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Two sides fire 62 and share U.S. Amateur Four-Ball lead at Bandon
Andrew and John Sajevic (USGA/Steven Gibbons)
Andrew and John Sajevic (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

A father-son tandem and a pair of former college teammates, both of whom got into the field as alternates, battled rain and chilly temperatures to card 62s in Saturday’s first round of stroke play in the 5th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.

John Sajevic, 63, of Fremont, Neb., and his 28-year-old son, Andrew, of Omaha, Neb., joined ex-Davidson (N.C.) College teammates Ralph Blasey, 26, of Bethesda, Md., and Alex Nianouris, 25, of Raleigh, N.C., with 8-under-par 62s on Pacific Dunes.

The scores matched the 18-hole championship record held by three other sides.

Recent Santa Clara University graduates Matthew McCarty, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Derek Ackerman, 22, of Santa Clara, Calif., posted the lowest score on Old Macdonald, an 8-under-par 63.

The Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald courses are being used for the stroke-play portion of the competition. Following Sunday’s second round, the field of 128 sides will be cut to the low 32 sides for match play, which will be conducted exclusively on Old Macdonald.

Although the winds were relatively calm, the competitors played in temperatures hovering in the low 50s with intermittent rain showers. But without heavy breezes, good scores were possible as 26 sides posted 65 or better.

John and Andrew Sajevic, first alternates from the Nebraska City, Neb., sectional last fall, were contacted two weeks ago by the USGA when defending champions Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber withdrew due to a conflict with the ongoing NCAA Championships. Given a second chance, the side registered nine birdies against one bogey. Andrew had the two highlight moments, converting two long birdies putts: a 30-footer on No. 1 and a 70-foot double-breaker from the front of the green on No. 14.

“Anytime you can go play in this one, especially with your dad, it’s pretty special,” said Andrew, who often competes against his dad in Nebraska events.

Blasey and Nianouris found out they were in the field in January after losing a 2-for-1 playoff for the final qualifying spot at their Urbana, Md., sectional qualifier last September. They birdied six of the last seven holes that day to get into the playoff.

Blasey opened their first USGA championship round by converting a 15-footer for birdie and Nianouris ended it with a 25-foot birdie putt.

“Ralph gave me a good read,” said Nianouris, a 2016 graduate who played three seasons at Davidson with Blasey (2015 grad). “I relied on him all day for that.”

Added Blasey: “We birdied the first hole, so it was a pretty fun start. The good vibes were going. We hammed-and-egged it really well.”

Ackerman and McCarty came into the championship with previous experience at Bandon Dunes, having played a college event here last year. Both felt comfortable with the venues, and it showed. Ackerman produced three of the side’s three second-nine birdies, including a 30-footer on 14 that hit the flagstick and dropped.

They’ll move over to Pacific Dunes on Sunday when conditions could get much more challenging. Winds are expected to gust between 20 and 25 mph by the afternoon.

“We are going to have the same mentality tomorrow,” said Ackerman of their mindset for the final round of stroke play. “Go out there and have fun and make as many birdies as possible. Hit greens, hit fairways and just make it as easy as possible on ourselves.”

ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 5.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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