Medalists Kelly Chinn (left) and David Ford (USGA photo)
Even though temperatures barely topped 60 degrees and winds gusted as high as 20 mph, competitors continued to turn the scoreboard red on the second day of stroke play on Sunday in the 6th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Just how low were the scores at Chambers Bay and championship stroke-play co-host, The Home Course?
In the previous five iterations of the championship, a combined 19 sides managed to post 36-hole totals of 10 under par or better in stroke play. This weekend, 20 sides produced such scores.
Topping the list was a pair of 18-year-old junior All-Americans, Kelly Chinn, of Great Falls, Va., and David Ford, of Peachtree Corners, Ga. A day after matching the championship 18-hole record of 62 at The Home Course (par 71), the two graduating high school seniors posted a 6-under-par 66 at Chambers Bay to earn medalist honors at 16-under 127. The total was just one stroke shy of the championship mark set by Brandon Matthews and Patrick Ross in 2016 on Winged Foot’s East and West courses.
“I know David and I were trying to go as low as possible,” said Chinn, who is headed to Duke University in the fall, while his partner will enroll at Atlantic Coast Conference in-state rival North Carolina. “To shoot [that low of a score] for 36 holes is awesome.”
They finished one stroke ahead of University of Michigan teammates Brent Ito, 22, of Ardsley, N.Y., and Patrick Sullivan, 21, of Grosse Pointe, Mich. The Wolverine duo birdied six of their final seven holes on the front nine en route to a 63 at Chambers Bay and a total of 15-under 128.
Reigning champions Scott Harvey, 42, of Greensboro, N.C., and Todd Mitchell, 42, of Bloomington, Ill., who won two years ago at Bandon Dunes, backed up their first-round 63 at Chambers Bay with a 5-under 66 at The Home Course to finish two back, along with 18-hole leaders and University of Nevada teammates Brendan MacDougall, 23, of Canada and Sam Meek, 22, of Canada.
Luke Potter, 17, of Encinitas, Calif., and 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Preston Summerhays, 18, of Scottsdale, Ariz., finished three back at 130 after shooting 67 at The Home Course.
The low 32 sides advance to match play, which begins Monday at Chambers Bay, site of the 2010 U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open. The cut came at 8-under 135 – matching the lowest in championship history (Bandon Dunes in 2019) – and a championship-record 11 sides will return to Chambers Bay on Monday morning for a playoff to determine the last six spots in the draw.
Chinn and Ford played bogey-free golf over the two days with only a handful of stressful holes. On Sunday, Chinn converted two par putts that he estimated at more than 5 feet on Nos. 13 and 15 to keep the momentum going. On the 606-yard, par-5 18th, Chinn reached the green in two with a 3-wood from 270 yards and two-putted for birdie.
Because of the pandemic, Michigan cancelled its fall golf schedule, which led Ito and Sullivan to shoot 61 in their U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifier at Battle Creek (Mich.) Country Club. The Wolverines failed to qualify for regionals this spring, so Ito and Sullivan spent the last month preparing for this championship.
They also watched highlights of the 2015 U.S. Open to get a better feel for Chambers Bay.
“We knew the greens would be completely different,” said Ito, referring to the 2018 renovation in which the facility switched from fine fescue to Poa annua. “We just had to figure out how to work the slopes.”
Now they will try to navigate the match-play draw.
Round-of-32 matches are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. PDT at Chambers Bay. The Round of 16 and quarterfinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the semifinals and 18-hole championship match set for Wednesday.
The playoff for the final six spots in the match-play draw will commence at 7 a.m. PDT on Monday on Chambers Bay’s par-4 10th hole.
One notable side in the playoff is Stewart Hagestad and Derek Busby. Hagestad captured the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur and earlier this month at Seminole Golf Club played on his third consecutive victorious USA Walker Cup Team.
Also in the playoff is the brother tandem of David and Kevin Schultz, of Dallas, Texas, and Tulsa, Okla., respectively. Their mother, Anna, won the 2007 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. They are the only one of the four brother-brother sides in the field in position to qualify for match play.
David Ford wasn’t the only member of his family to have a great day at Chambers Bay. His twin brother, Maxwell, carded a 10-under 62 with partner and fellow Georgian Bruce Murphy to match the championship’s 18-hole scoring record. The duo had opened with an even-par 71 at The Home Course, where David and Kelly Chinn carded a 62 on Saturday.
David Ford chose to play with Chinn over his twin brother because both were inside the top 400 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking®, making them exempt from qualifying. Maxwell was just outside the top 400 at the close of entries last August.
Past champions Nathan Smith and Todd White (2015) and Frankie Capan and Shuai Ming Wong (2017) advanced to match play with scores of 133 and 134, respectively. Smith is a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion (2003, 2009, 2010, 2012) and three-time USA Walker Cup competitor. White was a member of the 2013 USA Walker Cup Team with Smith.
Among the sides failing to qualify for match play were 2019 quarterfinalists Herbie Aikens and Matt Parziale. Parziale won the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur and made the cut in the 2018 U.S. Open. Benjamin Baxter and Andrew Buchanan, the 2016 champions who had not competed in this event since winning at Winged Foot due to Buchanan turning pro, also failed to advance.
Former NFL running back Danny Woodhead and his partner, Michael Wilhelm, missed the cut after shooting a 1-over-par 73 at Chambers Bay (144 total). Woodhead played 10 seasons as an undrafted free agent out of Division II Chadron State. Both players are members at Omaha Country Club, site of this year’s U.S. Senior Open.
To better prepare for Chambers Bay, Joe Greiner borrowed the 2015 U.S. Open yardage book from fellow PGA Tour caddie Michael Greller. Greller caddied at Chambers Bay before landing Jordan Spieth’s bag for the second of his two U.S. Junior Amateur wins at nearby Gold Mountain in Bremerton, and has caddied for Spieth since he turned professional. Greiner and partner Johnny MacArthur posted 12-under 131 to qualify for match play.
“We’re really good friends from junior events. I respect David’s game. I think we work really well together as a four-ball [side] and more importantly, we have a lot of fun with it because we’re good friends.” – Kelly Chinn on partnering with David Ford
“We just grinded short game for the last month to try and sharpen up for this [championship]. Michigan has a great ball-striking team, but we just can’t get it [done] around the greens.” – Brent Ito on how he and partner Patrick Sullivan prepared for Chambers Bay
“Obviously two totally different styles of golf courses. With the wind and the firmness of the greens here, it was tough. You had to hit really, really good shots to put it close.” – Todd Mitchell on playing The Home Course after carding a 63 Saturday at Chambers Bay with Scott Harvey
“I’m sure he is cheering for us. We’re just happy to make match play. Maybe he’ll come out if we win a couple of matches.” – Joe Greiner, the caddie for two-time PGA Tour winner Max Homa, after making match play with partner Johnny MacArthur
“It was a pretty good two days. We’re on to match play and that was the main goal. It doesn’t matter if your first or 32nd, once you’re in you’ve got a chance.” – Brandon MacDougall after he and partner Sam Meek shot 62-67—129
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