TRUCKEE, CALIF., (July 26, 2011) - Derek Ernest of Clovis, Calif. is doing his best to treat the 45th Pacific Coast Amateur Championship as just another tournament although U.S. Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve is in attendance.
The 21-year-old Ernst, runner-up in this year's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and one of the players reportedly under consideration for this year's Walker Cup team, fired a 5-under-par 67 today over the scenic 7,766-yard Tom Fazio-designed Martis Camp Club layout and shares the first-round lead with 25-year-old Mitchell Evenecz of Red Deer, Alberta. The two set the competitive course record at Martis Camp Club, which opened in 2008.
Ernst and Evernecz finished 1-stroke in front of Eugene Wong of North Vancouver, British Columbia, whose round of 4-under-par 68 included an eagle 2 on the 314-yard 16th hole; Wong was 4-under-par for his last four holes. Taylor Travis of Fremont, Calif. is in fourth place after a 3-under-par 69. Defending champion Andrew Putnam of University Place, Wash., is tied for eighth after shooting 1-under-par 71. Putnam is bidding to become the first repeat champion since Billy Mayfair in 1987-88.
Ernst's focus is solely on the Pacific Coast Amateur. "I'm not even thinking about the Walker Cup," said Ernst after his round. "I'm just trying to play one shot at a time, trite as it sounds." Ernst had seven birdies and two bogeys. Those bogeys on the 9th and 18th hole "left kind of a sour taste in my mouth by finishing both nines that way," he admitted.
The UNLV student feels right at home at Martis Camp Club. "We play a lot of rounds at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas," said Ernst. "This course has a lot similarity because of the Fazio bunkering and greens."
Evernecz, a recent graduate of the University of Victoria who expects to turn professional in the fall, was equally impressive in posting five birdies and no bogies. "I hit the ball fairly well off the tees," said Evernecz after his round. "I also putted pretty well and made really good up-and-downs for par on Nos. 6, 8 and 11 to keep my round going."
His round could even have been lower because he birdied just one of the four par-5 holes (all of which are reachable in two shots due to the combination of the long-hitting golfers and the nearly 7,000-foot altitude). Evernecz may have a slight advantage over the field by living in Alberta (Deer Run sits at nearly 3,000-foot elevation) although last week he played in the RBC Canadian Open at Shaughnessy CC in Vancouver, which is at sea level.
Evanecz is bidding to join Albertans Michael Knight, who won the 2008 Pacific Coast Amateur, and Jordan Irwin who captured the 2009 title. Both were from Calgary.
Evernecz's 67 helped propel the Alberta Golf Association into a tie with the Colorado GA for the lead after the first round of the Morse Cup Team Competition, which is held concurrently with the first two rounds of the individual championship.