New Zealand's James Anstiss
(Pinehurst Resort Photo)
PINEHURST, NC (June 29, 2017) – James Anstiss had to see it.
Moments after arriving in Pinehurst for the 117th North & South Amateur early this week, Anstiss walked into the History Hallway of Pinehurst’s famed clubhouse. He didn’t go to marvel at the North & South wall and envision his name in bronze with so many of the game’s greats, like most North & South players do. No, when Anstiss walked in, he looked left instead of right.
And he found what he was looking for:
The memorabilia of Michael Campbell’s triumph in the 2005 U.S. Open and Danny Lee’s shadowbox from his victory in the 2008 U.S. Amateur.
“I know it can be hard for Americans to understand, but for a kid from New Zealand, where we don’t have a long golf history, to see Michael Campbell’s photos displayed on the wall and to look at Danny Lee’s 7-iron and scorecard from the U.S. Amateur, it’s just massive,” said Anstiss, who, like Campbell and Lee, is a native of New Zealand. “It’s a bit surreal to think about. New Zealand has never stood out as a golfing nation, but having a major champion, to see his memorabilia up there at a place like Pinehurst, is just so special. For me to say I’m from the same country, it’s a pretty big deal.”
Anstiss hopes to keep that Kiwi connection alive on Pinehurst No. 2 after winning decisively in his quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Thursday to advance to the championship final against Clemson’s William Nottingham, who outlasted Duke’s Alex Smalley in 22 holes.
The 117th North & South Amateur Championship will be played at 7 a.m. on Friday on No. 2. Spectators are welcome to attend and follow the match and admission is free.
Whether, though, those spectators will see a match reach the 18th hole is pure conjecture at this point. The 12th-seeded Anstiss, who just graduated from Southeast Louisiana and won the 2016 Louisiana Amateur, won comfortably in both the Round of 32 and Round of 16 on Wednesday. But he steamrolled his opponents on Thursday, beating No. 13 seed Ty Strafaci 4&3 in the morning quarterfinal match before dispatching No. 16 seed Austin Squires 6&5 in the afternoon’s semifinal.
Anstiss hasn’t played No. 2’s 18th hole since the second round of stroke play on Tuesday.
“I was able to put a lot of pressure on my opponents today,” said Anstiss, who put five approach shots within 10 feet of the hole location against Squires, leading to five birdies in just 13 holes.
Nottingham, too, had cruised through match play into the semifinals, and hadn’t played 16, 17 or 18 since Tuesday’s stroke play.
Then he ran into Smalley, who took a 1-up lead to the 18th tee after Nottingham had 3-putted the par-3 17th from 15 feet.
“That was a rough 3-putt,” Nottingham said.
But while Smalley fanned his drive well right of the fairway and into the wire grass on 18, Nottingham split the fairway and hit a beautiful approach shot to about 8 feet on 18. Facing a similar but shorter putt than Payne Stewart had to win the 1999 U.S. Open, Nottingham’s attempt slid by, but after a bogey from Smalley, the match continued.
From there both players matched each other shot for shot, both making birdie on the short par-4 3rd to move on to the 22nd hole. Smalley, though, pulled his drive well left and under a tree, and Nottingham hit his approach to the back fringe. His 30-foot birdie attempt stopped about 7 feet short of the cup, but Nottingham rolled this one in to win the match and advance to the final.
Now the Clemson sophomore finds himself one match away from history. And like Anstiss, he too has taken his time wandering the halls of Pinehurst.
“Everything about this tournament is special,” Nottingham said. “I went into the North & South Locker Room one day and just looked at all the lockers. I had to take a picture of Francis Ouimet’s locker. I mean, that’s crazy. Francis Ouimet won this tournament. The history here is just crazy to think about.”
The Men’s North & South Amateur Championship is the longest consecutively-running amateur golf championship in the United States. Over the past century, the best amateurs in the world have vied for its coveted Putter Boy trophy. The winners now serve as legends in the game – among them Walter Travis, Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange and Davis Love III – and the championship continues to draw the best in amateur golf.
ABOUT THE North & South Amateur
The North & South Amateur Championship is the
longest consecutively run amateur tournament in
United States. Its past winners list includes names
Travis, Francis Ouimet, Billy Joe Patton, Jack
and Curtis Strange. The field is made up of invited
players as well as open applications. Two rounds of
play are followed by five rounds of match play
qualifiers) to determine the Champion. All stroke
& match play rounds are contested on
Pinehurst No. 2.
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