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Augenstein, Ogletree will go head-to-head in U.S. Amateur final
John Augenstein (USGA photo)
John Augenstein (USGA photo)

PINEHURST, N.C. – Andy Ogletree had a prophetic thought after the third round of match play at the U.S. Amateur. He looked at the bracket and saw a clear path to the final. He imagined he might meet John Augenstein once he got there.

On Sunday, that all comes true.

Ogletree’s reasoning was simple: “I just thought we were the best two players left with the most experience,” he said after his 3-and-1 defeat of fellow Mississippian Cohen Trolio, a 17-year-old.

At times, the golf displayed by Ogletree and Trolio wasn’t pretty. Ogletree, a Georgia Tech senior, said it was admittedly terrible. He found a feel on No. 15 and even though he flew the green on that par 3, he knew he had reached a turning point. Ogletree was 1 up on the 16th tee but won the next two holes to finish off the match.

It wasn’t just the golf that was unpolished at times. So was the crowd. Heckling in a U.S. Amateur is rare, but it can be intense. There’s often no barrier between the crowd and the player – it’s so jumbled that at times, a caddie can get lost in the shuffle and have to force his way through.

Ogletree felt the crowed pulling overwhelmingly for Trolio on Saturday and even felt some people actively pulling against him. Standing over a 4-footer, he heard a Masters ring tone go off followed by chuckles. (Finalists receive an invitation to Augusta in the spring.) Ogletree backed off and sent an icy stare.

“When that many people are pulling against you, you just kind of have to be your own cheerleader and just keep telling yourself, ‘Look, you're meant to be here and just keep doing you, and it's all going to work out,’” he said.

Ogletree is a small-town kid, having been raised in the unincorporated town of Little Rock, Miss., which numbers less than 2,000. The golf course was at least a half-hour drive, so his family installed practice facilities in the backyard. He could hit shots up to 200 yards behind his house, plus there was a bunker and a green. The Ogletrees even had a proper mower for the putting green, and maintaining it turned into a household chore for the Ogletree children.

“We put a streetlight in over the green, and I can remember countless nights down there putting under the streetlight,” he said.

The city of Atlanta, where Ogletree lives and attends Georgia Tech, is a long way away from that kind of life. It took awhile to adjust, but Ogletree has found his rhythm after three years. This has been a breakthrough summer for him, and it’s no coincidence that it came after a sit-down conversation with Yellow Jacket coach Bruce Heppler, during which the two discussed Ogletree’s Tour potential and how to get there.

The answer? Short game. Ogletree has pursued growth in that area single-mindedly ever since.

Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt frequently play each other, and Ogletree feels like he’s played every Commodore on the roster but John Augenstein. He’ll check that match off on Sunday in the 36-hole final, which will be split between Pinehurst No. 4 (morning) and No. 2 (afternoon).

“I know he's a competitor,” Ogletree said. “I know he's – a lot of people say he's a bulldog, but I actually just saw a Tweet that said John is the only one with credentials here. That's kind of got me motivated and ready to go tomorrow.”

Augenstein does have a reputation as a venerable match-play player – which is where the word “bulldog” comes in – and for good reason. He’s a self-described gritty payer who bears down when it comes to head-to-head golf.

That was a little harder for Augenstein to do on Saturday against Holcomb, simply because he didn’t know much about the player from Sam Houston State who carries a World Amateur Golf Ranking in the 300s. Augenstein called him a bit of a wild card. He only met Holcomb on the range a day ago.

“You have no idea kind of what he's good at, what he's not good at,” Augenstein said. “Do I give him some putts, do I not? So just having to figure those little things – those things being unknown to me are not normal. Usually at this stage you know everybody you're playing against.”

Holcomb won the third hole with birdie for a quick lead but opened the door on the next hole with a bogey. He didn’t lead again, and Augenstein eventually won with birdie on the 16th.

Augenstein hasn’t been shy this week about his desire to be on the Walker Cup team. His play at Pinehurst should have guaranteed him a spot on the 10-man U.S. roster, but he can remove all doubt with a win on Sunday. The match winner automatically gets a selection.

“I don't want to leave it up to the committee because if I do that, it's out of my hands,” he said. “But if I can get the job done tomorrow, then I won't have to worry about much.”

Results: U.S. Amateur
WinMSAndy OgletreeLittle Rock, MS2000
Runner-upKYJohn AugensteinOwensboro, KY1500
SemifinalsMSCohen TrolioWest Point, MS1000
SemifinalsTXWilliam HolcombCrockett, TX1000
QuarterfinalsKYAustin SquiresUnion, KY700

View full results for U.S. Amateur

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 event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent amateur competition in the world. Applications are typically placed online, starting the third week in April at www.usga.org.

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