PINEHURST – Hunter Wolcott didn’t figure that he would even advance to match play, much less be one of the final four competitors left in the 119th North & South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2.
The rising junior at the University of Tennessee needed to advance through a 9-man playoff Wednesday for one of the last three spots in match play. On Friday, he needed a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to extend his quarterfinal match against Canada’s top amateur, Joey Savoie.
Wolcott’s birdie on the par-4 second hole – his 35th hole of the day – secured a spot in Saturday morning’s semifinal against Georgia Tech junior Noah Norton. Cooper Dossey of Austin, Texas will meet Blake Taylor of Atkinson, N.C., in the first semifinal match that will start at 7:00 a.m.
After narrowly missing a five foot birdie putt on the par-three 17th, Wolcott stepped to the 450-yard par-four 18th trailing Savoie by one hole. The 6-foot-4 Volunteer state native blasted his drive to 80 yards from the pin, but left himself about 30 feet for birdie. Savoie’s birdie attempt from just over 30 feet narrowly missed leaving Wolcott a chance to force a playoff.
“I felt good on this (18th) green; I made about a 40-footer here yesterday to win my match,” said Wolcott, the son of former PGA pro Bob Wolcott. “I hit a great drive, I knew I was putting dead uphill, that’s what I wanted and got a good read on it.”
After both players made par on the first playoff hole, Wolcott drained his 12-foot birdie effort to earn a spot in the semifinal round of the oldest continually running amateur championship in the United States.
“In sudden death, you’ve got to make a birdie, get birdie looks, because you know your opponent’s going to gun for it. We both hit good shots into one – didn’t make them, and both hit good shots into two, and I made mine,” said Wolcott.
After shooting one-over in Wednesday’s second round and earning a berth in the match play on No. 2, a par-70 layout for the North & South, Wolcott defeated Ervin Chang 2-up Thursday. On Friday morning, Wolcott won four of the first 10 holes and went on to a 4 & 3 victory in his match against Pinehurst resident and Wake Forest standout Eric Bae.
Instead of an early departure, now the Burns, Tenn., resident will spend at least one more night in the North Carolina Sandhills.
“It’s kind of crazy the week I’ve had,” said Wolcott. “This is my fourth-straight week of golf. I played my last round in the Northeast Am on Saturday, played the practice round here Sunday and Monday. On Wednesday night I booked a flight because I shot 3-over on (No.) 4 (in the first round), and I was like ‘I’ve gotta get out of here.’ But I got into a 9-for-3 playoff, birdied the playoff hole, and then to get into the final four. It’s just been a crazy, hectic week full of surprises, and I’m just going to go and try to finish it off tomorrow.”
Wolcott will meet Norton, who made sand saves on the final two holes Friday, in Saturday’s semifinal round.
Norton, who played in the U.S. Open earlier this month, was one up on Travis Vick when both had birdie putts on the par-four 16th. After Vick, an AJGA All-American who will be a freshman at Texas this fall, made his 30 footer, Norton holed his 10-foot putt to remain in front.
“Sixteen is definitely the hardest hole out here,” said Norton, who has twice qualified for the U.S. Amateur. “I hit a really good iron in there to about 10 feet to a back tucked pin. He made about a 30-footer and he dropped one, threw a huge fist pump, so it was getting pretty intense.”
Norton then got up-and-down from the sand on both the par-three 17th and par-four 18th to preserve his lead.
“This is my first time here,” said the native of Chico, Calif. “It’s a tough course. You just never know where you are on the hole. It’s just about sticking to the game plan and fighting to the last second.”
Taylor, who hails from the small town of Atkinson, N.C., just over a two-hour drive from Pinehurst, has been coming to No. 2 since the 2005 U.S. Open. Now the rising senior at East Carolina is two wins away from lifting the coveted Putter Boy trophy.
He needed 22 holes to win his round of 32 match Thursday before defeating Ryan Burnett 1-up Friday morning. In his afternoon quarterfinal, Taylor trailed NC State’s Benjamin Shipp by one after a bogey on the par-five 10th. However, a run of three birdies in a four-hole span from the 12th through 15th gave Taylor a two-hole cushion. Pars on the 16th and 17th holes secured a berth in the semifinals for the lone remaining North Carolina native in the field.
“I’ve been playing well all summer,” said Taylor who finished as runner-up with ECU teammate Logan Shuping in the USGA Amateur Four Ball last month at Bandon, Ore. “No. 2 kind of fits my game. You’ve got to hit the ball really well and be patient. Going for the middle of the greens, and using the few pins you can go at.”
Taylor took a roller coaster ride over the Donald Ross design to land in Saturday’s semifinal round.
“Especially out here, anything can happen. In my first match yesterday, I was four-up through eight, had a rough back nine, and we ended up going 22 holes. This morning, I was down three through five, but I was able to come back and win it on 18. It can always change so fast, but that’s exaggerated because this is such a tough course. You can go from birdie to bogey so easily.”
With his brother Luke on his bag, Dossey won the final two holes in both Friday morning’s round of 16 and the afternoon quarterfinal to earn a spot in the semis. An All-American at Baylor, Dossey made long birdie putts on 17 and 18 to defeat Ricky Castillo, the world’s second-ranked junior golfer, 1-up.
“This morning on 17, I was one down with two to play and hit it to six feet, so I like that hole. I wanted to hit it to the middle of the green and give my putter a change. I got a really good read from about 40 feet, hit it just where I wanted to and it broke at the last second into the hole,” said Norton, who made a 20 footer on 18 to secure the win.
After his brother Sam carried his bag for the first three round of the North & South, Dossey’s younger brother Luke, who will join him at Baylor this fall, took over Friday. Dossey credits his sibling with keeping him relaxed through a pair of tense matches on the storied No. 2 layout.
“It’s really special. (Luke and Sam) have watched me struggle the last two years; they’re my best friends,” said Dossey, who has battled a wrist injury since earning All-America honors as a freshman in 2017. “I’m sad Sam had to go home, but this morning felt really good for some reason. I finished the round and started crying, and to experience this with Luke is really special. I actually caddied for him in the qualifier, then he missed the cut, so he started today for me. He keeps me thinking about stuff other than golf on the course, so it’s been really fun having him on the bag.”
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 16
Pinehurst No. 2
Friday, June 28
No. 1 Ricky Castillo, Yorba Linda, CA d. No. 17 Andy Ogletree, Union, MS, 3 & 2
No. 8 Cooper Dossey, Austin, TX d. No. 9 Ryan Gerard, Raleigh, NC, 2 & 1
No. 4 Benjamin Shipp, Duluth, GA d. No. 20 Blake Collyer, Australia, 4 & 3
No. 5 Blake Taylor, Atkinson, NC d. No. 12 Ryan Burnett, Lafayette, CA, 1-up
No. 18 Noah Norton, Chico, CA d. No. 2 Garrett Rank, Canada, 2 & 1
No. 23 Travis Vick, Houston, TX d. No. 7 Noah Goodwin, Corinth, 6 & 5
No. 30 Hunter Wolcott, Burns, TN d. No. 19 Eric Bae, Pinehurst, NC, 4 & 3
No. 11 Joey Savoie, Canada d. No. 27 Max Theodorakis, Danbury, 3 & 2
Pinehurst No. 2
Friday, June 28
No. 8 Cooper Dossey, Austin, TX d. No. 1 Ricky Castillo, Yorba Linda, CA, 1-up
No. 5 Blake Taylor, Atkinson, NC d. No. 4 Benjamin Shipp, Duluth, GA, 2&1
No. 18 Noah Norton, Chico, CA, d. No. 23 Travis Vick, Houston, TX, 1-up
No. 30 Hunter Wolcott, Burns, TN d. No. 11 Joey Savoie, Canada, 20 Holes
Pinehurst No. 2
Saturday, June 29
Matches to begin at 7 a.m.
No. 8 Cooper Dossey, Austin, TX vs. No. 5 Blake Taylor, Atkinson, NC
No. 18 Noah Norton, Chico, CA vs. No. 30 Hunter Wolcott, Burns, TN
Pinehurst, No. 2
Saturday, June 29
Match to begin around 12:30 p.m.