Smalley Cards Near-Record 133 to Earn Medalist Honors
August 16, 2016 | Bloomfield Township, Mich.
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
Duke University sophomore Alex Smalley, of Wake Forest, N.C., fashioned a suitable Ben Hogan impression Tuesday to earn stroke-play medalist honors in the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club’s North and South courses.
Smalley shot a 7-under-par 133 to tie for the second-lowest 36-hole score in the history of the championship. He finished one stroke behind the championship mark of 132 shared by Hank Kim (1994), Gregor Main (2011) and Bobby Wyatt (2012), and tied with Brett Coletta (2015).
“I’m kind of shaking a little bit, still. I'm not sure what to feel,” said Smalley, 19. “This is my first U.S. Amateur, so it's kind of cool taking home medalist. Medalist is nice, but we've still got a lot more golf to go.”
While he didn’t tame the South Course, so dubbed “The Monster” by Ben Hogan in his 1951 U.S. Open victory, Smalley posted a 2-under 68 to share a place with the four-time U.S. Open champion – at the top of the leader board. An All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic choice, Smalley shot a bogey-free 65 Monday on the North Course.
“I just got off to a good start, had three birdies on the front nine, and then just kind of kept it going,” said Smalley, an All-East Region choice. “Again, I didn't miss very many greens today. I think I only missed a couple. I just hit the ball solid all the way around.”
Playing in the rainy morning session, Dawson Armstrong, of Brentwood, Tenn., and Gavin Hall, of Pittsford, N.Y., finished one stroke behind Smalley, at 134.
Armstrong, a 20-year-old Lipscomb University junior, fired an even-par 70 and University of Texas senior Hall, 21, logged a 1-under 69 on the iconic South Course, which has hosted six U.S. Opens.
“I'm not a serious historian about courses and players that won at those courses, but I've seen some of the players that have won here, some of the tournaments that have been played,” said Armstrong, the 2015 Western Amateur and Dogwood Invitational champion. “The players that have won here are very highly renowned players. It's a privilege to get to keep on going and still have a chance to be in the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, just great players. It's a real honor.”
Two-time U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up and University of Alabama sophomore Davis Riley, of Hattiesburg, Miss., tied the competitive record on the North Course and tied for the third-lowest stroke-play round in a U.S. Amateur with a 7-under 63 that included seven birdies. Riley’s championship-low round of 63 tied Matt Kuchar’s score in 2007 Open Championship qualifying.
“It’s definitely in the top couple for sure,” Riley said of how he ranks today’s round. “I had a 58 at my home course that has to be up there, but definitely in the top two or three rounds I've played in a while.”
Tied with Riley at 136 was Justin Suh, of San Jose, Calif.
Nick Carlson, a University of Michigan sophomore from Hamilton, Mich., was the only player from the host state to qualify for match play at 1-over 141.
Twenty-three players will play off at 2-over 142 for the final eight match-play berths, beginning at 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday on the North Course. The 64-player match play round begins on the South Course at 9 a.m. Among those in the playoff are Maverick McNealy, No.1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™; 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz; and 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Scott Harvey.
The cut at 142 ties as the lowest (with Erin Hills in 2011) since the stroke-play and match-play format was adopted in 1979.
Both courses, designed by Donald Ross, are playing to a par of 70. The South Course plays to 7,334 yards and the North Course lists a yardage of 6,849.
The 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, which begins Wednesday and concludes with Sunday’s 36-hole championship.
The U.S. Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.