by Ron Balicki
TULSA, Okla. – Following the second round of stroke play qualifying at the U.S. Amateur Championship, Bud Cauley got on a computer in his hotel room Tuesday night and called up the USGA’s Web site to see who he would be playing against in his opening round match Wednesday.
Lo and behold. It was his good friend and fellow 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team member, Rickie Fowler, the top-ranked player in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Rankings.
Within 30 seconds, his cell phone buzzed with a text message. It was from Fowler and simply read, “It’s on.”
Cauley quickly responded, “You better bring everything you got.”
It was a match you would like to see in the final, or even the semifinals. But that’s what often happens in match play. The pairings are spit out of a computer that doesn’t care about key matchups down the line. It’s all based on the seeding, which is determined by the 36 holes of stroke play.
No. 1 plays No. 64, No. 2 goes against No. 63.
And in this case it was simply a matter of No. 5 Cauley taking on No. 60 Fowler.
“It was kind of a bummer that we had to meet in the first round,” Cauley said after scoring a 3-and-1 victory. “It was kind of unexpected. Rickie’s such a great player, I knew I had to come out and play my best. I knew I was going to have to make some birdies. Both of us played solid and really, it was anyone’s match.”
Fowler felt much the same way.
“It’s kind of unfortunate you had to have two Walker Cup guys go at it in the first round,” Fowler said. “But things like that happen. After the first two holes (bogey, double bogey) I played very well (3-under from holes 3-16) and that probably would have been good enough to beat almost anyone else today. But Bud played just as well and made a few more putts than me and that was the difference.”
After Fowler’s poor start, Cauley found himself 2 up after two holes. He was 1 up after Fowler birdied No. 3, and went back to 2 up after a birdie at No. 6. A Fowler par on No. 9 cut the margin to 1 up and it stayed that way until the 507-yard, par-4 16th.
“That putt at 16 was the big one,” said Cauley, who won the hole when he drained a 30-footer for birdie.
Cauley, who will be a sophomore at Alabama this season and was a second-team All-American last season, closed things out after Fowler made bogey at 17.
“When you beat someone of Rickie’s caliber, it gives you a lot of confidence,” Cauley said. “I hope it will help me the rest of this tournament and into the Walker Cup.”
When Cauley and Fowler get together again they won’t have to worry about being opponents. They’ll be teammates.
And who knows. When the U.S. takes on Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup Match Sept. 12-13 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., they just might be playing together once again -- as partners in the foursomes (alternate shot) portion of the competition.
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My top two matches to watch on each side of the bracket in Thursday morning’s second round:
Tim Jackson (5 and 4 over John Kostis) vs. Charlie Holland (19 holes over Morgan Hoffmann), 7:30 a.m.
Jackson is the veteran and at 50, became the oldest medalist in U.S. Amateur history this year. He was low amateur (tying for 11th) last month at the U.S. Senior Open, which he led after two rounds. He’s a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur winner, two-time U.S. Walker Cupper and two-time U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist. Holland, 23, was an All-American as a junior at Texas last season and a 2008 U.S. Am quarterfinalist. He won the 2007 Texas State Amateur. Can Holland put an end to Jackson’s dream run?
Cameron Tringale (2 up over John Peterson) vs. Bronson Burgoon (5 and 4 over Joe Juszczyk), 8:40 a.m.
Both players have a lot at stake this week as they are considered to be on the short list for the final two spots on this year’s Walker Cup team. A win here could go a long way in that process. Tringale, a first-team All-America as a senior at Georgia Tech last season when he scored two victories, qualified for the U.S. Open this summer where he missed the cut. Burgoon, a second-team All-American as a senior at Texas A&M, led the Aggies to the NCAA title, scoring the clinching point in the final match. He, too, qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, also missing the cut.
Mark Anderson (2 up over Justin Bardgett) vs. Zach Barlow (2 up over Nathan Smith), 8:50 a.m.
Anderson still has his eyes focussed on one of the last two Walker Cup spots. He completed his college career at South Carolina in 2008 and has remained amateur with hopes of being a Walker Cup selection. He won the 2008 Players Amateur and Masters of Amateurs in Australia and this year won the South Carolina Amateur and was third at the Pacific Coast Amateur. Barlow, a senior at Illinois, was runner-up earlier this month at the Western Amateur and in 2008 won the Illinois State Amateur.
Mike Van Sickle (6 and 4 over John Murphy) vs. Trent Whitekiller (19 holes over Wesley Bryan) , 9:50 a.m.
Van Sickle is another on the Walker Cup short list and needing a big week in hopes of landing one of the two remaining spots. He was a first-team All-American as a senior at Marquette last season and has 11 wins and 24 top-5s in his college career. Whitekiller saw limited playing time as a junior at Oklahoma State last season, but in 2008 was an honorable mention All-American. He won the 2008 Sahalee Players Championship and this year was a quarterfinalist in the Oklahoma State Amateur Match Play Championship. And, he’s the only Oklahoman remaining in the field.