BY ALEX PODLOGAR
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Remember David Erdy?
Will Seger does.
And it’s those memories that brought him to the 114th North & South Amateur at Pinehurst.
Seger, a rising sophomore at Indiana University, stole the thunder of defending North & South champion Andrew Dorn in the first round of play at Pinehurst No. 8 on Tuesday, roaring to a 6-under-par 65 to take a 3-shot lead over Rico Hoey and McCormick Clouser.
“I didn’t have a lot of great looks at birdie, but I just stuck to may gameplan of fairways and greens,” Seger said. “And my putting was really hot.”
Seger birdied the last three holes on the front nine – a stretch of four birdies in five holes. From there, he had three more birdies on the back on three par-4s on the 7,044-yard, par-71 layout.
“There were a lot of 3s,” Seger quipped.
It was a round reminiscent of another former Indiana star, Erdy, who finished as the North &South runner-up in 2011 before advancing to the semifinals in 2012. Seger remembers Erdy’s runs fondly, and drove him to compete in the North & South.
“I used to watch David’s scores online,” Seger said. “I thought, ‘I really, really want to play there.’”
The top 16 players will advance to match play after two more rounds of stroke play. The field will be cut to the low 60 and ties after Wednesday’s second round.
Hoey, a rising sophomore – and a rising star at Southern Cal – was brilliant on the back 9, carding four birdies, including two in the final three holes, to shoot 68. While Hoey had one of the greatest freshman seasons in Trojans history, he remained in awe of Pinehurst in his first North & South appearance.
“I’m just glad to be here, are you kidding?” laughed Hoey. “I’m in Pinehurst, I’m at the North & South and all of its great history. I’m just excited to be able to play.”
Clouser had one of the cleanest rounds of the day, mixing in three birdies in a bogey-less 68. The Ball State senior opened with seven straight pars before making birdie on the 489-yard par-4 17th, then ripped off five more pars before birdies on two of his final four holes left him with a share of second.
TCU’s Chelso Barrett and Belmont’s Ashton Van Horne fired 2-under 69s while a group of five golfers were another shot back at 1 under.
Dorn, who returned to Pinehurst a month early after qualifying to play in the 2014 U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2, opened with a 1-over 73.
“I thought I played really well,” said Dorn, who as a 16-seed defeated Zachary Bahchou a year ago to capture the North & South crown. “I didn’t really have any super chances, but I made a few big par saves, which felt good. I feel good about my spot.”
Dorn is trying to become the first back-to-back North & South champion since Paul Simson in 1995-96.
In a moment of levity Tuesday, Argentinian Andres Schonbaum arrived to No. 8 early, hopeful to change his tee time to an earlier start. Why? He wanted to ensure he could watch the World Cup match between his native Argentina and Switzerland.
Alas, he had to stick with his 8:33 a.m. time, but upon finishing his round at the 9th hole, raced to the No. 8 clubhouse to get in front of a TV. When Angel Di Maria scored with 2 minutes left in extra time, Schonbaum jubilantly raised his arms in triumph.
He, however, never felt fully safe until Switzerland’s last-effort free kick was cleared, allowing Schonbaum to stand, hold his hands together, and bow his head after Argentina’s 1-0 victory.
Schonbaum’s 6-over 77 seemed like a long, long time ago.
“I’d compare it to the Super Bowl, only the World Cup is every four years, so it’s different,” he said. “That’s why it’s so special. Our country is not doing well; the economy is terrible. This is the one time where we can all come together.”
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, among others – and continues to draw the best in amateur golf circles.