For a few months more, Ricky Castillo will remain classified as a junior golfer.
But he is wise.
Playing Pinehurst No. 2 competitively for the third time, Castillo took a cautious approach to Donald Ross’s famed masterpiece all of the way to the top of the leaderboard, earning medalist honors in the 119th North & South Amateur Championship after a sterling 1-under 69 on No. 2 on Wednesday gave him a two-day total of 5-under 137.
“It’s my third time playing the North & South, so I’ve learned where you want to miss it,” said Castillo, the No. 2-ranked junior golfer in the world. “I know on No. 2 that you need to just aim for the fat part of the green and try to leave yourself 20- and 25-footers. That’s much better putting for birdie and making pars along the way than trying to chip up a slope to a tight spot on these greens.”
Castillo, who will play at Florida in the fall, took that strategy all around No. 2, making two birdies, one bogey and 15 pars. He lipped out for birdie – from about 20 feet – on the 18th hole to ensure medalist honors by a shot over Garrett Rank, a well-known amateur who is also known for his other devotion – that of an NHL referee. Rank shot an even par 70 on Wednesday to come in at 4-under 138 and the second seed into match play.
Two years ago, Cameron Champ and Zachary Bauchou played in the final group together of the second round of the North & South. Champ won medalist honors, and Bauchou struggled mightily, finally making the field as the last man in – the 32nd seed.
A day later in the first round of match play, Bauchou ejected Champ from Pinehurst.
On Wednesday, Ben Wong played along Castillo in the penultimate grouping. Castillo, of course, went on the win medalist honors.
Wong, though, had to bury a 30-foot putt on 18 – for par – just to make a nine-man playoff after a second-round 77 on No. 2.
After waiting more than half an hour to start a 9-for-3 playoff for the remaining match play seeds, Wong blasted a drive on the 14th hole, splitting the fairway. He nestled a pitching wedge to 10 feet and then, after watching Hunter Wolcott and Justin Tereshko make their own birdies to clinch their spots in the field, Wong walked up and calmly buried his second straight must-have putt to earn the final seed at the 119th North & South Amateur.
“Ricky is a good friend,” said Wong, who won the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball on No. 2. “And even with the 32 seed, anything can happen in match play. This tournament has shown that.”
Indeed it has. Each of the last two North & South medalists have lost to the 32 seed in the first round of match play. A year ago, Ben Schlottman won the North & South from the No. 31 seed.
While North Carolina senior Josh Martin was one of the players to fall in the playoff, two Pinehurst residents each made match play.
A.J. Beechler, who won two 4-A state individual championships while at local high school Pinecrest before heading to East Carolina, had to earn one of six spots in the North & South qualifier on Pinehurst No. 8 on Monday just to make the field. He’s made it count, firing a 1-over 71 on No. 2 Wednesday to finish in a tie for 11th.
Eric Bae, now a sophomore at Wake Forest and a former high school teammate of Beechler’s, shot an even par 70 to comfortably make the cut in a tie for 18th.
Pinehurst’s Fulton Smith also did not make the cut.
With 15 pars offset by three bogeys, 2017 North & South Amateur Champion William Nottingham looked comfortable again on No. 2, easily making the cut with a two-day total of 144 and a share of 18th. Duke’s Chandler Eaton, who made the cut at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, also survived the cut line, holding on for a 76 on No. 2 to stay safely in a tie for 18th. Duke’s Alex Smalley is the highest ranked amateur left in the field. The 5th-ranked Blue Devils star made the semifinals of the North & South two years ago, and earned a trip back to match play after a tie for 25th. The top-ranked player, No. 4 Isaiah Salinda, missed the playoff by a shot after a 4-over 74 left him with a two-day total of 5-over 147. Former U.S. Mid-Am Champion Matt Parziale, a firefighter from Massachusetts who has recently played in two U.S. Opens and The Masters, shot 72 on No. 2 to tie for 11th.
Love this – as Garrett Rank prepares to tee off in the 2nd round of the 119th North & South Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2, a big, brave fan of the @NHL referee shows up: a Pinehurst fox squirrel.— Pinehurst Resort (@PinehurstResort) June 26, 2019
Wonder how our friend @TheLewisBlack would’ve handled this, @kathleenmadigan? pic.twitter.com/XcVupyKE1B
After medal play rounds on Pinehurst No. 4 and No. 2, the championship shifts to match play on No. 2 the rest of the way. The Round of 32 will take place on Thursday, with the Round of 16 and quarterfinals being played on Friday. 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
Pinehurst No. 2
Round of 32
No. 1 Ricky Castillo, Yorba Linda, CA vs. No. 32 Ben Wong, The Woodlands, TX
No. 16 Jack Rhea, Jonesborough, TN vs. No. 17 Andy Ogletree, Union, MS
No. 8 Cooper Dossey, Austin, TX vs. No. 25 William Holcomb V, Crockett, TX
No. 9 Ryan Gerard, Raleigh, NC vs. No. 24 Chandler Eaton, Alpharetta, GA
No. 4 Benjamin Shipp, Duluth, GA vs. No. 29 Alex Smalley, Greensboro, NC
No. 13 A.J. Beechler, Pinehurst, NC vs. No. 20 Blake Collyer, Australia
No. 5 Blake Taylor, Atkinson, NC vs. No. 28 David Laskin, Elk Grove, CA
No. 12 Ryan Burnett, Lafayette, CA vs. No. 21 William Nottingham, Kingsport, TN
No. 2 Garrett Rank, Canada vs. No. 31 Justin Tereshko, Lexington, KY
No. 15 Harrison Ott, Brookfield, WI vs. No. 18 Noah Norton, Chico, CA
No. 7 Noah Goodwin, Corinth, TX vs. No. 26 Walter Egloff, Chevy Chase, MD
No. 10 Sam Meek, Canada vs. No. 23 Travis Vick, Houston, TX
No. 3 Ervin Chang, Lynchburg, VA vs. No. 30 Hunter Wolcott, Burns, TN
No. 14 Matt Parziale, Brockton, MA vs. No. 19 Eric Bae, Pinehurst, NC
No. 6 Michael Feagles, Scottsdale, AZ vs. No. 27 Max Theodorakis, Danbury, CT
No. 11 Joey Savoie, Canada vs. No. 22 Pierceson Coody, Plano, TX
Our most popular year-round golf package includes an extra round of golf.
- Resort accommodations for two nights
- Three rounds of golf
- Overflowing breakfast buffet and dinner daily