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Wu has the advantage as U.S. Amateur turns into a waiting game
Brandon Wu (USGA/Michael Reeves)
Brandon Wu (USGA/Michael Reeves)

Ricky Castillo seems to have something special around Pinehurst. The Californian’s leaderboard climb was the story of the afternoon at the U.S. Amateur – at least when weather permitted. Castillo had the good fortune to be playing course No. 4, which seemed to be a bit more forgiving. Despite opening with a bogey, Castillo got it to 5 under by his 17th hole but finished with another bogey for 66.

Castillo fell barely short of co-medalist honors as the field fell barely short of finishing. Players who did get 36 holes in, like Castillo, will have to wait overnight to see if they make the cut, if they’ve fallen into a playoff or who they might draw on the match-play bracket.

“I mean, I started off a little shaky,” Castillo said. “I hit a drive on 9 and went into a bush and made bogey on an easy par 5, so it wasn't the greatest start.”

Fortunately he was able to recover, and quickly. Castillo ended stroke-play qualifying at 2 under, and fell into a large group chasing Brandon Wu at 3 under. Castillo is only 18, though is playing in his third U.S. Amateur, but the foreshadowing was there. He played his way to the semifinals of the Western Amateur two weeks ago. Before that, he was stroke-play co-medalist at the North & South (also played at Pinehurst) as well the U.S. Junior.

The experience, particularly at Pinehurst, has been huge.

“I’ve played the North and South the past three years, so I know I know this course better than some of the other people,” he said. “This is their first time here, some of them, but for me this is my fourth time here. I think it helps a little bit.”

Cooper Dossey is in a similar boat. Dossey finished the job earlier this summer at the North & South, displaying the kind of patience that makes him such a dangerous match-play player. Winning the iconic “putter boy” trophy was a major confidence boost for the Baylor senior, who is returning from a wrist injury.

With rounds of 71-67, Dossey also fell into the six-player group tied for second at 2 under.

Play was called for darkness at 8 p.m., and it could takes hours on Wednesday morning until the match-play bracket takes shape. A year ago at this event, the final spot hinged on a 24-for-one-man playoff.

Walker Cup hopefuls Steven Fisk, John Augenstein, Spencer Ralston, Isaiah Salinda, Pierceson Coody, Austin Eckroat, Chandler Phillips and Jon Pak – essentially college golf’s heavy hitters – look to be safely on the bracket. Those men, and anyone else harboring serious Walker Cup dreams, have added pressure this week. Stewart Hagestad, having already been selected to the team, is not one of those men.

Getting the phone call last month that he already had a spot was undeniably freeing.

“It literally feels like a weight has been lifted off. So no, without a doubt, it's very helpful,” he said.

For Cole Hammer, who has also secured a pick courtesy of his World Ranking, the rest of the week still looks uncertain. Hammer, who will be a sophomore at Texas, opened with 5-over 75 on No. 2 and still has one hole to play in his second round on No. 4. He is 5 over for the tournament, and currently part of a large group tied for 67th.

On a day of uncertainty, Brandon Wu at least assured himself a good night’s sleep and likely a lazy morning. The Stanford graduate all but locked up medalist honors. More importantly, he guaranteed himself another round.

“I feel like everyone's goal coming in is just to make it to match play. So yeah, after yesterday it definitely eased some pressure coming into today knowing that I had kind of a cushion."

Quotes and information from the USGA used in this report




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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