By Alex Podlogar
Standing in the native area right of the 18th fairway of Pinehurst No. 2, all Eric Bae wanted to do was fly his ball 116 yards to carry the false front of the green.
And being all square with the most accomplished player in the field, Bae also knew he might have a little extra juice on it.
“One-sixteen (116), that’s the number I played,” said Bae, a resident of Pinehurst and a local favorite. “But I knew I was probably a little jacked up.”
Bae’s wedge ended up going 131 yards. From his spot in the rough, he had had 130 yards to the pin.
Moments after former U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion Matt Parziale buried an 18-foot putt for birdie, Bae calmly rattled home his 3-footer for birdie, extending the match to extra holes. A comfortable two-putt par on the 1st hole of No. 2 gave Bae the victory in 19 holes to advance Thursday in the 119th North & South Amateur.
“The tournament means a lot to me,” said Bae, who, while in high school at nearby Pinecrest, made the state championship clinching putt when he was the last player remaining in the course. “A lot of people around Pinehurst support me, and know that I love to come out here and play. It’s such a great feeling to play in front of them.”
The match was tight throughout, and Parziale led 1-up after a birdie on 14. Parziale is no stranger to big events; after winning the Mid-Am in 2017, he earned an invitation to play The Masters in 2018 and was the low amateur at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Parziale also qualified for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
But he couldn’t hold off Bae, whose par at 16 squared the match. After matching pars on 17, Bae shoved his drove right of the fairway, setting up his fateful shot.
“I could feel the pressure,” Bae said, “and fortunately, the ball came out a little hotter.”
Bae, a sophomore at Wake Forest, is hoping to become the first Pinehurst-area resident to win the North & South since Southern Pines’ Jack Fields won in 2011.
Ben Wong told the story. Ricky Castillo heard about it.
Coming off the first playoff hole on Wednesday, Wong could recall the story immediately. Even after making a birdie to become the last man into the match play field of the North & South Amateur, Wong was already looking ahead to his Round of 32 match against the medalist, Castillo.
And Wong had good reason.
“Anything can happen in match play,” Wong said. “This tournament has shown that.”
The No. 32 seed had toppled the medalist in each of the last two years. And in two of the last three years, players won the prestigious Putter Boy trophy from the 31st seed – Tim Conover in 2016 and Ben Schlottman a year ago.
But on Thursday, Castillo ended the mini medalist curse, winning the 18th hole on Pinehurst No. 2 to finally stave off Wong, who had won the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Pinehurst and has made match play in each of his North & South appearances.
“I thought about it,” Castillo said of the story, “but I also knew if I could just play my game, I’d be right in it. And fortunately, I was able to come out on top.”
The match went back and forth on the front nine, though Wong led 2-up after a par on the 9th and kept that lead through 10. But Castillo chipped away, squaring the match on 16 before recovering nicely from the cart path left of the 18th fairway for a 2-putt par good enough to advance him to Friday’s morning Round of 16.
“I knew I was going up against a great player who has a lot of experience on No. 2,” said Castillo, the second-ranked junior golfer in the world. “Anything could happen, and really, if you’re in this field, you’re a really good player. I was glad I could be solid all day.”
Before Thursday, N.C. State’s Benjamin Shipp had never played in the same group as Duke star Alex Smalley. Sure, they’d competed against each other in several ACC and NCAA tournaments. But never paired together.
Shipp, who won twice for the Wolfpack this season and, like Smalley, has considerable North & South experience, prevailed in their first meeting on No. 2. While Smalley, at 5th was the top-ranked player left in the field, struggled to find his swing, Shipp made him pay dearly, chipping in for eagle from the back of the treacherous 5th green on his way to a 4-up lead through six holes. The match never got closer than 3-up after that.
“Alex is incredibly accomplished, and after seeing the matchup yesterday, I was pretty excited to have a chance to play him,” said Shipp, who fell in this round as the No. 2 seed a year ago after making the quarterfinals in 2016. “I feel very fortunate to beat him today.”
You know about Eric Bae.
Two-time North Carolina State 4-A Champion A.J. Beechler, who, like Bae, starred at local high school Pinecrest, had a great match against Australia’s Blake Collyer on Thursday, trading the lead three times on the front nine before taking a 2-up edge through 10.
But Collyer won three straight holes – 11-13 – to take a 1-up lead, which he carried to 18.
There, Beechler hit a towering short iron into the green setting himself up for a 15-footer to extend the match to extra holes. After Collyer missed a similar length putt, Beechler watched his attempt slip by the cup, giving Collyer the victory.
All matches in the North & South are notable once the championship reaches this point. But a few highlights:
- No. 2 seed and NHL referee Garrett Rank continued his strong play at Pinehurst, taking a 3-up lead through eight holes before dispatching Justin Tereshko 4 & 2.
- North Carolina junior Ryan Gerard reached the semifinals of the North & South a year ago and made his first step back after beating Duke’s Chandler Eaton 2 & 1.
- Only five players have ever been named the AJGA Rolex Junior Player of the Year twice. The list includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson…and SMU junior Noah Goodwin, who rolled into the Round of 16 as the No. 7 seed after dismantling Walter Egloff 6 & 5 in one of the day’s most lopsided matches.
- 2017 North & South Amateur Champion William Nottingham fell in the Round of 32 to North Carolina’s Ryan Burnett, 1-down.
The Round of 16 and quarterfinals will be played on Friday morning and afternoon. The semifinals and championship match will be played on Saturday. Spectators are welcome and admission is free.
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.
119th NORTH & SOUTH AMATEUR
Round of 32
Pinehurst No. 2
Thursday, June 27
No. 1 Ricky Castillo, Yorba Linda, CA d. No. 32 Ben Wong, The Woodlands, TX, 1-up
No. 17 Andy Ogletree, Union, MS d. No. 16 Jack Rhea, Jonesborough, TN, 1-up
No. 8 Cooper Dossey, Austin, TX d. No. 25 William Holcomb V, Crockett, TX, 6 & 4
No. 9 Ryan Gerard, Raleigh, NC d. No. 24 Chandler Eaton, Alpharetta, GA, 2 & 1
No. 4 Benjamin Shipp, Duluth, GA d. No. 29 Alex Smalley, Greensboro, NC, 3 & 2
No. 20 Blake Collyer, Australia d. No. 13 A.J. Beechler, Pinehurst, NC, 1-up
No. 5 Blake Taylor, Atkinson, NC d. No. 28 David Laskin, Elk Grove, CA, 22 Holes
No. 12 Ryan Burnett, Lafayette, CA d. No. 21 William Nottingham, Kingsport, TN, 1-up
No. 2 Garrett Rank, Canada d. No. 31 Justin Tereshko, Lexington, KY, 4 & 2
No. 18 Noah Norton, Chico, CA d. No. 15 Harrison Ott, Brookfield, WI, 2 & 1
No. 7 Noah Goodwin, Corinth, TX d. No. 26 Walter Egloff, Chevy Chase, MD, 6 & 5
No. 23 Travis Vick, Houston, TX d. No. 10 Sam Meek, Canada, 4 & 3
No. 30 Hunter Wolcott, Burns, TN d. No. 3 Ervin Chang, Lynchburg, VA, 2-up
No. 19 Eric Bae, Pinehurst, NC d. No. 14 Matt Parziale, Brockton, MA, 19 Holes
No. 27 Max Theodorakis, Danbury, CT d. No. 6 Michael Feagles, Scottsdale, AZ, 3 & 2
No. 11 Joey Savoie, Canada d. No. 22 Pierceson Coody, Plano, TX, 1-up
ROUND OF 16
Pinehurst No. 2
Friday, June 28
No. 1 Ricky Castillo, Yorba Linda, CA vs. No. 17 Andy Ogletree, Union, MS, 7 a.m.
No. 8 Cooper Dossey, Austin, TX vs. No. 9 Ryan Gerard, Raleigh, NC, 7:08 a.m.
No. 4 Benjamin Shipp, Duluth, GA vs. No. 20 Blake Collyer, Australia, 7:16 a.m.
No. 5 Blake Taylor, Atkinson, NC vs. No. 12 Ryan Burnett, Lafayette, CA, 7:24 a.m.
No. 2 Garrett Rank, Canada vs. No. 18 Noah Norton, Chico, CA, 7:32 a.m.
No. 7 Noah Goodwin, Corinth, TX vs. No. 23 Travis Vick, Houston, TX, 7:40 a.m.
No. 30 Hunter Wolcott, Burns, TN vs. No. 19 Eric Bae, Pinehurst, NC, 7:48 a.m.
No. 27 Max Theodorakis, Danbury, CT vs. No. 11 Joey Savoie, Canada, 7:56 a.m.
Pinehurst No. 2
Friday, June 28
Matches to begin around 12:30 p.m.
Pinehurst No. 2
Saturday, June 29
Matches to begin at 7 a.m.
Pinehurst, No. 2
Saturday, June 29
Match to begin around 12:30 p.m.
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