By Alex Podlogar
To say Pinehurst No. 2 is known for its greens is like saying Payne Stewart hit a good putt that time on 18.
Yeah, we know.
But drill down a little deeper into the conversation about specific greens on Donald Ross’ masterpiece, and a few come to mind quickly. Don’t go long on the 3rd green. Be careful with 13 (more on that in a minute). In the bunker – either bunker – on 6? Good luck. Watch out on 14.
And, for the love of God and Willie McRae himself, don’t go left on 5.
It’s safe to say, though, that the 11th green doesn’t come up that much. Sure, play No. 2 with a caddie and you’ll hear the line – “Everything breaks toward Morganton Road.” But 11 doesn’t always seem to strike fear into the player.
At least not from the fairway.
On the green, it can be a different story. Often, the golfer doesn’t realize the 11th’s subtle treachery until after he or she has struck the putt. A talented golfer might pick up on it, but then again, he might not. That’s the beauty of Ross’s greens.
But, play them enough, and you can begin to see things.
Jackson Van Paris can see those things.
“I don’t get to play No. 2 as much as I’d like, but yeah, having been able to play here several times before, I have a pretty good idea of what a putt is going to do,” Van Paris says.
And on 11, he proved it.
Van Paris, the young star from Pinehurst, rode a hot putter through a day-long rain delay and his Round of 16 opponent Luke Gifford on his way to a 4&3 victory and a berth into the quarterfinals of the 121st North & South Amateur Championship on Friday, keeping alive his bid to become the first local player in a decade to win the North & South.
Van Paris never trailed in the match, but even after making three birdies in the first four holes to a take a 3-up lead, he was tested by Gifford throughout. By the time the pair made the turn, Van Paris was 4 under and Gifford was 3 under, but Van Paris led just 1-up.
After missing a short birdie putt on 10, Van Paris hit his approach to 10 feet above the hole on 11 to give himself a second good chance to add a cushion to his lead.
In looking at it, though, it wasn’t that good a chance.
Van Paris stalked the putt, and, with his back to Morganton Road – no help there, caddie – addressed the ball and made his stoke, playing the ball almost a foot left of the cup. Even after he struck it, a murmur went through his supportive gallery following him. Surely, he had played too much break.
As if on a string, the ball curled toward the cup, and with a little pace on it, fell dead-center for birdie and a 2-up lead.
“Oh, it was snapping,” Van Paris said.
The Vanderbilt recruit built his lead from there, making an 8-footer for par on 12 to halve the hole, and then hit a deft chip down the hill of 13 to get up-and-down from left of the green. Gifford had his own problems with Mr. Ross on 13, hitting a beauty of an approach from the fairway bunker that landed just 4 feet past the hole. But, with a lot of spin on the shot, Gifford’s ball took a big hop and then zipped backwards – all the way back past the pin and off the false front and into the fairway.
Two holes later, on 15, Van Paris closed out the match with another par save from 7 feet, punctuating a round in which he didn’t card a bogey and made five birdies in 15 holes.
“On the front nine (Luke and I) shot 31 and 32, which, I’m going to take a guess that those were the two best scores on the front nine, maybe all week,” Van Paris said. “I played really solid, and my putter was the best part of my game. I made a lot of putts when I needed to.”
It was a long day for all of the players. The Round of 16 matches began at 7 a.m., but after about 90 minutes, the groups were pulled off the course and the championship was suspended for heavy rain. Play resumed at 2 p.m. and lasted for about 45 minutes before another heavy downpour led to another stoppage of play. Finally, at around 3:30, play resumed again and all Round of 16 matches were able to finish.
The delay has had an impact on the rest of the championship’s schedule. The quarterfinals and semifinals will now be played on Saturday with the championship match moved to a 7 a.m. start on Sunday.
In other matches:
- ACC Champion Peter Fountain continued his steady play and advanced to the quarterfinals after clipping Dongjin Park in 19 holes. Fountain, who shared medalist honors after stroke play in the 2020 North & South, will face the championship’s oldest competitor, Chad Wilfong, who defeated 2020 North & South semifinalist Jonathan Yaun 3&2. Wilfong, 40, is the reigning Carolinas Mid-Amateur Champion and is a past champion of the North Carolina Amateur.
- Finigan Tilly, the last player to make the field with the 32nd seed, stayed alive by beating Florida’s Joe Pagdin in 21 holes. Tilly will look to keep the magic going against hometown fan favorite Van Paris.
- No. 2 seed and 2019 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist Karl Vilips continues to march through the North & South field, taking down Duke recruit and AJGA Player of the Year Kelly Chinn 3&2. Vilips will face fellow Aussie Louis Dobbelaar in the quarterfinals. Dobbelaar, who won the 2021 Australian Amateur, rolled to a 5&3 win over Jordan Batchelor.
- No. 3 seed Zack Gordon beat Ben Carr 2&1 to advance and will play Joe Highsmith, the 33rd-ranked amateur in the world, in the next round. Highsmith won four holes in a span of six holes played on the back nine to rally past Brad Reeves.
121st North & South Amateur
Round of 32
July 1, 2021
No. 32 Finigan Tilly d. No. 1 Christian Banke, 2&1
No. 17 Joseph Pagdin d. No. 16 John Driscoll III, 4&3
No. 25 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 8 Nick Lyerly, 1up
No. 9 Luke Gifford d. No. 24 Tommy Morrison, 4&3
No. 29 Chad Wilfong d. No. 4 Grant Haefner, 2&1
No. 20 Jonathan Yaun d. No. 13 Alex Goff, 1up
No. 5 Dongjin Park d. No. 28 Tyler Wilkes, 1up
No. 21 Peter Fountain d. No. 12 Josh Gilkison, 3&2
No. 2 Karl Vilips d. No. 31 Carson Lundell, 5&3
No. 18 Kelly Chinn d. No. 15 Abel Gallegos, 1up
No. 26 Louis Dobbelaar d. No. 7 Ben Woodruff, 1up
No. 23 Jordan Batchelor d. No. 10 Nick Robillard, 3&2
No. 3 Zack Gordon d. No. 30 William Moll, 19 holes
No. 10 Ben Carr d. No. 14 Jediah Morgan, 4&3
No. 6 Joe Highsmith d. No. 27 Trevor Hulbert, 4&3
No. 11 Brad Reeves d. No. 22 Varun Chopra, 1up
Round of 16
July 2, 2021
No. 32 Finigan Tilly d. No. 17 Joseph Pagdin, 21 holes
No. 25 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 9 Luke Gifford, 4&3
No. 29 Chad Wilfong d. No. 20 Jonathan Yaun, 3&2
No. 21 Peter Fountain d. No. 5 Dongjin Park, 19 holes
No. 2 Karl Vilips d. No. 18 Kelly Chinn, 3&2
No. 26 Louis Dobbelaar d. No. 23 Jordan Batchelor, 5&3
No. 3 Zack Gordon d. No. 19 Ben Carr, 2&1
No. 6 Joe Highsmith d. No. 11 Brad Reeves, 1-up
July 3, 2021
No. 32 Finigan Tilly vs. No. 25 Jackson Van Paris, 6:50 a.m.
No. 29 Chad Wilfong vs. No. 21 Peter Fountain, 7 a.m.
No. 2 Karl Vilips vs. No. 26 Louis Dobbelaar, 7:10 a.m.
No. 3 Zack Gordon vs. No. 6 Joe Highsmith, 7:20 a.m.
July 3, 2021
July 4, 2021
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