Editor’s Note: The Championship Match is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. on Saturday.
By Alex Podlogar
Photos by John Patota and Melissa Schaub
PINEHURST, N.C. – Ty Strafaci never got to meet his grandfather.
But at Pinehurst, they may come together.
Strafaci fought through two hard-earned wins on a grueling day at the 120th North & South Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2 on Friday, advancing to the semifinals of the championship his grandfather Frank Strafaci won twice, in 1938 and 1939, and who passed away in 1988.
Should Strafaci prevail and hoist the coveted Putter Boy trophy on Saturday, his name would go onto the Wall of Perpetuity in the History Hall of Pinehurst’s clubhouse, becoming the first pairing of grandfather and grandson to win the nation’s longest consecutively running amateur championship.
Frank Strafaci, left, after winning the 1938 North & South Amateur, is awarded as the trophy presentation by Kennesaw Mountain Landis.
“It’s just generations of Strafacis at Pinehurst,” Ty said, who played at Georgia Tech and reached the quarterfinals of the North & South in 2017. “My grandfather played throughout the ’30s and my dad played all of the way up into the 2000s. It’s been about 90 years for us playing this tournament.”
Strafaci had to fight his game in the morning Round of 16, emerging with a 1-up victory over Oklahoma transfer Jonathan Brightwell. “I think I shot 80,” Strafaci said.
It was a 77, but…point taken.
The afternoon match against Pepperdine’s Joe Highsmith featured better golf, but was just as demanding. Strafaci hit it close and made birdie on the par-3 17th to take a 1-up lead, then made a slick 6-footer on 18 in front of a large gallery to close out the match.
“That’s probably the most competitive match I’ve ever played,” Strafaci said. “Joe’s a phenomenal player.”
Liberty’s Jonathan Yaun
That sets the stage for Saturday’s semifinals, where Strafaci will face Liberty’s Jonathan Yaun, who 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.”
The opposite side of the bracket features a name well-known to the Pinehurst faithful – at least over the last 11 months. 2019 U.S. Amateur fan favorite William Holcomb V managed his way through two matches on Friday, dispatching the championship’s highest-ranked player in the field, Georgia’s Davis Thompson, 5&4 in the morning before building a 4-up lead and eventually beating Santa Clara’s Matt McCarty 2&1 in the afternoon.
William Holcomb V plays a shot from the native area while caddie Keith Silva looks on.
Holcomb and his veteran Pinehurst caddie Keith Silva kept the running commentary going throughout the matches, delighting the gallery around them. On the 17th hole against McCarty, clinging to a 2-up lead after losing the last two holes, Holcomb begged the ball, while still in flight, to…
“Go. GO!” Holcomb yelled. “Carry…Somehow!”
As the ball just barely carried the front right bunker, Holcomb gave his thanks.
“Attaboy,” he said, picking up his tee.
Two putts later, he closed out the match, but did ponder the difference between this week and his magical run to the U.S. Amateur semifinals in Pinehurst less than a year ago.
“I don’t know, it doesn’t really feel the same as last year at the Am,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m smiling as much as I did, and Keith and I are not joking as much. It’s like we just really need to bear down more and hit shots.”
Perhaps that’s a championship-winning formula.
“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.”
LSU’s Trey Winstead
He’ll have to go through LSU’s Trey Winstead to get a step further than he did at the U.S. Amateur. Winstead ousted the North & South’s defending champion Cooper Dossey, making a series of long putts down the stretch to prevail 2&1 in one of the afternoon’s tightest matches.
“Cooper’s one heck of a golfer, and he’s probably an even better person,” Winstead said. “When you have someone as talented as he is, it’s never going to be an easy match. On a course like this, you have a hit a lot of fairways and greens, and if the putter gets hot, you have to take advantage of it.”
It’s been a special journey to the semifinals for Winstead, who has his father, LSU head golf coach Chuck Winstead, on his bag. The two of them know what’s at stake on Saturday.
“It would mean the world to win here, where there’s so much history,” Winstead said. “Just the names that have been around here and all the different tournaments, it’s so special.”
It is special to the Strafacis, too, who already have a lot of history themselves at Pinehurst.
“I’m just doing it for the family history,” Strafaci said. “It’s on me now. It’s been on me the last five years I’ve played, and this is the best shot I’ve had, so I’m going to give it my all.”
And to have his name on that wall, near his grandfather’s?
“He’d be proud,” Ty said.
120th North & South Amateur
June 29-July 4
Pinehurst No. 2
Round of 32
Thursday, July 2
No. 32 Tyler Wilkes d. No. 1 Travis Vick, 1up
No. 17 Matt McCarty d. No. 16 Jackson Van Paris, 3&2
No. 8 Davis Thompson d. No. 25 Evan Davis, 19 Holes
No. 24 William Holcomb V d. No. 9 Blake Taylor, 3&2
No. 29 Gordon Sargent d. No. 4 William Paysse, 1up
No. 13 Trey Winstead d. No. 20 Connor Schmidt, 4&3
No. 5 Cooper Dossey d. No. 28 Kelly Chinn, 1up
No. 12 Nick Lyerly d. No. 21 Kiersan Vincent, 4&3
No. 31 Jonathan Brightwell d. No. 2 Peter Fountain, 3&2
No. 15 Tyler Strafaci d. No. 18 James Piot, 3&2
No. 7 Dylan Menante d. No. 26 Philip Barbaree, 1up
No. 10 Joe Highsmith d. No. 23 Andy Lopez, 3&2
No. 3 David Perkins d. No. 30 Alex Ross, 5&4
No. 14 Turk Pettit d. No. 19 Blake Hathcoat, 1up
No. 6 Rasmus Neergard-Petersen d. No. 27 Maxwell Moldovan, 2&1
No. 11 Jonathan Yaun d. No. 22 Matthew Sharpstene, 2&1
Friday July 3
Round of 16
No. 32 Tyler Wilkes vs. No. 17 Matt McCarty, 7 a.m.
No. 8 Davis Thompson vs. No. 24 Williamholcomb V, 7:08 a.m.
No. 29 Gordon Sargent vs. No. 13 Trey Winstead, 7:16 a.m.
No. 5 Cooper Dossey vs. No. 12 Nick Lyerly, 7:24 a.m.
No. 31 Jonathan Brightwell vs. No. 15 Tyler Strafaci, 7:32 a.m.
No. 7 Dylan Menante vs. No. 10 Joe Highsmith, 7:40 a.m.
No. 14 Turk Pettit d. No. 3 David Perkins, 1up
No. 6 Rasmus Neergard-Petersen vs. No. 11 Jonathan Yaun, 7:56 a.m.
No. 24 William Holcomb V d. No. 17 Matt McCarty, 2&1
No. 13 Trey Winstead d. No. 5 Cooper Dossey, 2&1
No. 15 Tyler Strafaci d. No. 10 Joe Highsmith, 1up
No. 11 Jonathan Yaun d. No. 14 Turk Pettit, 19 Holes
Saturday, July 4
No. 24 William Holcomb V vs. No. 13 Trey Winstead, 7 a.m.
No. 15 Tyler Strafaci vs. No. 11 Jonathan Yaun,7:10 a.m.
TBD 12:45 p.m.