By Alex Podlogar
It hit them as they walked off the tee of the 18th hole.
This wasn’t about the golf anymore.
Through the sand and wiregrass fronting the 18th tee of Pinehurst No. 2, Louis Dobbelaar and Jackson Van Paris walked side by side. Not as rivals. Not as opponents. And in that moment, as they wove through the gallery moving effortlessly among them, as they hit the base of the hill that crests into the famed fairway ahead of them, the scene at the 121st North & South Amateur unfolded before their eyes.
The scene they had created.
The gallery resembled that of a U.S. Amateur. Spectators lined the fairway. Some walked ahead and circled the ridge overlooking the 18th green. Some cooled in the shade of the veranda while others continued walking with the competitors – as they had since the opening tee shots at sunrise.
And the players noticed.
“We’ve been mates for a little while, so it was good to soak that in together,” Dobbelaar, 19, said of his morning stroll with Van Paris. “We both just looked around and said how special it was. Those situations are generally pretty tense, but playing against someone like him, we were both able to see the broader side and appreciate the opportunity to be doing this.”
“To see that many people, it was amazing,” Van Paris said. “It takes you out of the moment for a bit. You get to appreciate how special this all really is.”
The match, it should be said, was tied.
North & South Amateur Champion Louis Dobbelaar (left) shakes hands with runner-up Jackson Van Paris on the first green of Pinehurst No, 2 after Dobbelaar prevailed in 19 holes. (Photo by John Patota)
And it was tied after they played 18 as well. But not after the 19th. Dobbelaar, the cool Aussie who made crucial par saves in the closing holes to rally back into the match, made another deft chip from the back of the first green to within inches of the cup for a comfortable par to clip Van Paris and win the 121st North & South Amateur.
“This place is extremely special to me and to my family,” Dobbelaar said. “It hasn’t really sunk it in yet, but there’s nothing better than winning at a place like Pinehurst…There’s history everywhere you look.”
Much of the crowd was on hand to support the 17-year-old Van Paris, who was bidding to become the first local player to win the North & South since Jack Fields prevailed in 2011. Like the day before, he provided plenty of fireworks on July 4th, overcoming a poor start but chipping in – yes, again – on the 7th hole and then draining a 40-footer for birdie on 9 to go 1-up in the match.
Jackson Van Paris tees off during the championship match. (Photo by Melissa Schaub)
For the second straight day, Van Paris birdied the 12th from the native area, this time stuffing his approach to inside 3 feet. “That one wasn’t terrible,” Van Paris joked to his dad in the gallery as they walked to the green. He then hit a tidy approach into the tucked pin at 13 and made par, taking a 2-up lead that he held at the 15th tee after a critical par save from right of the 14th green.
But that’s where his magic ran out.
In between clubs on the par-3 15th, Van Paris pulled his tee shot into the left bunker short of the green. Dobbelaar watched as his tee shot rolled gently off the false front, but recovered with the first of his dazzling closing chip shots for an easy par to win the hole.
Van Paris then pulled his tee shot on the long-par-4 16th, and hooked his approach into the trees separating the 16th and 17th holes, leaving himself with a difficult pitch to another tucked hole location. Dobbelaar again found himself short but just in front of the green, and hit another tight spinner that rolled gently to the hole for another conceded par. When Van Paris couldn’t hole out from the bunker he left his pitch in, the lead was gone.
Van Paris had an opening on 17 when Dobbelaar dumped his tee shot into the far right bunker, but his birdie try came up short. “I would’ve liked another one or two rotations on the putt on 17,” Van Paris said.
121st North & South Amateur Champion Louis Dobbelaar. (Photo by John Patota)
Especially after Dobbelaar came up with another great save to keep the match even at 18, setting up the final scenes.
“Hat’s off to Louis. He never really gave me any breathing room,” Van Paris said. “I chipped in and made a 40-footer and played pretty good golf, and still didn’t beat him. It was an incredible match. He’s a great champion.”
Dobbelaar will now have his name enshrined on the Perpetual Wall in Pinehurst’s History Hall as well as a dedicated locker in the North & South Amateur locker room. The North & South is Dobbeler’s sixth win in the last two years and comes on the heels of his victory at the Australian Amateur in February and the Dogwood Invitational last month.
“This was a hell of a game,” Dobbelaar said. “I really appreciate the match. It was cool to put on a bit of a show with a lot of people around. That’s just a testament to Pinehurst.”
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. 25 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 32 Finigan Tilly, 1-up
No. 29 Chad Wilfong d. No. 21 Peter Fountain, 3&2
No. 26 Louis Dobbelaar d. No. 2 Karl Vilips, 2&1
No. 3 Zack Gordon d. No. 6 Joe Highsmith, 2&1
July 3, 2021
No. 25 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 29 Chad Wilfong, 20 Holes
No. 26 Louis Dobbelaar d. No. 3 Zack Gordon, 3&1
July 4, 2021
No. 26 Louis Dobbelaar d. No. 25 Jackson Van Paris, 19 Holes