Pinehurst News

The 117th North & South Amateur – The Contenders

A year ago, this is how we opened the Contenders piece for the 116th North & South Amateur, with our footnotes added this year:

Sean Walsh is the defending North & South Amateur champion. Andrew Buchanan is coming off a USGA championship. Surely one of them should be considered the tournament favorite for the championship, which begins Monday for 116th consecutive year.*

*Amazingly, we could write the same lead to this story, but just change a couple of names. Like this:

Tim Conover is the defending North & South Amateur champion. Ben Wong is coming off a USGA championship. Surely one of them should be considered the tournament favorite for the championship, which begins Monday for the 117th consecutive year.

Conover has had a fine year since surprising even himself in winning the North & South. And Ben Wong won on Pinehurst No. 2 just four weeks ago – at the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Amazing.

Or the favorite could be any number of players with past North & South experience, especially with the championship returning to the demanding Pinehurst No. 2 for all rounds. Or it could be a player with a combination of North & South and USGA championship experience.*

*This is a long list as well for this year.

Or, it could be anyone at all in the deep field, much like Walsh himself, who despite a strong junior season at Gonzaga in 2015 came into the North & South under the radar before beating George Cunningham 3 & 1 to earn his first Putter Boy trophy.*

*Speaking of George Cunningham, he reached the semifinals again last year, and is back in the field again this year.

And so now, here’s our attempt to highlight some of the top contenders for the 117th North & South Amateur. And if you don’t see the name of the eventual champion here when you check back next week, it wouldn’t be anything new.

But, after seeing this list, it will certainly have been impressive.


TIM CONOVER The defending champion must get his due, and Conover gets it here. Moreover, Conover had previous success in the North & South even before winning, reaching the match play quarterfinals in 2015. He’s had a brilliant season at East Carolina this year, winning the 2016 Wolfpack Fall Intercollegiate and 2017 East Carolina Intercollegiate to go with five top 10 finishes. And he’s still only a junior.

BEN WONG Anyone who followed Wong and his fellow teenage teammate Frankie Capan as they toured No. 2 in winning the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball knows the SMU recruit has a ton of game. Carrying the trophy following his dramatic win, Wong remarked that he had never played in the North & South, but that “it’s going to be awesome to be back here in a month.” Never doubt confidence and momentum.

CAMERON CHAMP We’ll let’s Jeff Ritter tell the story here, since it was just a week ago:

Meet Cameron Champ, the young man bestowed with the greatest name in the field, if not golf history. He’s gearing up for his senior year on the Texas A&M University golf team, and on summer break he decided to take a stab at qualifying for his first-ever U.S. Open. Now here he is. On Thursday he celebrated his 22nd birthday at Erin Hills. On Friday he completed his second round. How’s that working out?

He’s five under, thick in the hunt. Oh, and he’s leading the field in driving distance.

That’s right: Champ is hitting it past Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day. He’s also whipping each of them on the leader board. It’s been a remarkable performance, but the story doesn’t feel like a fluke. It feels like the birth of a future star.

Will Grimmer, left, won medalist honors at last month’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with teammate Clark Engle.

WILL GRIMMER By now, you know Grimmer’s ties to Pinehurst. He’s Kid 59, he played as the youngest competitor in the 2014 U.S. Open, has a couple of North & South Amateurs under his belt and even played U.S. Kids events here. And at the Four-Ball, he added to his story, teaming with Clark Engle to earn medalist honors after stroke play. Grimmer, who won this season at Ohio State, is always comfortable in Pinehurst.

David Kocher won the 2014 North & South Junior.

DAVID KOCHER Just like Grimmer, Kocher always seems to play well in Pinehurst events. A standout already in Carolinas amateur golf, Kocher also starred at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reaching match play in the event for the second straight year (despite at least one wild hole one day). Kocher already has his named emblazoned in bronze in the History Hall at Pinehurst as the 2014 North & South Junior champion. He’s hoping to become the second player to win both the Junior and Men’s North & South championships (Michael Cromie).

ALEX SMALLEY Like Champ, Smalley is coming off playing in the U.S. Open in Erin Hills. He also was the medalist at the 2016 U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills, recording the second-lowest stroke play total in U.S. Amateur history. He’s one of Duke’s top players, earning five top 5 finishes this season, and is a veteran of the North & South Amateur.

GEORGE CUNNINGHAM Cunningham played for the North & South Amateur championship in 2015, then returned in 2016 and marched to the semifinals before falling just short again. Cunningham had a strong junior year at Arizona, leading the Wildcats in scoring average (73.06) and was par or better in a third of his competitive rounds.

OTHERS TO WATCH As always the field is deep, and any number of players could storm to a win this week. Here are a few more names to watch:

A.J. Beechler – He’s coming off leading the local Pinecrest Patriots to another state title, and he’s an absolute bulldog on the course. It’s a big future for Beechler.

Eric Bennett – Every year, Pinehurst hosts a caddie tournament. It’s been happening as long as there have been caddies at Pinehurst and is named after legendary looper Fletcher Gaines, who won the tournament a record seven times. Bennett, though, has now won five times. Now he takes his chances at the North & South.

Joshua Martin – One of the best junior players to ever come out of Pinehurst, Martin won the Donald Ross Junior Championship three times. He’s always a threat at home.

William Register – A veteran of Carolinas Golf amateur events and multitime North & South competitor, Register reached the semifinals a year ago.

Eric Bae – Bae won the 2016 high school state championship for himself and his team, the local Pinecrest Patriots, with a clutch birdie putt at the last hole.

Zachary Bachou – One of the best junior golfers of the last few years, Bachou nearly won the North & South in 2013 before falling in a tight match against Andrew Dorn.

Stephen Franken – The N.C. State golfer was the medalist following stroke play the 2016 North & South.

Louis Dobbelaar – From Australia, the youngest player in the field at 16 years old is the cousin of Pinehurst No. 9 golf professional Gordon McKinlay.

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5 Moments You Simply Can’t Miss at Chef & Maker

If you haven’t booked your reservation to attend Pinehurst’s second Chef & Maker series event with James Beard Award-winning Chef Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner Beasley’s, Fox Liquor Bar), there’s still time. Everything you need to know is here, but to save you a click, here’s a quick summary of what you get with the package:

Packages are $399 per person and include: 

  • Resort accommodations for two nights
  • Overflowing breakfast buffet both mornings
  • Friday night culinary event
  • Chef’s Dinner
  • Interactive maker events

Now that you know how to book, you’ll be glad to know the event with Chef Christensen, which takes place July 7-9, will certainly be one to remember. Here are five moments you absolutely cannot miss.

1. Meet and Mingle with a Rock Star Chef

Seriously, Ashley Christensen is a star chef, and the best part of the Chef & Maker series is that it is an intimate, relaxed and interactive event that will allow you opportunities to mix and mingle with the talent on display, Christensen included. Christensen will also participate in a Q&A and cookbook signing during the weekend on Saturday morning at 10. Christensen’s “Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner,” is a must-have, and a copy of the book is included in your package.

2. Get Blown Away

Colin O’Reilly of Terrane Glass Designs will give a special glass-blowing demonstration on site at 2 p.m. on Saturday. With work that was honored as Overall Winner in Garden & Gun’s 2016 Made in the South Awards, O’Reilly will share some of his secrets and create intricate glasses designed expressly for maximizing spirits, which leads us to another can’t-miss moment…

3. What’s up, Doc?

Following O’Reilly’s demo, there will be a spirits tasting led by Doc Porter’s. The Charlotte-based distillery crafts handmade vodka, gin, and bourbon from scratch using locally-sourced grains.

4. The Poole’s Diner-Inspired Dinner

On Friday night at 6:30, to kick off the Chef & Maker Weekend, Pinehurst will take a cure from Chef Christensen and host the Poole’s Diner-Inspired Dinner. Our culinary team has put together a menu inspired by Chef Christensen’s philosophy of bright, fresh flavors and locally grown, seasonal ingredients.

We will be serving beer from Double Barley and Mystery Brewing along with spirits from Doc Porter’s Distillery, Topo Organic and Piedmont Distillers. Wine will be provided by Biltmore and Carmel Road. This event is also open to the public. Purchase tickets now at 

5. The Grand Finale

Cap the weekend in grand style. Join Chef Christensen for a meal that champions the new and evolving Southern food scene. Her four-course menu will honor the traditions of this celebrated cuisine, while introducing guests to her unique take on a variety of classics.

The dinner will be paired with Barrymore Wines – created by actress Drew Barrymore – from Carmel Road.

This event is open to the public. Purchase tickets now at

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Rooting for Kelly Mitchum to make a run


While Pinehurst No. 9 Head Golf Professional Matt Vick wasn’t able to make the first cut at the PGA Professional Championship on Monday at Sunriver Resort, fellow Pinehurst Golf Professional Kelly Mitchum remains in the hunt.

Mitchum, who has played in four PGA Championships, made the first cut of low 90 players and ties on the number, and begins his third round at 10:05 a.m. Pacific. Mitchum, at 3 over, will need to be in the Top 70 after Tuesday’s third round to survive the next cut, and must be in the Top 20 following Wednesday’s fourth round to return to the PGA Championship, which is being played this year at nearby Quail Hollow.

Despite being over par, Mitchum isn’t that far away from the PGA cut line. Mitchum, though, will need to play well, but even par currently stands tied for 24th in the championship.

Of course, we’re rooting for Mitchum to make it back to the PGA Championship and cut into his time as one of the lead instructors at the Pinehurst Golf Academy. Besides, if Mitchum gets into the field, there’s always a chance the national broadcast will feature this:

The PGA Professional Championship enjoys its 50th anniversary this year and boasts quite a history at Pinehurst, where it was played on Pinehhurst No. 2 from 1971-74 and in 1988, and in 1997-98 on Pinehurst No. 8. Sam Snead won the event on No. 2 in 1971.

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Pinehurst’s Matt Vick kicks his game into high gear


A few months after his dramatic victory over fellow Pinehurst Resort golf professional Kelly Mitchum in the club’s famed Palumbo Cup, Matt Vick is gathering quite a following as he heads to the PGA Professional Championship with dreams of qualifying for the PGA Championship at nearby Quail Hollow.

Vick, the head golf professional at Pinehurst No. 9, has quite a fun backstory, which the PGA of America has picked up on. A former All-American placekicker at UT-Chattanooga – he kicked the winning field goal in 2000 to beat then-No. 6 ranked Appalachian State – Vick also appeared on The Big Break before making his way to Pinehurst.

Vick is joined by Mitchum at the PGA Pro, and if Vick needs any advice, Mitchum has the background to give it. Mitchum has played in four PGA Championships, and like Vick, hopes to finish among the Top 20 in the four-day tournament to punch his ticket. After the first round on Sunday, both were in position to make a run at the cut, though 310 other players are chasing the same dream.

Matt Vick, the head golf professional at Pinehurst No. 9, holds the coveted Palumbo Cup trophy after beating Kelly Mitchum in January.

Live scoring can be found here. 

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Phil Mickelson’s golf swing as a toddler

We’ve all seen Tiger Woods’ famed 2-year-old golf swing when he appeared long ago on the Mike Douglas Show.

But have you seen Phil Mickelson’s golf swing from when was a toddler?

As part of this video by the PGA TOUR, you get a few glimpses of it, which was clipped into a gif on Twitter today to celebrate Mickelson’s 47th birthday.

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