By ALEX PODLOGAR
William Rainey was incredulous.
Surveying his partner David Kocher’s lie under the trees well left of the fairway on the par-5 10th hole, Rainey heard words come out of Kocher’s mouth he just couldn’t believe.
“I’m gonna take driver under the tree,” Kocher said flatly.
“Dude,” Rainey responded, “no.”
Kocher acquiesced. He took 3 wood.
“And I topped it.”
Incredibly, the 10th hole would only get more ridiculous from there.
Kocher’s decision sounds like a play from a side that would be 3-down after the front 9 on Pinehurst No. 2, not 3-up. But that’s where Rainey and Kocher were as they stood under the trees during the Round of 16 matches at the 3rd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. With Rainey pouring in birdies, they were pounding the No. 2 seed team of Wilson Furr and Davis Shore, two elite junior golfers who will be roommates when they play at Alabama next season. Furr and Shore were 11 under in medal play on No. 2 and Pinehurst No. 8 earlier in the championship.
Even with Kocher’s troubles, Furr and Shore were only in mildly better shape to take advantage of Kocher’s adventures. Rainey was in the middle of the fairway after his tee shot and Furr was wide right amidst a row of trees.
“I can either be aggressive or chip out safely,” Furr told Shore across the fairway. “I’d be 190 or so from the green if I chip out.”
Shore was also in the native rough, but felt he could get a 3 wood on the ball. But Furr’s shot could determine Shore’s decision.
“Can you hit the green from 190?” Short asked.
“Oh yeah,” deadpanned Furr, who, it should be noted, had crushed a drive 331 yards on the par-4 8th earlier.
Shore struggled with his shot, but Furr made a nice pitch from the trees. And sure enough, he arched a high approach that held the front of the 10th green, giving himself a decent look at an uphill birdie putt.
Meanwhile, the Kocher/Rainey misadventures continued.
Rainey pushed his second shot from the fairway just into the native area and very near a wire grass bush. Kocher, though, still well back of the green and tucked into the sandscape, picked up his ball.
“I mean, I was out of the hole from the start,” Kocher said, “and after I topped it, Will turned to me and said, ‘Just pick up. This is too much for me to watch.’”
Rainey faced a difficult pitch, though, to the green, and with Furr safely on the putting surface, the pressure was on. Rainey hit a nice shot, but the ball continued to trickle until it rolled off the back of the green.”
Advantage, again, to Furr and Shore.
“I was like, ‘Uh-oh,’” Kocher said.
But this is Will Rainey. That must be stated again. And Will Rainey has an uncanny ability, when he’s not starring for the College of Charleston, to pull off ridiculous trick shots.
“I told him walking up to the green that he had a lot of green to work with,” Kocher said, though the message was perhaps more hopeful than accurate.
Shore was also basically out of the hole, leaving it to Rainey and Furr. And while Rainey did have a lot of green to work with, it was all running away from him and on a very tight lie. But, whatever.
Remember, this is Will Rainey.
“I wouldn’t say anything – anything – is child’s play around here,” Rainey said, “but, honestly, it was a pretty basic chip.”
He made it.
“I mean, it’s so fast. So fast,” Kocher said. “But as soon as it landed softly on the green, I thought, ‘That’s got a chance.’”
And so, from a dead-pulled drive to a topped 3-wood to picking up to a missed a pitch shot over the green to winning the hole to go 4-up on their way to an improbable 6&5 victory over what Kocher called “probably the most talented team out here,” the 10th hole was the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in a nutshell.
“That just shows how ridiculous match play is, all in one hole,” Rainey said. “They had the advantage, then we had the advantage, then they had the advantage and then we chip in and win the hole.
“Welcome to match play.”
Welcome to the Four-Ball.