FRENCH LICK, Ind. – Brandon Aydlett, of Metairie, La., began the 2014 USGA Men’s State Team Championship with routine pars – five of them, in fact – before going bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey for an even-par 36 on the outward nine of the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort.
Then the fun began. Aydlett, who earned individual medalist honors with a 54-hole total of 3-under-par 213, had his way with the course’s inward nine. He was a combined 5 under par on that side, compared to 1 over par on the outward nine.
That six-stroke swing may not come as a shock to this week’s competitors, as the outward nine featured five of the hardest holes and played to a scoring average of 38.89.
Regardless of difficulty, Aydlett still strung together three great rounds to edge Connecticut’s David Pastore by one stroke for the individual honor. Aydlett seemed to have the proper mindset for the challenging layout: attack when necessary, but don’t put yourself in unrecoverable situations.
No blow holes, said Aydlett of his strategy. So many people made doubles and triples and it just kills momentum. I just stayed away from that and putted well. That was one thing I did solidly all three days. The putter was there the whole time and kept me in.
A hot putter may be Aydlett’s explanation for his weeklong success on the four par 5s, an obvious scoring situation. He played those holes in 3 under for the week, with his lone bogey coming on No. 18 in the second round.
Unfortunately, Aydlett’s individual success couldn’t propel the rest of the Louisiana team into the overall top spot. Louisiana finished tied for fifth at 5-over 437.
Valois Has Round Of The Championship
Sitting at dinner Wednesday night with his Rhode Island teammates, Brad Valois was getting teased for his over-analytical approach to the Pete Dye Course. Rounds of 75 and 77 had the left-hander in a less-than-positive mood.
They were getting after me a little bit, said Valois. They told me to just hit it.
And that’s what the 27-year-old Warwick resident did on Thursday. Valois posted seven birdies against two bogeys in shooting a championship-best 5-under-par 67 on a day when gusty winds made for challenging scoring conditions.
Valois, who started on No. 10, actually missed the first four greens, but saved par on the first three. A poor tee shot on the par-5 14th hole had him thinking the round would follow the first two. But he stuffed a wedge shot to set up a birdie, the first of five in a row to close the inward nine.
A flop shot to 4 feet on the par-4 first kept the momentum going and a birdie on the par-4 ninth gave him the 67.
Coupled with Bobby Leopold’s 77, Rhode Island finished even par for the day and tied for eighth with Ohio and Georgia.
This was the last tournament before I hang the clubs up until March, said Valois, who will play Monday with Leopold in a U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship qualifier in Rhode Island. Absolutely, it was a nice way to finish.
Youthful Hawaii Gains Experience
With an average age of approximately 18, Hawaii was easily the youngest team in this year’s championship. Led by 15-year-old Honolulu resident Andrew Chin, the Aloha State leaned on its youth for representation at the Men’s State Team Championship, where its best finish was 34th in 2009 at The Country Club of St. Albans (Mo).
For some golfers, competing in their first USGA championship can be overwhelming. Representing your state at such a young change only increases the pressure. Chin, however, was ready for the challenge. He took a simple approach: I was trying to break par.
Chin arrived in French Lick after a lengthy 10-hour flight that included a missed connection and a scenic drive up from Lexington, Ky. Between time on the practice range and his two practice rounds, he felt he had a pretty good handle on what he called a tough golf course with narrow fairways. The Punahou School sophomore still held his own on the 6,910-yard Pete Dye layout. His 4-over 226 total led Hawaii to a 40th-place finish at 27-over 459.
He was joined on the team by Tyler Ota, 20, of Aiea, and Ben Grant, 18, of Honolulu.
I don’t have as much experience, so I just have to make it up [as I go], said Chin, who comes to the mainland three or four times a year for golf. I’ve had a bit of a struggle because I was being too aggressive. Because I’m so young, I’m prone to doing that … just going for everything.
Odds And Ends
Georgia and Puerto Rico made the biggest moves of the final round, each shooting 3-under 141. Puerto Rico finished in a tie for fifth, which is its best finish in the Men’s State Team. Jeronimo Esteve carded a 5-under 31 on the inward nine – his first nine of the round – en route to a 69. Georgia, meanwhile, tied for eighth and was led by Cameron Hooper’s 70 … Indiana’s Kenny Cook withdrew halfway through the round due to illness. The host state finished tied for 22nd … The final-round scoring average was 77.18, the highest of the three rounds.