Cooper Musselman has made the All-SEC Academic Team while at Kentucky.
Musselman, who just completed his senior season for the Wildcats, fired a tidy 3-under 67 on Pinehurst No. 2 to lead by two shots after the first round of the 118th North & South Amateur on Monday.
He did so – in his words – by following an easier-said-than-done gameplan he set for himself: find the fairways, hold the middle of the greens, and make a bunch of putts, including some long ones.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because every year at the North & South it seems to take players time to figure out the best way to approach No. 2 – and that is to hit the middle of Donald Ross’ treacherous greens, then putt to corners.
“I was just trying to be smart and play to the strengths of my game,” Musselman said. “I just wanted to hit the fairways and the middle of the greens and get lucky by making a long putt.”
He made one long one for birdie on the 4th hole, backing that up with birdies at 13 and 14. But he added a 40-footer on the 512-yard, par-4 16th to get as low as 4 under before a bogey at 18 left him with the 67.
“I made a lot of putts,” Musselman said. “A LOT of putts.”
While Musselman figured out – rather quickly, we might add – a smart way to approach No. 2, longtime North & South veteran Zachary Bauchou again showed why he has been a constant threat to win on No. 2 over the years.
Bauchou, who recently led Oklahoma State to the NCAA Championship, has a significant history in the North & South. As a young junior golfer, he went to the 18th hole just 1-down in the championship match against Andrew Dorn, finishing as the runner-up. And last year, he toppled medalist and U.S. Open phenom Cameron Champ in the Round of 32 of match play.
“No. 2 is my favorite course in the whole world. This course doesn’t let you have an ounce anywhere; it doesn’t give you any room to budge. Good golf is very definable out here, so it’s nice to see where my game stacks up. U.S. Opens are played here, the U.S. Amateur is coming back here next year. There’s a reason.” – Zachary Bauchou
Now, Bauchou appears set on another run at the Putter Boy trophy after opening with a 1-under 69 to share second place with SMU’s Gray Townsend, of Winston-Salem, and West Virginia’s Matthew Sharpstene, of Cornelius. As good as the 69 was, Bauchou’s round was a bit up and down, with a birdie on 2, back-to-back bogeys on 3 and 4, then two more birdies on 5 and 6, followed by another bogey, and eventually closing the front nine in even. Birdies at 12 and 13 moved him into sole possession of the lead at one point before a bogey at 18.
Still, Bauchou was in good spirits – like he always is in Pinehurst.
“No. 2 is my favorite course in the whole world,” he said. “This course doesn’t let you have an ounce anywhere; it doesn’t give you any room to budge. Good golf is very definable out here, so it’s nice to see where my game stacks up. U.S. Opens are played here, the U.S. Amateur is coming back here next year. There’s a reason.”
As always, there are several players with local ties playing the North & South. A few to watch:
- Three-time Donald Ross Junior Championship winner Josh Martin had one of his best career North & South rounds after an even-par 70 gave him a share of fifth place.
- A.J. Beechler, who has won the last two individual State 4-A Championships for nearby Pinecrest High School, made the turn at 3 over after a bogey on 8 and a double bogey on 9. But he made eight pars and a birdie on 15 to finish and card a 2-over 72 and leave him tied for 19th.
- Eric Bae had a much tougher start than his former high school teammate Beechler, opening bogey-bogey-double to fall to 4 over. But the Wake Forest sophomore played the last 15 holes in 2 under to also come in at 2-over 72.
A FEW NOTABLES
There are several well-known amateurs in the field. A quick look:
- Alex Smalley, Duke’s top player who is coming off a wire-to-wire victory at the Sunnehanna Amateur last week, shared the lead for a while at 2 under before coming in at 1-over 71 and a share of 9th.
- Matt Parziale, who played in the Masters after winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur and made headlines as a working firefighter in Massachusetts, had a 3-over 73 and is tied for 25th.
- Frankie Capan, who with Ben Wong won the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Pinehurst, had a 3-over 73. Wong also came in at 73.
- Defending champion William Nottingham had a 5-over 75 and is in 44th.
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.
Medal play will continue with the second round on Tuesday, and the field will be cut to 32 and move to match play. The Round of 32 and Round of 16 will be played on Wednesday while the Quarterfinals and Semifinals will be played on Thursday.
The Championship’s finals will be played at 7 a.m. on Friday. Admittance to all rounds is free to the public, which is encouraged to come watch.