Golf

U.S. Amateur Four-Ball tests teamwork, resolve

The third U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship begins Saturday at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club.
The third U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship begins Saturday at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. N&O file photo

It’s not a tournament with a long history and rich tradition.

Nor is it a tournament where a quadruple bogey and few other big numbers on the scorecard can doom your chances of winning.

The third U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which begins Saturday at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, is still in its infancy among U.S. Golf Association events. A total of 128 two-man teams — or “sides” — will be looking to advance through stroke-play qualifying, the top 32 advancing to match play that ends Wednesday with the semifinals and finals.

It’s a tournament of strategy, of teamwork. Pinehurst No. 2 is a demanding golf course and an exacting test, requiring good shots but also good decisions, especially in dealing with the turtleback greens that are so distinctive on the famed Donald Ross course.

“It’s a comprehensive examination,” said Bill McCarthy, the USGA championship director for the event. “It should involve shotmaking, and it should involve course management and it should involve metal and physical resolve.”

Pinehurst No. 2 requires that.

Here’s a primer on the tournament.

The favorites

The 2016 champions won’t repeat in ‘17. Benjamin Baxter and Andrew Buchanan, teammates on the Southern Methodist golf team, won last year at Winged Foot. They planned to be at Pinehurst but withdrew.

Todd White of Spartanburg, S.C., and Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh can’t be overlooked. They won the inaugural tournament in 2015 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, are comfortable in USGA settings and were teammates on the 2013 U.S. Walker Cup team.

The two also have their likenesses on the championship trophy. How cool is that?

Smith, 38, is a four-time winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and White has played in 22 USGA events including the 1995 U.S. Open.

The format

It’s like most best-ball tournaments. In the qualifying rounds Saturday and Sunday on Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 8, the best score from a two-man team on each hole is used.

When match play begins Monday, holes are won or lost — or halved — depending on a team’s low, or best-ball score.

If you have a birdie and your partner has a triple-bogey, and the other team has two pars, your team wins the hole. If there are four pars, the hole is halved. Easy enough?

Young guns

Akshay Bhatia and Grayson Wotnosky of Wake Forest both were 15 when they made it through sectional qualifying in October at Carolina Golf Club in Charlotte. Their best-ball score: 65.

“It’s just feeding off each other and knowing our games,” Bhatia said

They’re not alone as the “kids” in the field. Ryan Smith, 14, and Dylan Menate, 15, of Carlsbad, Calif., also qualified.

Local flavor

In a way, Scott Harvey of Greensboro is the junior version of Raleigh’s Paul Simson when it comes to winning Carolinas Golf Association trophies. Like Simson, he has a bunch.

But Harvey, 38, also won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and was the 2016 runner. He will be playing the Four-Ball with Todd Mitchell of Bloomington, Ill. The two qualified in Mission Hills, Kan.

Other former USGA champions include: Stewart Hagestad, 26, of Newport Beach, Calif. (2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur), Doug Hanzel, 60, of Savannah, Ga. (2103 U.S. Senior Amateur) and Philip Barbaree, 18, of Shreveport, La. (2015 U.S. Junior Amateur).

Hagestad was the low amateur in this year’s Masters.

Quotable

“You look at the venues that have been selected — Olympic Club, Winged Foot, now Pinehurst. Who wouldn’t want to play? The opportunity to compete for a national championship is something that every amateur golfer aspires to and should cherish.” — Todd White on the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship

When: Saturday through Wednesday.

Where: Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, Pinehurst.

Admission: Free.

Saturday: First round, stroke play, Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 8 courses.

Sunday: Second round, stroke play, No, 2 and No. 8.

Monday: First round, match play, No. 2.

Tuesday: Second and quarterfinal rounds, match play, No. 2.

Wednesday: Semifinal and championship rounds, match play, No. 2.

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