ECU's Ault tops Amateur Championship Qualifier
ECU's Ault tops Amateur Championship Qualifier
HAVERTOWN, Pa.–Chris Ault of Levittown, Pa., cruised to medallist honors and Chris Lange of Bryn Mawr, Pa., survived a two-for-one playoff to head a contingent of nine players advancing into the 105th U.S. Amateur Championship at Merion GC on Aug. 22-28.
Ault, Lange and the other seven qualifiers advanced to the Championship field from the two-day, 36-hole qualifier held at both Llanerch CC (par 71, 6,720 yards) and Rolling Green GC (par 70, 6,697 yards) on Monday and Tuesday. Players competed over 18 holes at each golf course.
Other qualifiers heading to Merion GC are: Bryant Reyes of West Chester, Pa.; Billy Stewart of Devon, Pa.; Christopher Gold of Haddonfield, N.J.; Cole Willcox of Berywn, Pa.; Tim Hager of Ivyland, Pa.; Adam Cohan of Wayne, Pa and John Pelet of Atglen, Pa.
Ault had an adventurous even-par (35-36) day. Still reeling somewhat from his 7-under-par, course record-tying 63 on Monday at Rolling Green GC, he said that as he stepped up to the 10th tee, his first, at Llanerch CC on Tuesday, "I didn't know what to think."
He parred Nos. 10 and 11, but promptly double-bogeyed the par 3, 179-yard 12th. "I hit it over the green, then hit it over the green again, then missed a 10-footer for bogey," he said. He then bogeyed the short No 15 (par 4, 312 yards) to go 3-over-par after six holes.
But the best was soon to come. Starting with a birdie four on the par 5, 503-yard No. 15, Ault, who plays out of Spring Mill CC, had an incredible 11 one-putt greens in a row, canning putts from all over the place, from five to 40 feet, including a 30-footer for par on No. 1 and a 40 footer for par on No. 2. He missed a two-footer for birdie on No. 9 to end the streak.
He was 3-under par during the stretch, with four birdies and a bogey. He had four birdies, two bogeys and a double for the day, finishing his round with 25 putts after needing only 26 at Rolling Green GC.
Ault, 19, a sophomore at East Carolina University from Levittown, Pa., said it will be "exciting" to play in the Amateur, his first, "especially at Merion."
Reyes, 23, too, will be heading to his first Amateur Championship. Playing out of Hartefeld National, the recent California transplant carded seven birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.
"The history at Merion is unbelievable," said Reyes. "I'm a huge Ben Hogan fan and I can't wait to see the clubhouse and history."
Stewart, a 21-year-old St. Joseph's senior-to-be, will be making his second trip to the U.S. Amateur. He competed in the U.S. Amateur in 2001 at East Lake GC in Georgia. Stewart, who last year failed to clinch a berth with a subpar second round, carded an even-par 70 at Rolling Green GC to assure himself of an invite.
Gold, 18, who carded nine birdies, five bogeys and four pars in his round yesterday, posted an even-par 70 on Tuesday with just two birdies and two bogeys.
The member of Little Mill CC made his first U.S. Amateur Championship last summer at Winged Foot GC.
For Wilcox, playing in the Amateur, his first, will be an "awesome experience." As he qualified with a 3-under-par 68 at Llanerch CC for a two-day total of 3-under 138, his last three holes – 3-3-3 – also were awesome.
After playing steady golf on the back nine, his front side, to card a bogey-free 1-under-par 35, he bogeyed the par 4, 403-yard No. 1 and the par 4, 464-yard No. 3 with errant drives into trees to go to 1-over for the day. He got one back with a birdie on the 208-yard, par 3 No. 4, but he still believed he needed a finishing flourish to qualify.
He birdied the 399-yard, par 4 No. 7 from 25 feet; parred the 222-yard, par 3 8th hole and laced a drive down the middle of No. 9 (par 5, 483 yards), setting up a 223-yard second shot into a breeze and over a yawning bunker. He scorched a 3-iron to eight feet and sank the curling, side-hill putt for an eagle 3.
"This just feels awesome," he smiled. "I haven't played as well this summer as I would have liked to, but this more than makes up for it." Playing out of Philadelphia Country Club, he also feels he'll have a home court advantage in one of the two qualifying rounds for match play in the Amateur at Merion.
Wilcox, 17, of Berwyn, is entering his senior year at Malvern Prep.
Hager, of Ivyland, Pa., said playing in the Amateur will be "a dream come true." After a 3-under-par 67 at Rolling Green, he said his game plan for Llanerch CC was "to make as many pars as I could." It worked. He made 14.
But starting the round at No. 10, he missed the first three greens, got up-and-down twice, and was 1-over. Steadying himself, he carded four straight pars, then birdied the 148-yard, par 3 No. 17, to get back to even-par.
He bogeyed the 425-yard, par 4 No.2, but "got it right back" with a deuce on the tough, 208-yard, par 3 No. 4. Then, "even par was what I wanted to do." And he did.
His only other national championship was competing last year in the American Junior Golf Association's Polo Junior Classic in Sea Island, Ga. "But the U.S. Amateur, at Merion, really is a dream come true."
Hager, 19, who graduated this year from Council Rock High School North and plays out of Lookaway GC, is headed to the Georgetown University Hoyas in the fall on a golf scholarship. This also will be his first U.S. Amateur.
Cohan, 19, of Wayne, Pa., a redshirt sophomore at Georgia Tech, started strong, with three 3s and a bogey five in the first four holes to go 1-under, but he bogeyed No. 7 to make the turn in even-par 36, and struggled somewhat on the back, with no birdies and bogeys on Nos. 11 and 17 for a 2-over 37. His 73, coupled with his 2-under 68 at Rolling Green, left him at even-par 141 and in qualifying. This will be his first U.S. Amateur and third national championship.
Cohan made the Publinks Championship twice (2001, 2003) and the U.S Junior (2003) once.
Pelet, 21, posted an impressive 68 in one of the final groups to finish at Llanerch CC on Tuesday to secure his initial U.S. Amateur Championship bid. He birdied four of the final five holes and tallied eight birdies in all.
"I knew I had to shoot 68 to have any chance and I did," said Pelet, a junior at University of Richmond.
Lange, 50, who posted a par on the first playoff hole, to outlast Mike Danner of Chalfont, Pa., will be heading to his seventh U.S. Amateur and second in a row. Lange, the reigning Golf Association of Philadelphia Player of the Year, will be looking for his first trip to match play.
In all, a field of 213 players competed at the two golf courses.