University Place, Wash. – Already enjoying a successful summer that included winning the Colorado Match Play Championship, Gunner Wiebe geared up for the 110th U.S. Amateur with a one-week seminar on game management.
His father, Mark, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, conducted the lessons late last month while competing in the U.S. Senior Open in nearby Sammamish, at Sahalee Country Club. The younger Wiebe served as caddie, and Sahalee isn’t far from Chambers Bay, Gunner never ventured out for an early scouting report while helping his dad finish tied for 46th.
I didn’t even have my clubs. I didn’t practice at all that week. I was here to help my dad, said Wiebe, 21, Tuesday in explaining how he calmly advanced through to match play in just his second appearance in the U.S. Amateur. I hit balls for an hour on Monday and then won my U.S. Amateur qualifier by seven shots on Tuesday.
I probably couldn’t have had better preparation, added the well-spoken Wiebe, a senior at the University of San Diego. Caddieing for my dad was huge. He’s better than me; there’s no question about it. I can hit it a little farther than he can now, but he knows how to score a lot better. Watching him rubs off on me; it makes me a better player. Any time I can be with him and caddie for him, I try to do it because I get better just from being there. I get better for sure.
The youngster from Aurora, Colo., displayed his own aptitude for scoring in shooting 70-74-144 at The Home Course and Chambers Bay to finish at three over par, tied for 13th. With his father in the audience limping along with a sore left ankle but wearing a proud smile Tuesday afternoon, Wiebe easily qualified for one of 64 match-play berths. Gunner hit 14 greens in regulation Tuesday on a baked out Chambers Bay after hitting all 18 greens in regulation Monday at The Home Course.
The performance extended a run of high-level golf going back to the weeks before he caddied for his father at Sahalee.
There was a reversal of roles, with his dad on the bag, as he won the state match play in Colorado. He then finished ninth at the Trans-Mississippi with his sister, Taylor, taking over as caddie and capped his run by finishing second at the Colorado Open. His mom, Cathy, caddied for him in that one.
I have another sister (Collier), and we’re trying to work her into the rotation, too, he joked.
It’s been a very exciting summer for all of us, said Mark, who is going to try to juggle watching Gunner while competing later this week at the Boeing Championship in Snoqualmie, east of Seattle and about an hour from Chambers Bay. Gunner has just been playing so well. It’s fun watching him compete. He’s had a heck of a schedule of late.
Gunner Wiebe missed out on match play last year by two shots at Southern Hills Country Club after shooting a career-low 63 in his sectional qualifier at Ptarmigan Country Club in Fort Colins, Colo. He won by five shots with a 131 total. This time, he shot 137 at The Farms Golf Club in Rancho Sante Fe, Calif.
This week, however, he’s traded spectacular scoring for two days of steady play. I’ve been very solid, very good with the ball-striking. Just had two really stress-free rounds, Wiebe said. I’ve been patient, and I’ve had a great attitude, and I think that’s helped a lot. The worst I’ve made so far is bogey.
Wiebe said he is comfortable with the match play format, but he admits that winning the state match play in his home state is a far cry from attempting to win the national amateur. It’s a whole different level for sure, he said.
But it’s a level he’s prepared to rise to, given his overall solid play this summer.
I have had a great summer. My goals are very high for this tournament, Weibe said. My expectations were low, but my goals are high. My dad made sure I knew that. He reminded me of that.
Just another lesson from father to son put to good use so far.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship Web sites.