Brandon Wu (right) and his caddie (AGC photo)
When you’re playing good golf – like career
good golf – why take a break? This is like the tagline of Brandon Wu’s summer, but he’s outdone even himself with his latest act.
Twenty-four hours before the first round of the U.S. Amateur, Brandon Wu and fellow competitor Stewart Hagestad were in Lima, Peru winning gold for the U.S. in the Pan-American Games. They knew it would be a quick turnaround, but as Hagestad said earlier this summer, when the Olympic Committee calls, you pick up the phone.
“I’m willing to put my body and everything through hell and back to play in something like that,” Hagestad said at the Players Amateur in July.
Luckily, both men had afternoon tee times on Monday – Hagestad on No. 2 and Wu on No. 4. (Hagestad, for his part, opened with 3-over 73.)
Wu clearly managed the fatigue well, napping on both flights to from Peru and then also getting in some quick shuteye Monday morning before getting to the course. He spent more time stretching than normal, but otherwise his warm-up routine remained the same.
The recent Stanford graduate closed his day with three consecutive birdies from Nos. 14-16, then threw in an eagle at the par-5 17th for an opening 5-under 65 on Pinehurst No. 4. Good memories of gold medals danced in his brain.
“It was so awesome,” Wu said of the Pan American experience. “I mean it was like everything you dream of, representing your country like that. I mean and then to cap it all off with standing on the medal stand with my three teammates and listening to the National Anthem, it was just extraordinary.”
It’s been a dream summer for Wu after going 3-0 in NCAA match play to help his Stanford team lock up the national title in May. With every subsequent start, he has made a Walker Cup pick look more and more likely. Wu qualified for both the U.S. Open and British Open this summer, making the cut in the former.
At Pinehurst, Wu has a one-shot cushion on Palmer Jackson and Trevor Werbylo, and a two-shot lead on a group of four players that includes 2016 U.S. Am runner-up Brad Dalke.
“I mean, I love the USGA events, I love it when the course is tough and you have to think your way around it and try to get the ball in the right spots,” Dalke said of logging a good round early on No. 4. “Both of these courses you have to think your way around them and if you do get yourself in a bad spot, it can take a few shots to get in.”
Walker Cup selection is the name of the game for many men this week – whether that’s by closing out the summer on a good note or winning the whole thing outright and securing an automatic pick – but it’s early still. Wu’s Stanford classmate Isaiah Salinda, another man in the conversation, opened with a 2-under 68 at No. 4 that left him in a tie for eighth.
“Next step is to try and shoot a good score on No. 2,” Salinda said. “Just try to shoot something around even tomorrow and then that should be safe. So just trying to make match play and go from there.”
Georgia’s Spencer Ralston, the Players Amateur winner, and Oklahoma’s Quade Cummins, the Pacific Coast Amateur winner, both were 1 under (but on Nos. 2 and 4, respectively) to land in a tie for 19th.
Cooper Dossey, the North & South Amateur champion, clearly seems to have a knack for this place even if his specialty is match play. A 1-over 71 on No. 2 left the Baylor senior in a tie for 41st – safe, but still needing a solid round on Tuesday if he wants to make another match-play run.
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Kevin O’Connell was also on that number and noted No. 2’s difficulty.
“It's easy to get out there on No. 2, the fairways in places are not that wide and you can get in your own head about feeling like you have to hit the fairway in order to score out there,” he said. “And obviously to make birdies that's the case, but you can also make pars if you kind of know where to leave your second shot.”
One shot back at 2 over are two more prominent mid-amateurs: Western Amateur winner Garrett Rank and 2014 Mid-Am champion Scott Harvey. Two notable “kids,” Akshay Bhatia and Ricky Castillo, also are 2 over. That foursome has some work to do on Tuesday, considering that they’re all tied for 73rd and currently outside the match-play cut.
As for World No. 1 Cole Hammer? He has much work ahead of him. The Texas sophomore logged an uncharacteristic 5-over 75 on No. 2, a round that comes two weeks after missing the match-play cut in his Western Amateur title defense.
ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA
championship, was first played in 1895 at
Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 14 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online in the spring
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