, I’m so nervous standing up on half the tees out here, I’m white-knuckling it, said Bonneau. I’ve hit some wayward shots and made my share of doubles and triples out there, but it’s only one hole. If this was stroke play and I was carrying a scorecard, I’d be heading home.
Bonneau, who played one year of college golf at Southwest Texas State, admitted that his game lacked one component that his younger opponents possessed.
As far as ball-striking goes against some of these younger guys, I think I stand up pretty well, said Bonneau. It’s really noticeable around the greens, the amount of time that they spend compared to me on chipping and touch shots. It’s a big difference. Is my game in a state where I can hit the shots that I want to all the time? No, it’s not.
His Saturday scramble notwithstanding, Bonneau admitted to being worn out by the rigors of the championship, though he said he found just the ticket to withstand the rigors of championship golf as a 40-something.
I went and bought one of those foam rollers, he said. A buddy of mine named Chad Ginn [son of late PGA Tour Rules official Arvin Ginn] told me that I needed to get one of those. I’ve been rolling around on it in the mornings this week. It’s the key to the whole thing.
Gellerman’s Caddie Kept Him in Game
Although he’s not knowledgeable about the game, caddie Chris Schneider helped local hopeful Michael Gellerman stay focused on his march to the semifinal round.
Gellerman, who hails from Sterling, Kan., about an hour northwest of Newton, lost to Doug Ghim, 1 up, in the semifinal round on Friday afternoon. After winning his fourth match of the APL on Friday morning, he discussed Schneider’s role.
It’s so intense out there, said Gellerman, a rising senior at the University of Oklahoma. You feel like you lose control about 1,000 times during a match. I’ve got a good caddie who’s out there trying to keep me calm.
Chris has been a family friend for a long time who was nice enough to volunteer, said Gellerman. We didn’t even come over to the course for a practice round. He’s not a huge golfer; he only plays a little bit. But he knows me pretty well and he used to play basketball back in the day, so he’s an athlete himself. He’s got plenty of fire out there.
Gellerman was disconsolate over his semifinal defeat, which was hastened by the four bogeys he made over the final six holes.
Doug is a really good player and he’ll be very successful in college, said Gellerman. He hit a great shot in there on the last hole to beat me. But I made a lot of bogeys and gave away a lot of holes and that’s how you lose. You can’t play mediocre golf in the semifinals against a great player and get through.
Gellerman acknowledged the support he received in his match-play run.
I had a lot of support from around Newton and that was great for me, he said. I just couldn’t make it happen, couldn’t execute. Recognizing a lot of people here gave me a bit of comfort.
He also noted the presence of Sooner teammate Charlie Saxon, who drove up from Tulsa for the semifinal match.
That’s him over there, Gellerman noted, then said with a rueful chuckle, Thanks for coming up for the loss.
Michael Gellerman made par on the ninth hole during his semifinal match against Doug Ghim, who also made par. Gellerman had made birdie on the hole in each of his four previous matches, winning the hole each time… The ninth hole, which was drivable at 306 yards, was won with a birdie in four of the six quarterfinal and semifinal matches… The winner of tomorrow’s match will be the 11th medalist to win the championship... The last APL winner from Illinois was 2009 champion Brad Benjamin, while the last Californian to win was Tim Hogarth, in 1996… Doug Ghim is 87th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking; Byron Meth is No. 198.
Ron Driscoll is the USGA’s manager of editorial services. Email him at email@example.com.