BANDON, Oregon (June 27, 2011) – Devon Purser was the only player among the field of 156 golfers to post an under-par score, carding a 1-under 69 in the first round of stroke-play qualifying on Monday at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
The 18-year-old from Clearfield, Utah, managed six birdies over the 6,832-yard, par-70 Bandon Trails layout for a one-stroke lead over Maxwell Marsico, Jonathan Randolph and Derek Ernst.
On a day when most of the country was experiencing a wave of heat and humidity, the golfers at Bandon Trails were dealing with temperatures that barely reached the upper 50s, accompanied by winds that blew 20-25 miles per hour by midday. A steady stream of rain greeted those players who teed off in the afternoon wave.
Purser took advantage of his early starting time, hitting a wedge inside a foot for a birdie at his opening hole, No. 10. He played his outward nine in 3-under-par 32 in relatively benign conditions.
“After the first nine, I was trying to take it deep,” said Purser. “I shot three under, so I had a couple of credits in the bank when it started getting windy. When we hit the first tee, it was blowing pretty good. I saw some crazy shots from people in front of me.”
Purser, who lost in the third round of last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada, Mich., lives 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, and will begin his freshman year at Brigham Young University in the fall. At home, Purser regularly plays a links-style course where the wind blows every day, and at Bandon he has learned that the high winds make it imperative to hit the ball solidly and keep it in play.
“I really concentrated on what you needed to hit into the wind and tried not to make a big mistake,” said Purser. “I hit a lot of greens and had a few two-putts from 50 feet.”
After bogeying four out of five holes on his inward nine, Purser got back to red figures with an 18-foot birdie on the par-5 ninth, his closing hole, getting up and down from a bunker.
Marsico, 20, of Las Vegas, Nev., is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business who has been recovering from five broken vertebrae over the past four years. The latest injury came at the 2009 U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., where Marsico hit a 9-iron on the fourth hole and felt something snap. He played out the round, but wasn’t able to pick up a club for another year. Even on Monday, the injury caused him to temper his practice regimen.
Marsico’s round featured three birdies, including one at the par-5 16th hole, which played downwind on Monday, a change from the prevailing northerly breeze that usually affects Bandon during the summer months.
“The wind was exactly opposite from what we had in the practice round,” said Marsico. “I hit a driver and 3-wood and still came up 50 yards short on 16 yesterday, but only had an 8-iron for my second shot today.”
Conditions toughened for the 78 players in the afternoon wave as both the rain and wind intensified. From that group, Ernst, a 21-year-old from Clovis, Calif., was the only player to shoot even-par or better, posting a 70 after bogeying his first two holes.
“All throughout the day it was off and on,” said Ernst, a senior-to-be at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “It would drizzle, stop for a bit, then it started raining pretty hard again around [No.] 12. As we finished, it was pouring as heavy as it had all day.”
But more than the rain, it was the wind Ernst and the players feared most.
“The wind is definitely the key,” said Ernst. “It blows pretty hard out here. You were scared when gusts came up because you never know when it’s going to happen.”
The 2011 Amateur Public Links is Ernst’s eighth USGA championship, including the last four U.S. Amateurs. At the 2007 Amateur at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, he lost in the round of 16.
Among the group at 1-over-par 71 was Canadian Charlie Hughes, a 19-year-old University of Washington golfer who won the 2011 Gonzaga Invitational at Bandon Dunes this past March, playing what he called, “the best golf I’ve ever played.”
Hughes used some of that course knowledge to his advantage in Monday’s inclement weather to put himself in good position to qualify for match play.
“I feel comfortable out here,” said Hughes. “I am just trying to stay out of trouble the best I can. But I am feeling confident with my game.”
On Tuesday, the golfers will move over to Old Macdonald for the second round of stroke-play qualifying. The field will then be cut to the low 64 scorers for match play, which begins Wednesday at Bandon Trails. The final five rounds of match play will be at Old Macdonald, including Saturday’s 36-hole final.
This year’s APL is being played concurrently at Bandon Dunes with the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. The WAPL field started qualifying at Old Macdonald and will play Bandon Trails Tuesday.
Also on Monday, 1996 APL champion Tim Hogarth was forced to withdraw due to a hand injury. Hogarth, the 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up, had broken the hand two months ago and reaggravated the injury during the first round.
Michael Trostel is the curator/historian at the USGA Museum. Email him at email@example.com.