Blake Hathcoat (USGA/Chris Keane)
PINEHURST, N.C. – In match play, being 4 down is as good as being dead. It’s an overwhelming deficit from which to fight back, but Blake Hathcoat managed.
After 11 holes of his morning match against Cooper Dossey, winner of the North & South Amateur at Pinehurst six weeks ago, Hathcoat looked to be toast. In an unexpected turn of events, Dossey bogeyed the next three holes. He hadn’t made a bogey all morning.
Hathcoat was going the other direction.
“I was struggling quite a bit in the beginning of the round but then I started finding my game a little bit, hitting solid shots, making as many pars as possible,” he said. “This course is so tough that par wins a lot of these holes.”
Hathcoat lived that, winning Nos. 12-14 with par before he won No. 15, his fourth consecutive, with a birdie. Suddenly, the match was tied. Dossey took care of that with a hard-fought bogey at the 530-yard par-4 16th while Hathcoat double-bogeyed. Hathcoat redeemed himself with a touchy up-and-down from behind No. 17 green after he hit a 4-iron long, then won the 18th to send it to extra holes.
Dossey had opportunities, but he couldn’t capitalize on them. The lasting sound from Dossey’s approach into the par-4 second, his 20th hole of the morning, was the head of his iron knocking around in the clusters of weeds that surround Pinehurst’s fairways.
He yelled after it – “Big kick! Big hop!” – but his ball still lodged itself in a bunker short of a green and he failed to get up and down. The transportation carts circled like buzzards after that, carting Hathcoat back to the clubhouse so he could prepare for an afternoon match against Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree.
Hathcoat has a history of comebacks. He birdied his final six holes at the 2018 Saguaro Amateur and won it in a playoff. On Thursday, he was able to hold a fighting Dossey at bay because of flawless wedge play.
“My irons have definitely stepped up this week which is good. These greens are so tough, you need to be hitting your irons good,” he said.
This is Hathcoat’s U.S. Amateur debut. Remarkably, he hasn’t had much experience in match play. He has swing coach Chris Doos is on the bag this week. Hathcoat and Doos have worked together since Hathcoat was just a kid. Doos does have experience here, having caddied for another student, current PGA Tour player Kevin Chappell, in this event several years ago.
Student and teacher recently returned from a trip to Ireland to play the British Amateur. Hathcoat didn’t make the cut to match play, but experience at Portmarnock translates surprisingly well at Pinehurst for the Fresno, Calif., native.
“This course is a lot tougher than anything else I’ve played probably,” he said. In Ireland, he learned to take advantage of his putter around the edges of greens.
Hathcoat will be a senior at St. Mary’s this coming season. He returns as the leading scorer for the Gaels. Teammate Ryan Grauman, who had head coach Scott Hardy on the bag earlier this week, also qualified for this field, but didn’t make match play.
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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