Grayson Wotnosky, 16, is a member of the second-youngest team in the field.
He and his partner Shay Bhatia, 15, shot 66 on No. 2
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. (May 27, 2017) – Wilson Furr and Davis Shore, playing on Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 8, fired an 8-under-par 63 Saturday to grab a one-stroke lead after the first day of stroke play in the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The 7,073-yard Course No. 8 and par-70, 7,161-yard Course No. 2, which has hosted three U.S. Open Championships, are both being used during the stroke-play portion of the championship.
Course No. 8 had the three lowest scores, all of which were bogey-free rounds. Furr and Shore were followed by Kenny Cook and Sean Rowen (64), and Clark Engle and Will Grimmer (65). Course No. 8 also saw a hole-in-one, the fifth in championship history, courtesy of Taylor Fontaine, 27, of Shrewsbury, Mass., who acedthe 147-yard par 3 fifth hole with a pitching wedge.
Eighteen-year-olds Furr, of Jackson, Miss., and Shore, of Knoxville, Tenn., birdied every other hole on the inward nine, and clinched the outright lead when Shore holed a 10-foot putt on the 18th hole. Set to room together at the University of Alabama this fall, the former Wyndham Cup and USA Junior Ryder Cup teammates are hoping to ride their early momentum through the remainder of the championship.
“Honestly, you can never let up on a course like No. 2,” said Shore, who is exempt from U.S. Open local qualifying and will play in the Memphis, Tenn., sectional on June 5, of the challenge they’ll face in Sunday’s second round of stroke play. “You have to think your way around that course, and we’re still going to have to play well. We have a few holes where one of us lays up and one hits driver. We’ll just try to play the odds.”
The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, with the low 32 sides advancing to match play, exclusively on Course No. 2 beginning on Monday. The championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Wednesday afternoon. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association), 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Cook, 37, of Noblesville, Ind., and Rowen, 43, of Greenwood, Ind., posted seven birdies, including five on the inward nine. The two, who are playing at Pinehurst for the first time and in their first four-ball competition together, represented Indiana in the past two USGA Men’s State Team Championships, in 2014 at French Lick (Ind.) Resort and last fall at the Country Club of Birmingham in Alabama.
“This has been fun,” said Rowen who was the medalist in U.S. Open local qualifying at South Bend (Ind.) Country Club on May 15. “The place is gorgeous and the golf courses are extremely hard.”
Rowen got a break on the 10th hole after hooking into the pine straw. That set-up a low-hooking 6-iron shot around a tree to get his ball within a foot for a tap-in birdie. Cook, the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up who is playing in his 13th USGA championship, hit a solid shot from the fairway on No. 12 to set up an easy birdie putt, and then birdied 14. Rowen followed suit on Nos. 5 and 16 with solid iron shots that set up birdies.
Engle and Grimmer, teammates at Ohio State University, made it to the Round of 16 in the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
“We both like Seinfeld, and we go to Bible studies together, go to movies together,” said Grimmer, 20, of Cincinnati, Ohio. “Our team, in general, is incredibly close, and so I reached out to Clark last year about doing this together. We’ve also both had success down here at Pinehurst.”
Grimmer played Course No. 2 during the 2014 U.S. Open where he was the youngest player in the field, and he shot Pinehurst’s only known 11-under par 59, in the 2013 North & South Junior Amateur on Course No. 1. Engle, 22, of Springfield, Ohio, carded a 65 on Pinehurst No. 2 in the 2015 North & South Amateur, where he was a semifinalist.
“I feel like me and Will play really well together,” said Engle who graduated this month. “Our games suit each other, with him hitting like every fairway, and I can be more aggressive and go after some holes.”
Scott Harvey, the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, and his partner, Todd Mitchell, the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up, was one of several sides to card 67s at Course No. 8.
The top teams at Course No. 2, Chip Brooke and Marc Dull, and Clark Collier and Kyle Hudelson, each carded 5-under 65s. Playing in the same group, Collier and Hudelson watched in awe as Brooke and Dull birdied the first five holes.
“We said this must be an easy course, we better start making birdies,” said Collier, 27, of Dallas, Texas. “Playing with those guys [Brooke and Dull, the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up], it really sparked us. We both birdied the first, so we thought, ‘That’s great, we’re off to a good start.’ Then they just kept making them. And, really, it made us forget that we were playing a hard course.”
After receiving a call from the USGA that they would be replacing defending champions Benjamin Baxter and Andrew Buchanan, who withdrew earlier this month, Collier and Hudelson had roughly one week to prepare and make travel plans. They canceled their preexisting plans for Memorial Day weekend, but lucky for them, Hudelson, 29, of Oklahoma City, Okla., had plenty of time to recover from being struck by a vehicle while riding his bike a few weeks after their four-ball qualifier last October.
“It’s still sore, but I’m good and can swing free,” said Hudelson whose clavicle was broken in three places as a result of the accident. Doctors added a plate and roughly eight pins to his shoulder.
The second youngest team in the field, Shay Bhatia, 15, and Grayson Wotnosky, 16, finished with a 66 on No. 2. The Wake Forest, N.C., residents are excited to be playing in their first USGA championship so close to their hometown.
“It’s pretty cool to be at home, and especially to experience it with my best friend at my side,” said Bhatia who advanced out of local qualifying for the U.S. Open on May 17 and will play his sectional qualifier in Ball Ground, Ga., on June 5. “This four-ball championship is going to be something really special to remember.”
Inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champions Nathan Smith, 38, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Todd White, 49, of Spartanburg, S.C., shot a 1-under 70 on Course No. 2, counting four birdies to three bogeys.
“We’ll take it,” said Smith who is a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and played with White on the victorious 2013 USA Walker Cup Team. “I thought it was very difficult, the pins were tough, No. 2 is a monster.”
View results for U.S. Amateur Four-Ball