By Alex Podlogar
Think about your golf game for a moment. Think about your temperament. Think about how you handle things in general, but more importantly, how you handle things on the golf course.
How do you process golf? Be honest. Think about it: The anticipation of your round, the people you’re playing with, your warmup on the range, how those first few putts on the practice green go.
And then you head to the first tee.
And everything unravels from there. It all blows up. How do you handle it?
If you’re Karl Vilips (pictured above in a photo by John Patota), you shrug it off. Because even after making bogey on each of the first three holes to open the 121st North & South Amateur, you know you might still have eight birdies in you, including four straight to close out the round. That even after a brutal start on the easier of the two courses during stroke play – Pinehurst No. 4 – you might finish with a 5-under 65 to lead after the first round on Tuesday.
Yeah, chances are you don’t have Karl Vilips’ game.
“You know, the start really wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t what a ‘3-over-after-three-holes’ start might usually feel like,” said the Australian, who just completed his freshman season at Stanford. “I didn’t really hit any bad shots, just overclubbed a bit.
“I’ve had some rough starts recently, but I’ve learned the day doesn’t tend to stay like that for the entire round.”
It doesn’t? Huh.
Vilips, who has a long history of success at Pinehurst that includes winning the U.S. Kids World Golf Championships at 7 and 9 years old as well as a run to the quarterfinals of the 2019 U.S. Amateur, made four straight birdies between holes 7-10 to erase the, uh, apparently-not-so-bad start, hitting a wedge to a foot on the 10th to get to under par for the day. After pars at 11-14, Vilips closed out with another string of four straight birdies to enter Tuesday’s second and final day of stroke play sharing the lead with Clemson’s Zach Gordon and Arizona’s Christian Banke.
“For some reason, my game and Pinehurst just seem to get along,” Vilips said. “There’s not a lot of trouble off the tee, and my ball always seems to be very generous to me when it misses. I always seem to have a shot. I guess the course and I like each other very much.”
Must be nice.
GORDON, BANKE SHARE THE LEAD WITH VILIPS
The first line to Zack Gordon’s player page on Clemson’s golf team’s website says all anyone needed to know:
“…Has shown his ability to go low.”
Gordon had the round of the day with six birdies and only one bogey – on the 18th – for a 5-under 65 on Pinehurst No. 2 to share the lead.
“There’s nothing better than playing a good round of golf,” Gordon said. “And to do it on Pinehurst No. 2, with all the history here? Oh man.”
Gordon had three birdies through the first five holes and added birdies at 11, 14 and 15 to briefly get to 6 under, the lowest any player had been on the first day.
Banke was also 3 under through five holes on No. 4, making birdies at 3, 4 and 5 and another on the ninth to get to 4 under. He made three more birdies around two bogeys on the back, including holing a 20-footer from the back of the green on 18 to close out the round.
Now, it’s on to No. 2.
“No. 2 is so hard, and anything can happen there,” Banke said. “I hope to keep the same gameplan I had today and then whatever happens, happens. The thing’s a beast.”
Pinehurst’s Jackson Van Paris got off to a rocky start in his bid to become the first local player since 2011 to win the North & South, making bogeys on the first two holes on No. 4. But he quickly turned things around to get back to even par by the turn. Van Paris added three more birdies around a bogey on the back nine to finish at 2-under 68 and in a tie for 10th.
NICE PLAYING, MATE
Australians Louis Dobbelaar and Jed Morgan are about 9,341 miles from home this week, give or take a few.
That is not where the similarities end.
They live less than 10 minutes away from each other in their hometowns Down Under. They’ve both won the Australian Men’s Amateur Championship (Dobbelaar in 2021, Jed in 2020) and now, after the first round of the North & South Amateur, they are…tied.
Each shot 2-under 68s on No. 2, though they took circuitous routes to get there. Dobbelaar had four birdies, including one on 16, and two bogeys, including one on 18. Morgan got to 4 under before a triple bogey on 16, but birdied 18.
Now, there’s a good chance they’ll be grouped together for their second rounds on No. 4 on Wednesday.
“We’re really good mates,” Morgan said. “We’ve been best friends since we were 13 or so.”
“We live, literally, like 5 minutes away from each other,” Dobbelaar said. “Americans probably get pretty sick of us; they don’t understand about half of what we say.”
That’s OK. Their games can do the talking.
The 120-player field will complete two rounds of stroke play on Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 on Wednesday, with the low 32 players seeded for match play. No. 2 will host all match play rounds, with the Round of 32 played on Thursday, the Round of 16 and quarterfinals on Friday and the semifinals and championship matches on Saturday. Spectators are welcome and there is no fee for admission.
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