VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Grayson Murray is on his third college in as many semesters.
He may have found a home at Pinehurst.
With the tournament’s top five seeds failing to advance even past the Round of 16 matches on Friday, the UNC Greensboro transfer emerged as the potential player to beat at the 113th North and South Amateur on Donald Ross’ famed Pinehurst No. 2, cruising through two matches with relative ease to reach the tournament’s semifinals.
Murray, who left Wake Forest after his first semester for East Carolina only to find it wasn’t the best fit for him either, will have to sit out a season before he can compete in NCAA Division-1 play again.
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – The 113th North and South Amateur just became a home game.
Southern Pines native Michael McGowan carded his low round of the championship, firing a 3-under 68 to claim the No. 7 seed entering the match play portion of the event, which begins on Friday on Donald Ross’ famed Pinehurst No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort.
McGowan, the son of former PGA Tour and Champions Tour player Pat McGowan and the grandson of golf legend Peggy Kirk Bell, finished tied for fourth at 5 under after Thursday’s final round of stroke play. He will play 10th-seeded Andrew Bailey of Cleveland State, who also played the opening three rounds in 5-under 208.
Purdue’s Adam Schenk, one of the hottest amateur golfers in the country after winning the Indiana Amateur last month, was the medalist after a 4-under 67 left him three shots clear of the field at 10-under 203.
But while others have gone lower than McGowan, perhaps no one remaining in the field will have had more North & South experience than the University of North Carolina senior. McGowan’s been such a staple of the area golf scene he’s lost count how many combined North & South Junior and North & South Amateurs he’s appeared in.
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – The game was still intact, even if Corey Conners wasn’t going low again on Wednesday.
Cruising along, mixing a handful of bogeys with an equal amount of birdies, Conners could allow himself to take a glimpse at what the future may have in store for him.
And so he peered beyond the lush green fairways and thick rough of Pinehurst No. 4 – host of stroke play for the 113th North and South Amateur at Pinehurst Resort – and let his eyes and mind wander.
There, lining some of those fairways, was the goal for the No. 2-ranked Canadian amateur and Kent State star.
“I’ve kind of been looking through the trees at (Pinehurst) No. 2 from No. 4, taking a peek at some of the holes, and it just looks awesome,” Conners said following his even par 71 on Wednesday to stay at 6 under. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to play No. 2.”
Tied atop the leaderboard as play was completed late into the evening, Conners will likely get that chance as one of the top 16 seeds to emerge from the final round of stroke play Thursday and qualify for the tournament’s decisive match play – to be played on the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open host course, Donald Ross’ famed Pinehurst No. 2.
“All the history, the major championships they’ve had there on No. 2,” Conners said, his voice trailing off. “It would be a career highlight for me. I can’t really put it into words.”
He still has some work to do – and he’s far from assured even earning the top seed.
That’s because Purdue’s Adam Schenk may be playing the best golf of his life.
Few amateurs have been hotter recently than Schenk, who enters the North and South off a wire-to-wire win at the Indiana Amateur in late June. Schenk, who had a 69 on Tuesday and has finished in the top 8 of his last five tournament appearances, came back following a 2 ½-hour rain delay to birdie two of his last three holes to tie Conners at 6-under 136.
“The break was probably a good thing for me,” Schenk said. “It settled me down a little bit.”
Schenk had a lot to be amped up about. He birdied four of his first eight holes to take sole possession of the lead before a bogey at the 456-yard, par-4 18th dropped him back to 5 under. Schenk rebounded with a quick birdie at the first, but dumped his tee shot into the water on the par-3 4th before another bogey on the par-3 6th dropped him to -4.
But his finish mirrored his start, putting Schenk in prime possession to nab the top seed and medalist honors following Thursday’s round.
Not that Schenk is focused on that.
“It doesn’t really matter,” said the first-time North and South contestant. “As long as I’m in the Top 16, that’s the goal.”
Conners and Schenk led four players at 5-under 137. Cleveland State’s Andrew Bailey, who fired a 5-under 66 on Tuesday, came back with a second-round 71 while former Maryland golfer Joey Rice backed up his first-day 69 with a 68 Wednesday to also move to 5 under.
“I’m putting!” quipped an incredulous Rice, who graduated from Maryland last year and is working full time – and golfing part time. “It’s like the first time ever.”
Davidson’s Richard Fountain and Virginia Tech’s Mikey Moyers – playing in the same group – were also each at 5 under.
At 4 under was 17-year-old Adam Wood – a U.S. Kids Pinehurst veteran who will play at nearby Duke next year.
“This brings back a lot of memories with my dad on the bag this week,” Wood said. “He was my caddie during U.S. Kids, too.”
Among other notables, Southern Pines’ Michael McGowan, son of former PGA Tour player Pat McGowan and grandson of golf legend Peggy Kirk Bell, added a second straight 1-under 70 to move to 2 under for the championship, good enough for a tie for 12th at the end of play Wednesday. Also at 2 under was 17-year-old Ben Griffin, the two-time North Carolina 4-A prep champion who has already committed to play for North Carolina in 2014.
The stage is set for a potentially wild third and final round of stroke play. Twenty-two players are within two shots of the top 16. The projected cut – top 60 and ties – at the end of play hovered around 2-over 144 – a mere eight shots from the top of the leaderboard.
The North and South is the longest consecutive-running amateur golf championship in the United States, now in its 113th year.
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 – Francis Ouimet, Billy Joe Patton, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange, Corey Pavin, Davis Love II, among others. It continues to draw the best in amateur golf circles.
“Pinehurst has been a bastion of amateur golf for over a century,” said Pinehurst President Don Padgett. “It is amateur golf at its best.”
“Albin Choi, as a fellow Canadian, had some success and I had heard great things,” said Conners, who was fourth in the 2012 NCAA Championship, the highest finish ever for a Kent State golfer. “And obviously, with the history here, it fit in my schedule so I didn’t hesitate to come down.”
No player entered into the 113th North and South Amateur Championship is coming to Pinehurst without dreams of adding his name to the distinguished list of champions. The longest consecutive running amateur championship in the United States, the North and South’s prestige has long been well documented, its past champions among the most recognizable and celebrated names in the history of golf.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Signed with Stanford out of the Knox School in 2012…Four-time U.S. Kids champion (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006)…Broke Tiger Woods’ record when he became the youngest winner, at 14, of the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2010…Has spent time as the top-ranked junior boys golfer in both the Golfweek/Sagarin and Polo Golf Junior rankings…Currently ranked as No. 3 Junior player in the world…He also has runner-up finishes at the 2012 U.S. Junior Amateur, as well as the Azalea Invitational, Terra Cotta Invitational, Polo Golf Junior Classic and New Year’s…Shot 59 at 9 years old at Plantation Junior Golf Tour event…Played in first North & South in 2012, firing a 68 on Pinehurst No. 8 in the second round…Fell in playoff for last seed for match play.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Currently ranked as the No. 14 junior player in the world…Verbally committed to the University of North Carolina as a high school sophomore in February 2012…2-time North Carolina state champion, firing a 67 to finish at 9 under on Pinehurst No. 8 to win 4-A title again in 2013…36-hole total of 135 was the best 36-hole score ever in a 4-A tournament and the third-lowest total ever in an NCHSAA championship since World War II…Medalist at 2013 U.S. Open Local Qualifier after 67 in Greensboro…Lost in playoff for final seed in 2012 North & South…2-time runner-up in the Donald Ross Junior Championship at Pinehurst…Has finishes of 2nd, 3rd and 6th in last four amateur tournaments.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Finished second in 2013 NCAA Golf Championship…Shot rounds of 68-67-69 in NCAA Championship…Won twice during his senior season at Tennessee…Finished 3rd recently in Sunnehanna Amateur…Ranked 13th as an American amateur…Three Top-5 finishes this season at Tennessee…Six Top-25 finishes …Won Gifford Collegiate in San Martin, Calif., carding a 69-68-70–207 (-6). …Won back-to-back tournaments by carding a 70-65-76–211 (-5) at the SeaBest Invitational…Leads the Vols in most career rounds of par of better (45).
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Finished 4th in 2012 NCAA Championship…2012 NCAA All-American… Named to the Ben Hogan Award watch list for the 2012-13 season… Ranked No. 2 on Canada’s top amateur golfers by the World Golf Rankings… One of three amateurs selected to represent Canada at World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey (Oct. 4-7)…Named as one of GolfWorld’s 50 Men’s College Players to Watch list for 2012-13…Reached match play at 2012 U.S. Amateur…Finished 4th in 2012 Canadian Men’s Amateur… Enjoyed the best NCAA Championship individual performance ever by a Kent State player, tying for 4th in the nation with a 1-under 212 (68-75-69)… Was the MAC Golfer of the Year after winning the MAC Championship medalist.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Tied for first through 2012 North & South stroke play, carding 4-under total of 209…Took No. 2 match play seed after falling in medalist playoff to eventual champion Peter Williamson…Lost 4&2 to 15-seed Thomas Sutton in Round of 16…Placed 4th in U.S. Open Local Qualifier at Wallace, NC…Placed 23rd in U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying in Ball Ground, GA…Appeared in 2011 U.S. Amateur…Won the 2007 North & South Junior Championship.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Qualified for match play at 2012 North & South, finishing three rounds of stroke play at 1-over 214…Upset second-seeded Michael Cromie 4 & 2 on Pinehurst No. 2 in Round of 16…Fell 4 & 3 to 2011 North& South runner-up David Erdy in quarterfinals…Won U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Calera, AL…Finished 23rd at U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Ball Ground, GA…Finished 8th at 2013 Conference USA Championship…Coming into North & South off 10th-place finish at Greystone Invitational, which included a third-round 67…Recently finished 2nd at Old Waverly Collegiate Championship.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Reached Round of 16 match play at 2012 North & South…Finished three rounds of stroke play at Pinehurst No. 8 in even par 213…As No. 11 seed in match play, faced eventual 2012 North & South runner-up Thomas Bradshaw, falling 6 & 5 on Pinehurst No. 2…Finished 6th in NCAA Division-II National Championship…Placed 8th in U.S. Open Qualifier at Lake Wales, FL…Division-II Honorable Mention All-American…Had six top-10 finishes this season, winning once.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Played his way into 2012 North & South match play after finishing 1-over through three rounds of stroke play…Survived a 5-for-12 playoff to earn No. 12 seed for match play…Defeated 5th-seeded Paul Jacobsen 4&3 to advance to the quarterfinals, where he fell to 4th-seeded Matt Ewald 2&1 in quarterfinals’ closest match on Pinehurst No. 2.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: One of five players who appeared in 2012 North & South match play to return in 2013…Shot 1-over 214 in stroke play on Pinehurst No. 8, taking 14th seed after emerging from a playoff…Fell 1 down to N.C. State star and third-seeded Albin Choi in one of the Round of 16’s closest matches…Appeared in 2013 NCAA Championship…Placed 4th in NCAA Regional tournament…Record 5th-place finish at New Year’s Invitational…Finished 8th in U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Kennesaw, GA.
HE’S A CONTENDER BECAUSE: Finished 9th in 2013 ACC Championship…Has enjoyed a solid 2013 amateur season, recording four top-10 finishes…Tied for 10th place at 2012 North Carolina Amateur … tied for 16th at 2012 N.C. Open and tied for 22nd at 2012 North and South Amateur … played in 2012 U.S. Amateur … Finished one shot out of a playoff for 2012 North and South match play…tied for fourth place at 2012 New Year’s Invitational in St. Petersburg, Fla. … advanced to third round of match play at 2011 North and South Amateur…Comes from a legendary golfing family – son of former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Pat McGowan and grandson of legend Peggy Kirk Bell, the 1949 North and South Women’s Amateur Champion.