University Place, Wash. - While some college coaches are buzzing around the U.S. Amateur watching players this week, one in particular has been too immersed in navigating Chambers Bay and the Home Course to pay much attention to what others are doing.
That’s because University of Virginia coach Bowen Sargent is here as a player. In case you’re wondering, the last college coach to win the U.S. Amateur was in 1986 when the University of Florida’s Stewart Buddy Alexander accomplished the feat. Chances are Sargent won’t win, let alone make the cut,particularly after a 10-over-par 81 on the Chambers Bay course Monday in the first round of stroke-play qualifying.
Still, it’s quite a feat that he’s even here. It’s been 19 years since Sargent last played in an Amateur – during the collapse of the Soviet Union– at The Honors Course (Tenn.). Then, Sargent was known as Bo and competed against a field that showcased the likes of Allen Doyle, Shaun Micheel, Phil Mickelson and Dickie Pride, to name a few. Sargent dispatched Patrick Carter in 19 holes in the opening round of match play, but was ousted by David White in the second round.
It was fun, but it seems so long ago, said Sargent, named Coach of the Year by the Virginia State Golf Coaches Association this past season.
It makes this go-around that much more special. Sargent spent time as a professional trying to make the PGA Tour. He came within one shot of qualifying for the final round of Q-School. After bouncing around on the Hooters Tour, Sargent accepted the coaching job at Virginia, where he is approaching his seventh season. In the meantime, he became a reinstated amateur.
Sargent isn’t alone this week. Two of his players – 21-year-olds Amory Davis and Henry Smart – are in the field. Asked what kind of coach he was, Davis called Sargent extremely detailed.
He’s a stickler for the little things, but I mean it in a good way, said Davis, who shot 2-under 70 at the Home Course Monday.
Whenever he plays us, he always gives us a good game. It’s definitely not accidental [that he qualified], said Smart, who shot 5-over 76 on Chambers Bay Monday.
When news broke that their 41-year-old coach qualified for the U.S. Amateur on Aug. 2 at Charlottesville, Va., rising seniors Davis and Smart couldn’t resist having fun. What if they met up in match play?
I’d love it, said Smart. It’d be something else. I wouldn't treat him as a friend. I'd treat him as a competitor."
Added Davis: "That would be really, really awesome. It would be one of the highlights of my life."
Sargent took it in stride.
It would be odd, but I’d be trying to beat them, he said with a laugh.
Coming in, Sargent worried about his stamina. Chambers Bay’s terrain is challenging to say the least, and to turn around and play 18 more holes Tuesday will be taxing.
And barring a minor miracle Tuesday, he’ll be heading home. His hope is that it won’t be another 19 years before he plays in another Amateur.
Ken Klavon is the USGA's online editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.