(VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C.) – Brendan Borst and Thomas McDonagh eliminated medalists Clark Engle and Will Grimmer in what turned out to be a Big Ten showdown during Monday’s first round of match play in the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.
Borst, 27, of Philadelphia, Pa., and McDonagh, 28, of Norwalk, Conn., never trailed in their 3-and-2 victory against Ohio State University teammates Engle, 22, of Springfield, Ohio, and Grimmer, 20, of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Buckeyes, who never registered a bogey in two rounds of stroke play, opened the door early by losing the second hole to a birdie. It would portend a tough day for the duo who shot 12-under 139 over the weekend to garner the No. 1 seeding.
“There were a couple opportunities they had to jump back in on us, and we kind of hung tough,” said McDonagh who birdied the 11th hole to give their side a 3-up lead. McDonagh also converted a clutch par putt on No. 13 to keep the momentum going after Grimmer birdied No. 13 to trim the deficit to two holes.
“I think the key shot in the match might have been the par putt I made on 13,” added McDonagh. “That kind of kept the momentum in our favor.”
The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by five rounds of match play, with the Round of 16 and quarterfinals to be played on Tuesday. The semifinals and 18-hole championship match are scheduled for Wednesday.
Wilson Furr and Davis Shore, who lost medalist honors to Engle and Grimmer by one stroke, easily advanced with a 5-and-4 victory over Micah Dean and Alex Rodger. All square after six holes, the two 18-year-olds reeled off four consecutive birdies from No. 7 to take a commanding lead. Shore, of Knoxville, Ala., and No. 41 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, was responsible for three of those birdies.
With potentially two rounds of match play the next two days, the two future University of Alabama teammates feel more than ready to handle the marathon. Furr hails from Jackson, Miss., and like Shore, is accustomed to playing golf in hot and muggy conditions.
“When we’re home practicing, we probably both play 36 holes a day, so I think we’ll be used to it,” said Shore. “We both probably need to hit the driver a little straighter tomorrow. We didn’t hit quite as many fairways as we did in stroke play. But we played well from off the fairways.”
Patrick Christovich, 38, of New Orleans, La., and Garrett Rank, 29, of Canada, called on their experience as mid-amateur players to defeat Wake Forest, N.C., teenagers Shay Bhatia, 15, and Grayson Wotnosky, 16, 1 up. Christovich and Rank, who made it to the semifinals last year at Winged Foot, advanced out of the morning playoff with a birdie on the second playoff hole, the par-3 16th, before holding off the youngest side to make match play.
“They were great players, and they played really well,” said Rank, who just completed his first full season as a National Hockey League referee, working 75 regular-season games. “Patrick and I have a lot of experience, so when you get to this stage of a USGA championship, throw the seeds out the window and just go out and play because anyone can win on any given day. It is just whoever plays the best. Unfortunately for them, we played quite well. We were [just] one better at the end of the day.”
Two other notable mid-amateur sides also advanced on Monday. Inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champions Nathan Smith, 38, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Todd White, 49, of Spartanburg, S.C., needed some late heroics to beat Andrew Medley and Ken Tanigawa. Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion converted a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to help the side earn a hard-fought 1-up victory, a match that saw Tanigawa hole out a shot from the fairway on No. 3 for an eagle-2.
Scott Harvey and Todd Mitchell, semifinalists in 2015, had an easier time, eliminating Daniel and Matthew Wetterich, 5 and 4.
“I’m just happy to be playing tomorrow” said White, a high school history teacher who teamed with Smith on the victorious 2013 USA Walker Cup Team.
Mitchell, the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up who played briefly in the New York Yankees’ farm system, contributed four birdies to his team’s win. Harvey, the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and a member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team, got the team going quickly by holing a 12-foot birdie putt on the first hole. The team built a 3-up lead after five and was never seriously threatened.
“It was way less stressful today,” said Harvey, 38, of Greensboro, N.C. “We were both in more holes and for whatever reason we were swinging better.”
On Monday morning, eight sides who had tied at 1-under-par 140 in stroke play participated in a playoff on Course No. 2 for the final six places in the match-play field. Three of those sides – Borst and McDonagh, Christovich and Rank, and Kenny Cook and Sean Rowen, advanced to the Round of 16.
First played in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.