By Alex Podlogar
Photos by John Patota and Melissa Schaub
The first part of the North & South Amateur season is done, with the Men’s, Women’s and Junior events having been played over the last three weeks. The Senior events will be played on August.
Here’s a look at some of our favorite moments and quotes from those three weeks of thrilling amateur golf:
Ty Strafaci joins his grandfather as North & South Champion
The tears. The emotion. The relief. The joy. It was all there in Ty Strafaci’s beautiful run to the Putter Boy trophy to join his grandfather Frank as North & South Champions.
We’ll never forget that final scene:
Ultimately, though, the day belonged to the Strafacis.
A decorated amateur golfer himself, Frank Jr. competed in the North & South for decades, playing into the 2000s. He had hoped to join the Father and Son Club at the North & South – one that features only Jack and Jackie Nicklaus (1959 and 1985, respectively).
This, though, will do just fine.
Father and Son, following the son’s victory, chose to walk the 18th hole alone together, Frank still carrying the bag. As the large gallery that followed the match awaited them at the clubhouse, the two walked toward the blinding western sun, still beating down on them.
“You did it, bud,” Frank said to his son.
Rachel Kuehn tops mom, wins Women’s North & South
Just like William Holcomb quotes, there were so many fun Rachel Kuehn moments from her joyous march to the Putter Boy trophy. A few to remember:
There’s her linking up with Pinehurst caddie Keith Silva:
“I got extremely lucky this week,” Kuehn said. “Everybody’s telling me I’ve got the best caddie. I’ve only known Keith for four days, and already I trust him with everything. Just give me the number and the line, and I’ll try to do that. If I miss, it’s my fault, not his.”
There’s the story of Rachel’s mom, Brenda, playing the 2001 U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles while 8 months pregnant with Rachel:
“I like to say I’ve already played in a U.S. Open,” Rachel quips, drawing comedic praise from Silva. “I was there. I came along a week after.”
There’s topping her mom, who fell just a wee bit short of winning the North & South in 1995:
“I joke with my mom because she finished (well here), and has been holding that over my head,” said Kuehn with a laugh. “I’m glad I could top her a little bit, but to add my name to the list of winners here is an unbelievable feeling.”
And, perhaps even more fun than Kuehn’s win – the day before, and THAT quote:
Rachel Kuehn pumped her fist toward the hole, smiled broadly and in a voice just loud enough for the gallery watching from the clubhouse veranda behind the 18th hole of Pinehurst No. 2 to hear, told her caddie Keith Silva, “Let’s play a couple more!”
Jonathan Yaun blazes through the front nine of No. 2 in 28
Liberty’s Jonathan Yaun had one of the most electric days in North & South history, shooting a 7-under 28 on the front nine of No. 2 in his morning match victory over Oklahoma State’s Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen. Yaun outlasted Clemson’s Turk Pettit in the quarterfinals in 19 holes, but it was that 9&8 win over Neergaard-Petersen that sent a buzz through the Pinehurst clubhouse all day.
“Oh, no,” Yaun said when asked if he’s ever had a stretch of golf like that. “I’ve never shot 7 under on the front nine, let alone on the front nine of Pinehurst No. 2. It’s by the grace of God.”
William Holcomb V makes another run in Pinehurst
Everyone got to know – and learned to root for – William Holcomb V when he made his run to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur in Pinehurst.
This time, he got all the way to the North & South championship match against Ty Strafaci. It would take too long to go through Holcomb’s second magical run at Pinehurst, so let’s just revisit some of his best quotes from the week:
“Man, I love it here. This feels like home. Keith is on my bag again, I’m staying with the same host family from last year, and I’m back on No. 2, which is my favorite golf course I’ve ever played.”
“I just saw a little kid who said hi and that he remembered me. I might go play The Cradle with him.”
“I mean, there’s much bigger things in the world than winning the North & South,” Holcomb continued. “It’d be great alongside some of those other names, but that’s just not something I ever worry about. That’s really not who I am as a person.”
Holcomb paused, though, thinking about it some more.
“But, well, I wouldn’t say it would be a bad thing to have my name up there.”
“The ultimate goal is to get back here for the 2024 U.S. Open,” he said. “This feels like a second home to me, and hopefully I can come back sometime – or maybe even move here because I always play so good here.”
Pinehurst caddie Keith Silva
With Rachel, and with William. What a run.
The shortest and friendliest playoff in golf history?
The playoff for the medalist of the 118th Women’s North & South Amateur might have been both the shortest – and definitely, the friendliest – playoff in the history of golf.
Clemson’s Ivy Shepherd made a birdie on the long par-4 14th hole of No. 2, ending what the walking referee termed a “sudden victory” playoff to defeat her close friend Rachel Heck and earn medalist honors at the Women’s North & South Amateur.
“After I turned in my scorecard, I was scrolling and scrolling to see who I was playing in the playoff,” Shepherd quipped. “Then I saw, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Rachel. What the heck? It’s Rachel who’s going to make us play extra holes?”
The pair laughed as they greeted each other on the tee. “I could barely swing my driver, I was still laughing,” Heck said.
Carolinas Golfers win big at Junior North & South
The Carolinas Golf scene was represented well during all three weeks, but perhaps never better than during the Boys and Girls Junior North & South, won by Hilton Head’s Jonathan Griz and Davidson’s Amanda Sambach, who is already top 30 in the world ranking.
It’s a good reminder to always keep an eye on the Junior winners. Just a week later, two former Junior champs, Lauren Beaudreau (2016) and Aneka Seumanutafu (2017) made deep runs in this year’s Women’s North & South.
Matthew Sharpstene sets new course record on Pinehurst No. 4
In his first round of competitive golf since Covid wrecked the college golf and early amateur season, Matthew Sharpstene faced Gil Hanse’s redesign of Pinehurst No. 4.
With eight birdies in the first round of the Men’s North & South – including three in a row on 14, 15 and the drivable par-4 16th – Sharpstene clipped the mark set by Brandon Wu and Karl Vilips during the 2019 U.S. Amateur by one shot. No. 4 reopened to great acclaim in 2018 following Hanse’s redesign.
“I was playing really steady, and then made a 30-footer on 14,” he said. “That made me think, ‘Ok, now I got it going.’ Then I hit to 5 feet on 15 and drove the 16th and two-putted.
“It was a great day.”
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