By Alex Podlogar
PINEHURST, North Carolina – Pinehurst No. 2 played like a U.S. Open venue on Tuesday.
And that’s perfect for Cameron Champ.
Champ, the Texas A&M star who dazzled crowds and the field at the U.S. Open two weeks ago with his Herculean driving distance, carded the lone under par round on a treacherous No. 2 during the second round of the 117th North & South Amateur, firing a brilliant 3-under 67 to win medalist honors with a two-day total of 4-under-par 136.
Champ, who needed nothing more than a 7 iron into a par-4 on a day when No. 2 played to a 76.1 scoring average – and that came on the 513-yard 16th hole – was brutally efficient with his driver for the entire round. A day ago, Champ tired down the stretch carrying his own bag after opening with five birdies in 10 holes before stumbling to a 69. On Tuesday, with his father caddying, Champ bludgeoned a field that could muster just three rounds of even par.
“I’m just managing my ball off the tee really, really well,” said a soft-spoken Champ, who led the U.S. Open field in driving distance at a 337.30 clip.
Perhaps more impressively, though, is how quickly Champ learned something all players who play No. 2 eventually learn.
“You just cannot attack any pins out here,” Champ said. “I think, the first day, that’s part of the reason I finished so badly. I played really smart all day (Tuesday). I went for the middle of the green and left myself a few 15-footers, and if I pulled one a little or pushed one a little, I could then be close. I gave myself room to miss, but I’d take 15-footers out here all day. Eighteen pars would win just about every match on No. 2, I think.”
He did better than that. Champ opened with three pars before back-to-back birdies on 4 and 5. His lone blemish was a 3-putt from 20 feet on the 8th, but roared back with birdies on 11 and 16 for a tidy 67 that left him five clear of second-place Manuel Torres.
The championship now shifts to match play, with the Round of 32 and Round of 16 being contested on Wednesday. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played on Thursday with the championship match scheduled for Friday morning.
Alabama’s Jonathan Hardee managed a 75 on Tuesday to share third with Ben Wong (73), who last month teamed with Frankie Capan to win the USGA’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship in Pinehurst.
“(No. 2) definitely played a lot harder today,” said Hardee, who comes into the North & South off a win at the Southeastern Amateur. “Pin-wise, there were a couple that were definitely iffy unfair. But it’s just a difficult golf course. Everything was a lot firmer and a lot faster today.”
It definitely proved more difficult for first-round leader Will Grimmer.
Grimmer, who fired a 5-under 65 on Monday – the lowest round by an individual on No. 2 since Martin Kaymer did it twice at the 2014 U.S. Open – struggled mightily on Tuesday, shooting 80 to fall to a tie for 10th after medal play.
Still, Grimmer, who teamed with Clark Engle to earn medalist honors at the Four-Ball last month only to lose in the first round of match play, took the tough day in stride.
“Well, if there’s one thing I learned from the Four-Ball is that being the medalist doesn’t necessarily help you in match play,” he quipped.
One of the best rounds of the day came from Pinehurst native Josh Martin, who recovered from a 3-over 38 on the front 9 to come back with three birdies on the back for an even-par 70. Martin, who plays routinely at Pinehurst and won the Donald Ross Junior three times, moved from being around the cut line when the day started into a tie for seventh by the end of play.
“This tournament is pretty special to me,” Martin said. “It would be really cool to be able to call myself a North & South Champion. This tournament has been going on forever and there have been a lot of great winners in the past.”
Eric Bae, who won the North Carolina state 4-A golf championship for the local Pinecrest Patriots in 2016, also made the cut after rounds of 73 and 76. Defending champion Tim Conover also made the cut, earning the 15th seed.
The Men’s North & South Amateur Championship is the longest consecutively-running amateur golf championship in the United States. Over the past century, the best amateurs in the world have vied for its coveted Putter Boy trophy. The winners now serve as legends in the game – among them Walter Travis, Francis Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange and Davis Love III – and the championship continues to draw the best in amateur golf.
117th North & South Amateur Championship
Pinehurst No. 2
June 28, 2017
Round of 32
No. 1 Cameron Champ vs. No. 32 Zachary Bauchou, 7 a.m.
No. 16 Austin Squires vs. No. 17 Chase Hanna, 7:08 a.m.
No. 8 Spencer Soosman vs. No. 25 Austin Hitt, 7:16 a.m.
No. 9 Christopher Crawford vs. No. 24 Andrew Huseman, 7:24 a.m.
No. 4 Jonathan Hardee vs. No. 29 Eric Bae, 7:32 a.m.
No. 13 Ty Strafaci vs. No. 20 William Register, 7:40 a.m.
No. 5 Ryan Dornes vs. No. 28 Zander Lozano, 7:48 a.m.
No. 12 James Anstiss vs. No. 21 Michael Feagles, 7:56 a.m.
No. 2 Manuel Torres vs. No. 31 Brandon Bauman, 8:04 a.m.
No. 15 Tim Conover vs. No. 18 Chris Petefish, 8:12 a.m.
No. 7 Josh Martin vs. No. 26 Matthew Wetterich, 8:20 a.m.
No. 10 Ricky Castillo vs. No. 23 William Nottingham, 8:28 a.m.
No. 3 Ben Wong vs. No. 30 Trace Travis, 8:36 a.m.
No. 14 Thomas Eldridge vs. No. 19 Peter Knade, 8:44 a.m.
No. 6 Alex Smalley vs. No. 27 Keegan Hoff, 8:52 a.m.
No. 11 Will Grimmer vs. No. 22 Patrick Fishburn, 9 a.m.
Round of 16
June 28, 2017