ERIN, WIS. (Aug 23, 2011) – There is a certain element of luck that impacts the outcome of any golf competition. And luck already has played a role in the 111th U.S. Amateur.
Play competitively long enough and luck of the draw can bite anyone.
The thunderstorm that moved through Tuesday morning and forced a delay of three hours, 40 minutes in the second round of stroke-play qualifying left in its wake gusting winds. That brought a degree of difficulty to the long and challenging Erin Hills layout that half the field didn’t encounter during Monday’s first round. Those players had already shifted to the short, tree-lined Blue Mound Golf & Country Club, the companion course for the 36-hole qualifying portion of the competition.
Mother Nature clearly isn’t much of a golf fan.
“There’s definitely a difference in where you played yesterday and today,” said Ben Geyer, of Arbuckle, Calif., a sophomore at St. Mary’s College.
Not that Geyer, 19, really noticed, though. He went out and fired a 6-under-par 66 on wind-swept Erin Hills, not only his career low competitive round but also the competitive course record.
“Given the conditions and the magnitude of the event, this was by far the best round I ever played,” Geyer said.
Given the conditions, Geyer was a statistical anomaly, though he had company from Mike Ignasiak of Saline, Mich., a former major league pitcher who later equaled Geyer’s mark.
While good scores could be had at Erin Hills, they could only be achieved with the utmost care and concentration. Jordan Russell of College Station, Texas, submitted the most satisfying even-par 72 of his young career.
“I had to grind it out pretty good, and I’m happy with the results,” Russell said. “The crosswinds were really tricky. With how hard the wind was blowing, you had to aim it out over bunkers and draw it or cut it, try to ride the wind. Or play it back into the wind to try to soften the landing. You had to hit a lot of shots. Luckily, I get to play in a lot of wind in Texas, so that might have helped.”
Added Sean Keating of Cincinnati, Ohio, who played in the day’s first grouping and had reached the fourth green at the time of the suspension: “The first four holes really were the calm before the storm. After the delay, the wind picked up a lot. It was just a different golf course after that – pretty brutal really – for trying to score.”
Keating shot a 77 after a 70 at Blue Mound on Monday. The field scoring average at Erin Hills on Monday was 75.083. With the second wave still having to complete its second round early Wednesday – darkness suspended play at 7 p.m. CDT – it remains to be seen if the scoring average will be higher for the golfers who played Erin Hills second.
But it sure felt like it to those who had to endure the tricky winds on Tuesday. The fact that there were more rounds 80 and higher (12) than scores under par (10) was one corroborating piece of evidence.
“We didn’t get any favors today, that’s for sure,” Keating said. “But that’s definitely the way golf is.”
NOTE: 20 players were tied at the end of stroke play qualifying for 4 remaining match play spots. Marty Jeppesen, Stephan Jaeger, David Denlinger and Bobby Leopold were left standing after a three-hole playoff.