Zach Foushee/Robbie Ziegler and Kenny Cook/Sean Rowan lead the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
Brett Patterson (left) and Payne Denman were one of four groups to shoot 62 (USGA Photo)
Brett Patterson (left) and Payne Denman were one of four groups to shoot 62 (USGA Photo)

The weather for the opening round of the 9th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Philadelphia Cricket Club couldn’t have been more idyllic – sunshine, light winds and no humidity.

The kind of conditions that make for good scoring and even better times. And for a number of sides during Saturday’s first round of stroke play, there were many things to celebrate.

Four teams posted 62s on the two championship layouts: the 6,978-yard, par-70 Wissahickon Course designed by A.W. Tillinghast, and the adjacent 7,230-yard, par-72 stroke-play co-host Militia Hill Course designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzon and Dana Fry.

Ex-University of Oregon teammates Zach Foushee, 29, of Lake Oswego, Ore., and Robbie Ziegler, 33, of Tualitan, Ore., matched Indiana tandem Kenny Cook, 44, of Noblesville, and Sean Rowen, 50, of Greenwood, with 10-under 62s at Militia Hill.

“It was perfect out,” said Rowen. “It was a good day to score.”

At Wissahickon, the two sides who posted 62s included ex-Middle Tennessee State teammates Payne Denman, 32, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Brett Patterson, 32, of Oxford, Miss., and Michigan natives Bradley Bastion, 39, of Shelby Township, and Anthony Sorentino, 46, of Rochester Hills.

North Carolina 16-year-olds and rising high school juniors Daniel McBrien, of Holly Springs, and Smith Summerlin, of Raleigh, carded a 63 at Militia Hills, while 29-year-old Coloradoans Jimmy Makloski, of Pueblo, and Colin Prater, of Colorado Springs shot the same at Wissahickon. Prater, a high school science teacher, qualified for match play in the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills last summer.

This could turn out to be quite a week for Ziegler, who turns 34 on Wednesday and is about to celebrate the 6-month birth of his first child, Kaden. Fortunately, his wife, Kristen, gave Ziegler some “me time” to fly across the country to compete with his longtime buddy, Zach Foushee, five years his junior who won an NCAA title in 2016 for the Ducks and regained his amateur status five years ago following a two-year stint on PGA Tour Canada.

The duo registered nine birdies and an eagle with the lone hiccup being a bogey on the 252-yard, par-3 ninth. Last summer, Foushee, a real estate agent, and Ziegler, a sports marketing agent at Adidas Golf, claimed the Oregon Stroke Play.

“The key to this format is to just have a bunch of [birdie] looks on the greens,” said Ziegler, competing in his 11th USGA championship. “We both had birdie putts.”

Foushee’s 20-yard chip-in for eagle on the 577-yard, par-5 sixth hole was a nice momentum builder, and birdies on 16, 17 and 18, including an 18-footer by Ziegler on the final hole, put the exclamation point on a memorable day.

An eagle also kickstarted Rowen and Cook’s round, who are making their sixth start in the championship together. Rowen’s 220-yard hybrid approach stopped 14 feet from the flagstick, and he converted. A Cook birdie on No. 8 and a clutch 4½-foot par save on nine kept the momentum going. They registered six birdies over the final nine holes.

“You try to stay consistent, patient and keep hitting good shots and giving ourselves opportunities,” said Rowen. “I feel like we’re good enough that we were going to start making some [putts]. And we did.”

Patterson and Denman first met as junior golf competitors two decades ago, and then became teammates at Middle Tennessee State. Denman has since become the men’s golf assistant coach at the Division I school, while Patterson, a reinstated amateur, just recently earned his Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Mississippi and became a full-time faculty member. Last September, he advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur.

On Saturday, Denman birdied the first two holes and then Patterson took over, making six more over an 11-hole stretch, beginning with the 104-yard, par-3 third.

“We’ve got good chemistry, and I think our main goal is to just trust our game,” said Patterson, who qualified with Denman two years ago. “We knew that it was going to be good enough to make match play, and we’ve set ourselves up pretty well to do that.”

As an assistant prosecuting attorney back in Michigan, Sorentino’s job consists of putting the bad guys away. And on Saturday, he made a strong opening argument. Along with Bastion, who works in the financial world, the duo each made four birdies on their way to matching the low round of the day at Wissahickon. That included a chip-in 3 by Sorentino on the 490-yard closing hole.

But two years ago, at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.), they also started strong and failed to qualify for match play. Both know it will take another solid round on Sunday to be among the 32 match-play qualifiers.

“Just have to do it all again tomorrow,” said Sorentino.

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ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 5.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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