Pinehurst Golf News Archive

While Kocher reminisces, Duke’s Smalley takes 2-shot lead at 116th North & South Amateur

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David Kocher, right, is two shots back of Duke’s Alex Smalley after the first round of the 116th North & South Amateur at Pinehurst. (Photo by the USGA)

Pinehurst No. 2 lives up to its reputation in the first round of the 116th North & South Amateur

LIVE SCORING

GROUPINGS

COURSE STATS

BY ALEX PODLOGAR       

VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – David Kocher would always check first. He’d peer out of his grandmother’s door, scan to the left, to the right, look back and then back to the front. He’d canvass the fairway, past the green and the next tee, and hunt for movement. Look for the cart. Look for the ranger sign.

Then…GO.

For some kids, trips to a grandparent’s house might invoke anticipation of cookies still warm enough to match the hugs. For Kocher, a trip his grandmother’s house on the 5th hole of Pinehurst No. 5 meant one thing – Golf.

“Oh, never on No. 2,” he said of sneaking out to play. “I wish, but that would’ve been pretty scary.” -David Kocher

“I used to always play the holes around the house,” said Kocher, who shot an even par 70 Monday on Pinehurst No. 2 to share second place behind Duke’s Alex Smalley after the first round of the 116th North & South Amateur. “All the time on 5, I’d be looking for rangers, and they’d always tell me to back up off the course. I’ve been out there in my swimsuit, even.”

Of course, Kocher always knew where to draw the line.

“Oh, never on No. 2,” he said of sneaking out to play. “I wish, but that would’ve been pretty scary.”

No. 2, host of more single golf championships than any site in America, was plenty scary for most of the field. The average score was 76.04, and many of the championship’s pre-tournament favorites struggled mightily. Defending champion Sean Walsh shot 78 while Will Grimmer had a 76. Clark Engle, who was the No. 2 seed after stroke play a year ago, shot 78. And Andrew Buchanan, who teamed with Ben Baxter to win the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Winged Foot last month, had an 81.

“It was tough out there,” said Grimmer, who recorded Pinehurst’s only 59 in the North & South Junior in 2013, a year before Grimmer returned to play No. 2 in the 2014 U.S. Open.

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Duke’s Alex Smalley

No. 2 was so tough that even though he had the lone under par round of the say, Smalley was talking about how good his misses were.

“I had a great caddie, and if I didn’t hit the shot I wanted to, he made sure we left ourselves in a good position for a chip back,” said Smalley, a sophomore at Duke playing in his second North & South. “I had a lot of really good misses and really good chances to get up and down.”

That caddie, Pinehurst’s Brad Yutzy, knows a thing or two about No. 2 playing its toughest. He helped guide Stephanie Meadow to a third-place finish in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open.

And there were more hits than misses for Smalley, who began his round on the 10th hole. After struggling to find the fairway early, Smalley was 1-over at the turn. But he made three straight birdies and four in a stretch of five holes to rocket to 3 under, finishing with a bogey on 8 – the toughest hole of the day as a 502-yard par-4 – and a par on 9 for the 2-under 68.

Alex.Smalley

Alex Smalley

Smalley said he won’t change his approach for the second round. The North & South will cut to the top 32 players after Tuesday’s second round to determine the match play bracket. The championship will be decided on Friday.

“It went pretty well today, so I don’t know why I’d want to change anything,” Smalley said. “It’ll be the same thing; if we get off the fairways, we’ll have to think about where the miss will be.”

Kocher, who won the 2014 North & South Junior and just finished his sophomore season at Maryland, had one of the day’s cleanest scorecards: two front-9 birdies and two back-9 bogeys. Still, it could’ve been even better for Kocher, who teamed with Doc Redman to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Winged Foot.

“It could’ve been a lot lower,” he said. “I had it in there close early but couldn’t make them. I missed a 4-footer on 9, a 4-footer on 10 and a 4-footer on 18. I guess I need to go practice my short putting.

“But it was a heck of a way to start. I’ll take a 70.”

Kocher was tied with two other players two shots back of Smalley, N.C. State golfer Stephen Franken and the University of Denver’s Chris Korte, who made the field after finishing second in the tournament’s qualifier on Pinehurst No. 8 on Saturday.

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Stephen Franken

“I avoided big numbers and just took my medicine when I was in trouble,” Franken said. “It’s what you’ve got to do out here. It’s a tough course and it’ll get you.

“But I love it. I love Donald Ross courses. I love how he designs them and how he makes you hit shots and makes you create. You really have to think your way around. You can’t just throw it at the pin. You really have to think about where the pin is and place it in the right spot so you can make par. And you know everybody’s making bogeys, too. Whenever I had a couple of bad holes, I was able to get over them pretty easily. It’s happening to everybody.”

Pinehurst’s Joshua Martin had a solid day with a 1-over 71 to share fifth place with seven others while Redman, who won the N.C. State 4-A Championship on No. 8 last month, had a 72, as did George Cunningham, the 2015 North & South runner-up and medalist. Eric Bae, who lifted local school Pinecrest to the state 4-A team championship with a birdie on the 18th hole of No. 8, had a 73.

The Men’s North & South Amateur Championship is the longest consecutive-running amateur golf championship in the United States. Over the past century, the best in the golf world have vied for its coveted Putter Boy trophy. The winners now serve as legends in the game – Walter Travis, Francis Ouimet, Billy Joe Patton, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange and Davis Love III, among others – and continues to draw the best in amateur golf circles.

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116th North & South Amateur – The Contenders

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Sean Walsh returns as the North & South Amateur defending champion.

ROUND 1 RECAP

GROUPINGS

LIVE SCORING

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.

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.

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.

Here’s our attempt to highlight some of the top contenders for the 116th North & South Amateur. And if you don’t see the name of the eventual champion here when you check back on Friday, it wouldn’t be anything new.

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

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Sean Walsh

THE CONTENDERS

SEAN WALSH You have to start with Walsh. He was the sixth seed in 2015 entering match play, but was steady throughout the second half of the tournament, knocking out second-seeded Clark Engle in the semifinals and then taking down George Cunningham in the final. No one had played better the entire week than Cunningham until Walsh matched him shot for shot in the final, wearing Cunningham down. It’s Walsh’s third North & South, and he’ll try to become the first to win back-to-back championships since legend Paul Simson in 1995-96.

GEORGE CUNNINGHAM Cunningham is back, and after rounds of 70-69-73 for a 2-over 212 to earn medalist honors on No. 2 a year ago, he has to be considered a threat again this year. Cunningham, too, was already in Pinehurst a week before the first round.

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Andrew Buchanan, right, poses with the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball trophy with partner Ben Baxter. (Photo by Golf Digest)

ANDREW BUCHANAN  In 2017, Pinehurst will host the 3rd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Among those in the field will be the defending champions – Ben Baxter, and Buchanan, who is seeking to win at Pinehurst 11 months ahead of time. Buchanan has won at Winged Foot within the last month. He’ll be ready for No. 2.

CLARK ENGLE Prepare for a run of U.S. Amateur Four-Ball success stories who are in the North & South field. Engle shot 3-over 213 on No. 2 to finish a stroke out of medalist honors a year ago, and reached the semifinals. He also reached match play of the Four-Ball at Winged Foot with…

Will Grimmer 59

Will Grimmer became the first player in Pinehurst history to shoot 59 in a competitive round, hitting golf’s magic number on Pinehurst No. 1 in the 2013 North & South Junior. A year later, Grimmer played in the 2014 U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2.

WILL GRIMMER Coming off a strong freshman season at Ohio State (along with Engle), Grimmer returns to the place he first made his name in golf. Three years ago, Grimmer recorded the first 59 in competition in Pinehurst history at the North & South Junior, and after reaching match play a year ago, Grimmer returns to try to win his first Putter Boy. Grimmer, who also played in the 2014 U.S. Open on No. 2, has an affinity for Pinehurst like few others. He’s gunning for this championship.

COLE HAMMER The name is familiar, right? At 15, Hammer qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in 2015. That’s good enough to be considered a contender in the North & South.

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David Kocher won the 2014 North & South Junior.

DAVID KOCHER Keep an eye on Kocher, who won the North & South Junior in 2014 before starring at Maryland in his freshman season. Kocher also advanced to match play at the Four-Ball at Winged Foot, and with a Putter Boy already, Kocher will try to become the second player in Pinehurst history to win both the North & South Junior and the North & South Amateur. Michael Cromie became the first with his North & South Am win in 2014.

DOC REDMAN A native of Raleigh, Redman is another young name to watch this week. He also has considerable hardware from Pinehurst already. A month before reaching match play in the Four-Ball, Redman won the N.C. 4-A State Championship at Pinehurst No. 8. Redman has the game win the North & South.

ANDREW NOVAK Novak won a 6-for-1 playoff to make match play a year ago. He also went viral this year after making a 100-foot putt in the NCAA Tournament. And he’s a great quote. Good enough for us.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

At the risk of appearing as though we are just listing the rest of the field, there is so much past experience and strong play throughout the field, the list of players capable of emerging on Friday as the champion is considerable. A few names with quick notes:

Josh Martin He won three Donald Ross Junior Championships. Martin is a favorite anytime he tees it up at Pinehurst.

Easton Paxton He won the 2015 North & South Junior, and living in Wyoming, he only plays golf six months a year. But he can play.

A.J. Beechler From Pinehurst, plays at Pinehurst often. Be wary.

Eric Bae See above. He also drained a 12-foot putt on 18 on Pinehurst No. 8 to lift hometown school Pinecrest to a state championship – by a single shot. He’s got a grinder’s guts.

Harley Abrams, Max Greyserman and Alex Smalley All have considerable North & South experience.

Will the 116th North & South Amateur Champion come from this list?

Pinehurst No. 2, in a few days, will let us know.

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Michelle Wie and the Tale of the Tape

Two years ago today, when Michelle Wie came to the U.S. Women’s Open trophy presentation, she was still wearing the Kinesio tape on her legs. But when she stood with the trophy, it was gone.

What happened to it? We have the answer – and reveal her accomplice – here.

THE TAPE.

If there was one defining characteristic of Michelle Wie’s wardrobe during her triumph at the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, it was the Kinesio Tape Wie was wearing to help with the constant leg issues she was dealing with that week and the weeks leading up to it.

Wie was often asked about the tape in media sessions, and it certainly was mentioned on social media throughout the championship.

Then, Wie won, and after signing her scorecard, was ushered to the trophy presentation on the 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2. But in the photos there and after, the tape is gone.

So, did Wie take the tape off in the locker room? Maybe the scoring area?

Nope.

It happened at the trophy presentation, and we caught it with our camera. The trophy presentation was not aired live on NBC, but it’s safe here, and it’s here you’ll see what happened to the tape. (PLAY THE VIDEO ABOVE.)

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During the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, Michelle Wie wore Kinesio Tape to help with leg issues she was dealing with. (Photo by the USGA)

OPENING: Setting the stage, let’s identify the key members on the dais. At far left, in her red Team Canada apparel, is sensation Brooke Henderson, who was the low amateur at the championship. Henderson, who recently just won her first major championship, is priceless in this for her reactions to what’s about to happen.

Middle left is Stacy Lewis, who made a tremendous charge on Sunday to put serious pressure on Wie, ultimately finishing as the championship’s runner-up. Finally, there’s Wie and then-USGA President Thomas O’Toole Jr.

On the right side of the dais are more USGA officials as well as Pinehurst officials. More on them in a minute.

:02 SECONDS Wie crosses her left leg over her right, and that’s when Lewis notices the tape is still on. With 11 wins and two major championships, Lewis is accustomed to trophy presentations. She knows Wie won’t want these legacy photographs showing the tape, and so she points it out. … Continue Reading

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2005 U.S. Open Champion? Nice, but Michael Campbell may have just topped that at Oakmont

You thought Michael Campbell holding off Tiger Woods and winning the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst was impossible?

He may have just topped that. (OK, not really, but still…check it out.)

Campbell, who has retired from golf and is working as a broadcaster for Fox Sports Asia (he’s really good, by the way), recently made an eagle 2 from the fairway of the first hole at Oakmont Country Club.

Only you HAVE to see how he did it:

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Cambo at Merion in 2013, and he was as generous, genuine and kind as he’s always been. We’re proud to have Michael as one of Pinehurst’s greatest champions.

Relive Michael’s great charge and his win over Tiger:

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At Pinehurst, USGA Championships always feel just around the corner

WRAL’s Jared Fialko visited Pinehurst recently and found that preparations are already under way for the next wave of USGA Championships:

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