William Holcomb (USGA/Chris Keane)
PINEHURST, N.C. – William Holcomb V is the rare man who can turn a USGA media podium into a comedy stand with just two rounds to go at the U.S. Amateur. With an unprecedented amount of things on the line at Pinehurst No. 2 this week – a guaranteed Walker Cup spot among them – Holcomb is a walking one-liner.
That very much ran counter to Karl Vilips on Friday, whom Holcomb defeated on the 15th hole of his quarterfinal match.
“I don’t think the guy I played today smiled once,” Holcomb said. “I even tried to crack a couple jokes.”
Holcomb started his Friday morning pounding golf balls on the Pinehurst range. “It’s like mowing the lawn,” he said of an activity that calms him.
It hasn’t been a great summer for the native Texas, who will be a senior at Sam Houston State. After finishing 39th at the Texas Amateur, he withdrew from the Trans-Miss Amateur in Dallas. He had sent footage of his swing to Sam Houston State coach Brandt Kieschnick, who summoned his player to Huntsville just after the Fourth of July.
“I saw that video of your swing,” Coach said. “I was at my mom’s house. It made me depressed.”
Holcomb worked on lowering his arms. Kieschnick praised his stance and declared the lower half of his swing to be of Tour caliber. The fix seems to have taken hold.
On a serious note, being a U.S. Amateur semifinalist has a nice ring to it. Holcomb’s reaction to that was the most sober answer he gave on Friday.
“It sounds prestigious,” Holcomb said. “It makes me feel grateful to be able to compete and play the game.”
Holcomb is trying not to see the crowds this week, which is hard when they move like ants all around the fairway. If he wins another match, he’ll get to play the Masters in April. He’s not thinking about that, either. Holcomb, the self-described “world’s greatest top-10er in college golf,” knows if he thinks about it, it won’t happen. (No, guys, it really won’t happen.)
"If I think about the result, I will not win," he emphasized, before extending that to his opponent. "Neither will the guy I'm playing. So I hope he doesn't watch this interview."
Holcomb’s demeanor couldn’t be any more different than that of his Saturday semifinal opponent. Holcomb isn’t likely to get a lot of smiles our of John Augenstein.
In match play, the Wake Forest senior is a bulldog. A day earlier, Augenstein listed his priorities for this week: Secure a Walker Cup pick, then win the U.S. Amateur. Put that much emphasis on the former, and it’s as Holcomb said: It’s makes it awfully hard to pull off.
Augenstein has been talking with Vanderbilt coach Scott Limbaugh frequently this week. He uses him as a sounding board.
“More so just talked to him, tell him kind of how I was feeling and how I was excited but also waking up this morning, I was a little more anxious than I had been the last few days," he said. "Not nervous, just anxious. But as soon as I hit the first tee shot, I felt completely normal.”
That leaves Cohen Trolio and Andy Ogletree at the top of the bracket. Both men are from Mississippi, though Trolio is considerably younger. He just turned 17 last week and has a small army from Mississippi following him.
Trolio’s father V.J. is on the bag, but Cohen is running the show. The week is built around “Big C’s” expectations.
“I just give him numbers,” said the older Trolio, who is a teaching professional at Old Waverly Golf Club, host of last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur. With help from other pros and players around him, he has helped shape his son's swing.
Cohen Trolio’s expectations this week were for nothing less than a win. It doesn’t matter what field or what head-to-head match he’s taken on, it’s always the same. Up until this week, tournament reps have mostly come against fellow juniors.
“I train hard enough, I practice hard enough,” he said. “I don't practice just to beat juniors, I don't practice just to beat amateurs. I practice to beat everybody.”
As for Ogletree, this could be the breakthrough the Georgia Tech senior has been looking for. Earlier this year, Ogletree shared a pizza with head coach Bruce Heppler and got straight talk. Heppler thought his man has a future on the PGA Tour, but he needed some work. Ogletree doubled down on his short game.
It has made all the difference.
“I don't know if it's confidence or just my stroke is better, but I putt a lot better now,” he said. “I get a lot more balls up-and-down. I chip a lot more than I used to. I've just really, really focused on my short game and put in the time, and it's starting to pay off.”
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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