Ty Strafaci advances to the quarterfinals of the 117th North & South, a championship his grandfather Frank won twice, in 1938 and 1939.
By Alex Podlogar
PINEHURST, North Carolina – Ty Strafaci never met his grandfather.
But he may never have been as close to him as he is right now.
Strafaci won two 19-hole matches on a grueling day at the 117th North & South Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2 on Wednesday, advancing to the quarterfinals of the championship that his grandfather Frank Strafaci won twice, in 1938 and 1939.
“I never got to meet him,” Strafaci said after a birdie on the first hole finally was enough to beat Pinehurst native Eric Bae in the Round of 16. “But I’ve seen pictures of him. Actually, I’ve seen a lot of pictures of him here.”
Few tournaments can match the storied history of the North & South Amateur. It is the longest consecutively-running amateur championship in the United States, but even in its 117 years, one feat has never been accomplished – no grandfather and grandson pairing have won the North & South. The only father and son to win the North & South are Jack Nicklaus (1959) and Jack Nicklaus II (1985).
“We’re very drawn to Pinehurst,” Strafaci said. “Pinehurst has meant a lot to our family over the years.”
Ty Strafaci’s father Frank, who played the North & South several times as well, has vintage photos of his father at the ready on his phone. One photo is from the 1938 North & South trophy presentation on the steps of the South Veranda, Pinehurst’s famed columns visible in the background. Presenting the trophy to Strafaci is Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of baseball.
“I love the (restoration) of No. 2,” said Ty Strafaci, who remarked that No. 2 looked pretty similar today to the photos of grandfather playing in Pinehurst. “The pine trees were probably only 7- or 8-feet high, though.”
While he played well to advance in two tough matches, the 13th-seeded Strafaci perhaps got a little help from someone looking out for him Friday afternoon. After making a ticklish short putt for par on 17 to square the match with Bae, Strafaci fanned his drive well right of the bunker on the edge of the 18th fairway. His ball struck a tree, but caromed into the fairway alongside that bunker. While he had a long iron shot into the green, Strafaci made a par to halve the hole and extend the match.
On the first hole on No. 2, Strafaci, a rising junior at Georgia Tech, hit a perfect tee shot into the neck of the fairway, aimed directly for the pin tucked in the left corner of the green, and struck a beautiful approach shot to within 5 feet of the cup. It was enough to finally put away Wake Forest’s Bae, who was vying to become the first local player to win the North & South since Jack Fields in 2011.
“Eric’s an incredible player,” Strafaci said. “He’s so tough and just keeps coming at you.”
It’s a different kind of day for No. 1 seed Cameron Champ, who’s now 3-down through 14 to Zach Bauchou at the North & South. pic.twitter.com/KBGa1l0nZM
— Pinehurst Resort (@PinehurstResort) June 28, 2017
It was a brutal day for the high seeds. Top-seeded star Cameron Champ, who was the only player under par after two rounds of stroke play, fell in the Round of 32 to 2013 North & South Runner-Up Zach Bauchou. Four of the championship’s top-5 seeds lost in the morning matches, including Ben Wong, who won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Pinehurst last month. Defending champion Tim Conover lost to Chris Petefish in 20 holes in the Round of 32.
Perhaps no player faced a tougher draw when the day began than Cincinnati junior Austin Squires. Seeded 16th, Squires outlasted Big 12 Champion Chase Hanna 1-up in the morning before drawing Bauchou in the afternoon. Bauchou, who was seeded 32nd after a second-round 79 that included a bogey on the 18th hole to barely survive the cut, seemed primed to make another deep North & South run until he ran into Squires, who prevailed 3 & 1.
“Both Cameron Champ and Zach are great players, and were probably two of the very best in the field. I knew I had my work cut out for me.” -Austin Squires
“I knew coming into today that I would need some great golf if I was going to advance,” said Squires, who lowered his stroke average by five shots this season and won the Firestone Invitational for his first college win. “Both Cameron Champ and Zach are great players, and were probably two of the very best in the field. I knew I had my work cut out for me.”
Squires advances to play Texas golfer Spencer Soosman in the quarterfinals, which begin at 7 a.m. on Thursday. Both the quarterfinals and semifinals will be played Thursday with the championship match scheduled for 7 a.m. on Friday. Spectators are welcome and admission is free.
Strafaci will face New Zealand’s James Antiss in the quarterfinals while Petefish will take on Clemson’s William Nottingham. Duke’s Alex Smalley, who defeated Will Grimmer in the Round of 16, will play North Florida’s Trace Travis.
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.
117th North & South Amateur Championship
Pinehurst No. 2
June 28, 2017
Round of 32
No. 32 Zachary Bauchou d. No. 1 Cameron Champ, 3&1
No. 16 Austin Squires d. No. 17 Chase Hanna, 1up
No. 8 Spencer Soosman d. No. 25 Austin Hitt, 1up
No. 9 Christopher Crawford d. No. 24 Andrew Huseman, 4&2
No. 29 Eric Bae d. No. 4 Jonathan Hardee, 1up
No. 13 Ty Strafaci d. No. 20 William Register, 19 holes
No. 28 Zander Lozano d. No. 5 Ryan Dornes, 2&1
No. 12 James Anstiss d. No. 21 Michael Feagles, 3&1
No. 2 Manuel Torres d. No. 31 Brandon Bauman, 19 holes
No. 18 Chris Petefish d. No. 15 Tim Conover, 19 holes
No. 26 Matthew Wetterich d. No. 7 Josh Martin, 1up
No. 23 William Nottingham d. No. 10 Ricky Castillo, 4&3
No. 30 Trace Travis d. No. 3 Ben Wong, 4&2
No. 19 Peter Knade d. No. 14 Thomas Eldridge, 4&3
No. 6 Alex Smalley d. No. 27 Keegan Hoff, 4&3
No. 11 Will Grimmer d. No. 22 Patrick Fishburn, 3&2
Round of 16
June 28, 2017
No. 16 Austin Squires d. No. 32 Zach Bachou, 3&1
No. 8 Spencer Soosman d. No. 9 Christopher Crawford, 19 holes
No. 13 Ty Strafaci d. No. 29 Eric Bae, 19 holes
No. 12 James Anstiss d. No. 28 Zander Lozano, 2&1
No. 18 Chris Petefish d. No. 2 Manuel Torres, 20 holes
No. 23 William Nottingham d. No. 26 Matthew Wetterich, 4&3
No. 30 Trace Travis d. No. 19 Peter Knade 2&1
No. 6 Alex Smalley d. No. 11 Will Grimmer, 2up
June 29, 2017
No. 16 Austin Squires vs. No. 8 Spencer Soosman, 7 a.m.
No. 13 Ty Strafaci vs. No. 12 James Anstiss, 7:08 a.m.
No. 18 Chris Petefish vs. No. 23 William Nottingham, 7:16 a.m.
No. 30 Trace Travis vs. No. 6 Alex Smalley, 7:24 a.m.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
Friday, June 30
TBD, 7 a.m.