Tennessee’s Chad Merzbacher leads after lone under-par round
By Alex Podlogar
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – After just a couple of holes, Will Grimmer noticed something.
The hole locations looked familiar.
A year after playing in the 2014 U.S. Open on Pinehurst No. 2 and two years after shooting his way into Pinehurst lore with the only known 59 carded in competitive play, Grimmer returned to No. 2 for his first appearance in the North & South Men’s Amateur on Monday. He shot a 2-over 72, good for a tie for sixth and just three shots back of leader Chad Merzbacher after the first round of the 115th playing of the national event.
“That was fun. The only time I’ve ever played No. 2 was last year during the U.S. Open, and it was kind of weird to see it, well, normal,” said Grimmer, who shot his 59 during the second round of the 2013 North & South Junior on Pinehurst No. 1.
“The only time I’ve ever played No. 2 was last year during the U.S. Open, and it was kind of weird to see it, well, normal.” -Will Grimmer
“But I could still reminisce and remember how it felt last year. I stood on the 17th tee today and looked at that back left pin, and I was able to have flashbacks. As much as I was focused on today’s round, I had to kind of take a step back and smile and think about what happened last year, which was also a lot of fun.”
With his father Kevin on the bag, Grimmer opened the championship with a three-putt bogey on the first hole. But Grimmer, who will play at Ohio State as a freshman next season, settled down to hit the green in regulation on the first eight holes. He chipped in on the 8th and 15th holes, finishing with three birdies offset by five bogeys.
The familiar hole locations, nearly identical to those of the first round of the 2014 U.S. Open, were beneficial.
“Having the same hole locations really helped me,” Grimmer said. “I was like, ‘OK, don’t press, play for the middle of these greens and it’s going to work out.’”
It certainly worked out for Merzbacher. The University of Tennessee rising senior also chipped in twice and had just three bogeys against four birdies despite only hitting six greens in regulation. With No. 2 playing at 7,198 yards with greens speeds running close to 12 on the stimpmeter, the Minneapolis native’s 1-under 69 was the only score under par.
“I didn’t hit the ball particularly well, but I just kind of stayed with it,” said Merzbacher, who recorded seven top-15 finishes in 12 college tournaments this season. “I stayed in control and kind of sat in the passenger seat and just let it go.” … Continue Reading