U.S. Amateur: Zahringer leads charge to Rd. 2
22 Aug 2007
see also: U.S. Amateur Golf Championship, Pebble Beach Golf Links


click above for a video featuring on-course action and player interviews
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Aug. 22, 2007)--The two old lions of the 107th U.S. Amateur Championship – Gary Wolstenholme and George Zahringer – tangled in a first-round match Wednesday afternoon at Olympic Club. It turned out to be a rumble in the proverbial jungle as well as a battle of attrition as both men struggled with their games on a course inhospitable to mediocre play.

All it took was a routine par at the long 17th hole for the 54-year-old Zahringer to eke out a 1-up victory over Wolstenholme, 47, in a match that went the distance and was played in distant locations. Spraying tee shots, flubbing chips and taking turns watching the hole evade their putts, the duo combined to shoot 17-over-par.

The final bogey, by Wolstenholme at the penultimate hole, a 491-yard uphill par-4 that he knew he’d struggle to reach in two, provided Zahringer with his first match-play win since the second round of the 2005 Amateur.

"I’m still standing – barely," said Zahringer of New York, who triumphed despite failing to make a birdie while suffering eight bogeys. "It’s one of those that wasn’t pretty, but you’re delighted to finish on top. It could have gone either way, clearly.

"If you ask Gary, we made some uncharacteristic mental errors out there. And on a USGA championship venue, those are penalized."

Wolstenholme, the former two-time British Amateur champion, was even more to the point.

"I wasn’t just scratchy; I played awful," he said. "Obviously, neither of us played well, which made for absorbing match play, but it probably wasn’t very pretty to watch. I can definitely look back and think what might have been."

Neither player led by more than one hole; each led for four holes total. They halved the fourth hole with double-bogey 6s – after each man flubbed a chip – as part of a four-hole stretch that Wolstenholme played in six over par and yet only lost one hole. His lone birdie, a conceded 4-footer at the seventh, got him back to all square, and a par from the fringe at the short eighth hole was good for another win when Zahringer couldn’t get up and down from the back bunker.

Wolstenholme, who played a nine-hole practice round with Zahringer over the weekend, said the draw was unfortunate for both of them.

"We both probably had a decent chance to advance pretty far if we played well," he said. "Obviously it came down to George doing a few things better at the end."

After three-putting the 10th hole to lose his advantage, Wolstenholme surrendered a golden chance to put Zahringer on the ropes. The Englishman won the 14th when Zahringer drove well left of the fairway, nearly out of bounds, and needed four shots to reach the green. But he missed a 4-foot par putt at the next to give it right back, then failed to take advantage of a 7-foot birdie try at the par-5 16th after a smart wedge shot from 115 yards.

"Neither one of those were very good," Zahringer muttered as he walked off the green, acknowledging that his own birdie try from 15 feet was poorly executed.

His execution was splendid, however, at the 17th when he out-drove Wolstenholme by 30 yards and stung his second to within 30 feet past the hole. Wolstenholme also hit the fairway, but his 3-wood came up 10 yards short and he played a poor pitch to 20 feet that he couldn’t get to fall.

"I knew that hole could be the difference," Wolstenholme said, shaking his head. "I was hoping to be in a bit better position going into it."

The door appeared to open at the last when Wolstenholme found the fairway while Zahringer drove into the right rough. His ball burrowed into thick grass, but it was just inches behind a metal valve cover, affording him a free drop because the cover would interfere with his follow-through. A free drop one club length to the left not only improved his lie, but also afforded him a clearer shot to the green.

"Just that yard, if nothing else, visually made the shot look a little more achievable," Zahringer said.

Indeed, he knocked it up to 25 feet and his two putts closed out Wolstenholme.

Zahringer next faces Ricky Jones of Thomaston, Maine, who posted a 1-up decision over Dustin Johnson. It’s part of a potential 36-hole day for the former Mid-Amateur champion.

"I won’t be thinking ahead on that," said Zahringer, who won the ’02 Mid-Am at age 49, making him that event’s oldest winner. "I’ll just be trying to play a little better, make fewer mental mistakes, hit better shots, try to get a feel for the pace of the greens a little better.

"I think if I’m driving it well and putting a little better than I did today, I can be competitive."

--Story by Dave Shedloski, for the USGA

Results For U.S. Amateur Golf Championship
WinTXColt KnostDallas, TX2000
Runner-upAZMichael ThompsonTucson, AZ1500
SemifinalsTXCasey ClendenonKaty, TX1000
SemifinalsTXJhonattan VegasAustin, TX1000
QuarterfinalsFLDerek FathauerJensen Beach, FL700

View full results for U.S. Amateur Golf Championship

ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur

The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA championship, was first played in 1895 at Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent amateur competition in the world. Applications are typically placed online, starting the third week in April at www.usga.org.

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