EDITOR’S NOTE: ROUND OF 16 UPDATE:
By Alex Podlogar
Jackson Van Paris looked lost.
“That was definitely a spot I’ve never been in before,” he said.
His hands on his hips and his eyes cascading down onto the sand and pinestraw around his ball, Van Paris was tucked into the shade provided by the bevy of longleaf pines surrounding him, to the right and long of the par-3 15th green on Pinehurst No. 2.
It was a place you didn’t want to be. Not as a golfer, anyway.
He had an angle to the green to play a shot, but when he did look in that direction, he could see his match play opponent Nick Lyerly standing comfortably on the edge of the green, leaning on his putter with his legs crossed, the classic golfer pose. The steady breeze whipped Lyerly’s green shirt, which glistened in the abundant sunshine. Tied through 14 holes in the Round of 32 of the 121st North & South Amateur on Thursday, Lyerly had time to size up his 20-footer for birdie while Van Paris mulled his options.
They were few. Van Paris, the star from Pinehurst and Vanderbilt recruit, grabbed one club, pondered the shot again, then went back to his bag. He stepped back to his ball and took another forlorn look at the shot ahead of him.
“I really didn’t know what to do when I was looking at it at first,” Van Paris said of the situation. “I was like, ‘Do I play it like a bunker shot, or some bump and run?’ – I don’t even know.”
But even if he hadn’t been in this specific spot before, Van Paris had been in others, whether they were stored somewhere in his mind or from goofing off around the course with his friends. Suddenly what initially appeared impossible became clear.
“I just thought back to messing around in chipping contests with friends, hitting hooks around trees, and chips, and out of pinestraw to tucked pins,” Van Paris said. “Just to let my creativity work, and that’s one of the best parts of my game – the imagination around the greens. I just let my feel and imagination take over.”
Van Paris took his 60-degree wedge and hit a hard punch into the false front – or, rather, false side – of the green. The ball took one big hop and checked, rolling to about 8 feet. Lyerly missed his birdie attempt, Van Paris made the putt for par, and they headed to the 16th tee still – improbably – tied.
After Lyerly piped his drive down the left side of the 16th fairway, Van Paris blocked his tee shot far right into the pines again. This time, though, it was a place with which he was familiar; a day before, Van Paris found himself in a very similar position off the tee on 16 during the second round of stroke play.
Just as the day before, Van Paris was forced to punch back out into the fairway. And just like the day before, he had a wedge into the green to try to make par the hard way.
But unlike the day before, this time Van Paris stuck his third shot to less than 2 feet, and this time, he made a par, keeping the match tied.
“I just thought, what shot gives me the best chance at making par?” Van Paris said. “And then all I could do was trust my wedges. … I gave myself a good look from the middle of the fairway, and I hit probably my best shot of the day. Actually, I will give that my best shot of the day.”
That was where the heroics ran out – not just for Van Paris, but for Lyerly as well. Both made bogey on the par-3 17th, though Lyerly’s bunker shot hit the pin and bounced back nearly 15 feet in what appeared to be a very bad break. They went to 18 still tied, both hit good drives and good approaches, but Lyerly ran his birdie attempt about 4 feet past and above the hole, then missed the comebacker for par to drop the match.
“That match shouldn’t have ended that way,” Van Paris said. “We both played too good for it to end the way it did. I feel really bad for Nick. You never want to see someone 3-putt on the last hole to lose a match.
“I’m just thankful to survive and advance. It was the second day in a row that I really didn’t have my best stuff. … I just had to find a way to get it in the hole all day.”
And so Van Paris keeps alive his bid to be the first local player since 2011 to win the North & South Amateur as the championship moves to the Round of 16 and quarterfinals on Friday before the semifinals and championship match on Saturday.
Van Paris, though, won’t allow himself to think that far ahead. With the entire afternoon ahead of him – his match ended before the nearby Village Chapel chimes struck noon – Van Paris had far more pressing matters on his mind.
“I think I’m going to go hit some balls, that the first thing I’ve got to do,” he quipped. “But then, just try to wipe it all clean and get ready for tomorrow.”
IN OTHER MATCHES:
- In Wednesday’s playoff for the remaining seeds, Finigan Tilly got a second lease on North & South life when a fellow player was eliminated after a rules violation, allowing Tilly to play on and capture the championship’s 32nd and final seed. Tilly made the opportunity count, knocking off North & South medalist Christian Banke, 2&1.
- No. 2 seed Karl Vilips continued to cruise in Pinehurst, rolling over Carson Lundell, 5&3. Vilips will face last year’s AJGA Rolex Player of the Year, Kelly Chinn, in the Round of 16 on Friday morning, Chinn, who will play next season at Duke, defeated Latin America Amateur Champion Abel Gallegos (and his caddie Isabella Fierro), 1-up.
- Liberty’s Jonathan Yaun clearly still has some magic at Pinehurst. Yaun, who famously shot a staggering front-nine 28 on No. 2 in the North & South a year ago, advanced to the Round of 16 after clipping Kentucky’s Alex Goff, 1-up.
- Reigning ACC Champion Peter Fountain, who shared medalist honors at the North & South a year ago, also advanced on Thursday, defeating Josh Gilkison, 3&2.
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 vs. No. 17 Joseph Pagdin, 7 a.m.
No. 25 Jackson Van Paris vs. No. 9 Luke Gifford, 7:08 a.m.
No. 29 Chad Wilfong vs. No. 20 Jonathan Yaun, 7:16 a.m.
No. 5 Dongjin Park vs. No. 21 Peter Fountain, 7:24 a.m.
No. 2 Karl Vilips vs. No. 18 Kelly Chinn, 7:32 a.m.
No. 26 Louis Dobbelaar vs. No. 23 Jordan Batchelor, 7:40 a.m.
No. 3 Zack Gordon vs. No. 19 Ben Carr, 7:48 a.m.
No. 6 Joe Highsmith vs. No. 11 Brad Reeves, 7:56 a.m.
July 2, 2021
July 3, 2021
July 3, 2021
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