Bobby Bucey (left) and Brett Viboch (USGA photo)
TEQUESTA, FL (May 20, 2018) - For the last 3½ years, Northern Californians Bobby Bucey
and Brett Viboch
have found a perfect chemistry as four-ball partners. Two years ago, they qualified for the 2nd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club and missed the match-play cut by a stroke. That same year, they broke a 51-year scoring record in winning the 54-hole Northern California Golf Association Four-Ball Championship at Spyglass Hill in Pebble Beach with a 21-under total of 195.
On Sunday, Bucey, 29, of Concord, and Viboch, 34, of Moraga, added another notch in their growing portfolio by earning medalist honors in the 4th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The two California State University at Chico graduates carded a 7-under 63 on the Village Course for a 36-hole score of 11-under 129 to edge Illinois State University teammates Zach Burry and Trent Wallace by a stroke.
“Bobby was a stallion today,” said Viboch. “It was very one-sided out there as far as getting the ball in the hole. I rode him.”
Bucey, the 2014 NCGA Stroke Play and 2017 NCGA Mid-Amateur champion, converted all five of the side’s birdies on the outward nine, including four in a row from No. 6. He drove the 282-yard sixth with a hybrid and two-putted, the last coming from 6 feet, and he followed with a gap-wedge approach to 14 feet on No. 7. His 9-iron second to the par-4 eighth spun off a ridge to a foot for a tap-in birdie and he closed the first nine with a 30-footer on the 160-yard par-3.
“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about where we were score-wise,” said Bucey. “I was just kind of in a zone for those four holes. Saw my target, saw the fairway and just swung it.”
While the championship suffered through three weather suspensions on Saturday totaling 4 hours and 5 minutes, Mother Nature cooperated on Sunday, allowing the delayed first round of stroke play and all of the second round to be completed. The day began with some light rain and gusty winds, but the precipitation dissipated by late morning.
Junior standouts Cole Hammer, 18, of Houston, Texas, and Garrett Barber, 18, of Stuart, Fla., made a charge for medalist by shooting a championship-record 28 on the outward nine of the longer Hills Course before settling for a 6-under 64 and two-round score of 131, two strokes behind the medalists. Hammer, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 52 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR), qualified for the 2015 U.S. Open and is headed to the University of Texas this fall, while Barber, No. 57 in the WAGR and headed to Louisiana State University, is the only golfer to have won the Jones Cup Junior and Jones Cup at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga.
Wallace, 20, of Joliet, Ill., and Burry, 22, of Quincy, Ill., followed up their first-round 65 on the Hills Course with another 65 on the Village. They birdied four of the first six holes – with a bogey on No. 3 – but could muster just two birdies over their final 12 holes.
“The first [round] was a little better,” said Wallace, a rising senior who in 2017 became the first ISU golfer in 42 years – and just second-ever player from the Missouri Valley Conference – to qualify for the NCAA Championships as an individual. “I’d say the greens were a little slower. On the Village Course downwind, it was tough to generate any spin, and so it made it a little more difficult.”
Neither player has a lot of experience with match play. In fact, the two faced each other in the first round of last year’s Chicago District Golf Association Amateur at Briar Ridge Country Club in Schererville, Ind., with Burry, the No. 16 and final seed, beating the top-seeded Wallace, 4 and 3.
“He shot 9 under and beat me,” said Wallace. “We compliment each other’s games well. He’s really long and we’re both pretty accurate. We usually have two balls in play on every hole, which is nice.”
The cut for match play came at 2-under 138, with seven sides set to play off for the final six spots in the draw on Monday morning at 7 a.m. EDT.
A 7-for-6 playoff for the final spots in the 32-side match-play draw will take place at 7 a.m. EDT on the Village Course. The holes being used are Nos. 1, 2 and 18. The first match in the Round of 32 is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. All matches will be conducted on the Hills Course.
Scott Harvey, 39, of Greensboro, N.C., registered the sixth hole-in-one in championship history in the weather-delayed first round on Sunday morning. The 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion used a 7-iron on the 189-yard par-3 17th hole of the Village Course for his seventh overall ace. The only other ace in a USGA championship this year was by four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Meghan Stasi two weeks ago at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. Stasi, who was in attendance on Sunday, and Harvey were born on the same day (May 30) in 1978.
Harvey and partner Todd Mitchell carded an 8-under 62 on the Village Course to match the lowest round in championship history. Two 62s were carded on Winged Foot Golf Club’s East Course in 2016. They shot even-par 70 on the Hills Course to make the cut at 8-under 132.
Defending champions Frankie Capan and Shuai Ming Wong – both 18 years of age – carded a 2-under 68 on the Village Course for a 36-hole total of 2-under 138, but are among the sides that will be involved in a 7-for-6 playoff on Monday morning to determine the final match-play spots. The other past U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champions in the field – Nathan Smith and Todd White – did advance to match play with a two-round total of 4-under 136. Smith is a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.
Alternates Ed Brown, 48, of Rehoboth Beach, Del., and Jay Whitby, 31, of Wyoming, Del., rebounded from a first-round 74 on the Village Course to shoot 6-under 64 on the Hills Course to get into the playoff. They played their last 16 holes in 8 under par.
Patrick Christovich, 39, of New Orleans, La., and 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Garrett Rank, 30, of Canada, semifinalists the past two years, also advanced with a 36-hole total of 132. The other semifinalists from 2017 – Marc Dull, 32, of Winter Park, Fla., and Chip Brooke, 42, of Altamonte Springs, Fla. – carded a 2-over 72 on the Hills Course, but still advanced to match play at 3-under 137. Four of the six sides who missed the playoff by a stroke birdied their final hole of stroke play on Sunday.
Notable sides to miss the cut for match play included 2015 runners-up Sherrill Britt and Greg Earnhardt; 2016 runners-up Ben Warnquist and Brandon Cigna; and reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Sean Knapp and his partner, 1997 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Rick Stimmel.
Over the two days of stroke play, the longer Hills Course played just less than a half-stroke harder than the Village Course (76.000 to 75.571).
Viboch on the play of his partner: “It was probably the most special day I’ve seen my partner have on a golf course. It was a fun experience to share with him.”
Viboch on the pressure of being the medalist: “Everybody playing tomorrow is good. I don’t care what the seed is. We’ll enjoy this for now, but it’s a fresh start tomorrow.”
Hammer on shooting 7-under 28 on the Hills Course’s outward nine: “The hole seemed like a barrel. We were striping it. We had two putts for birdie on just about every hole. We had a lot of fun. We haven’t witnessed anything like that in a while.”
Harvey on his hole-in-one: “It wasn’t a good shot, but it went in.”
Mitchell on the difference between the 62 on the Village Course and the even-par 70 on the Hills: “We played well [on Saturday]. Today, we had both hands on the steering wheel.”
Mitchell on the challenge of the Hills Course: “The Village is hard. This one with the length (7,253 yards, par 70) and the ball isn’t rolling out [because of the rain]. We both hit 3-woods into the green on 12 (483-yard, par-4). It’s 483 yards and it’s playing like 5,000.” (Note: The 12th played as the toughest on Hills Course on Sunday with a 4.809 average, and was the only hole on the course to not yield a birdie)