Medalists Viraat Badhwar and Maverick McNealy, who are teammates at Stanford University, and 2013 USA Walker Cup Team members Nathan Smith and Todd White, were among 16 victorious sides Monday in the first round of match play at the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at The Olympic Club’s Lake Course.
The duo of 19-year-old college sophomores from the 2015 Pac-12 Conference championship team won four of their first six holes to build a lead they would not relinquish in defeating Erik Ciotti, of Winfield, Ill., and Michael Affeldt, of Chicago, 6 and 4.
“We both played very solidly,” said Badhwar, who finished T26th the Pac-12 tournament and was born in India but lives in Australia. “It was a matter of making a bunch of pars after the first six holes, which are really tough.”
While they made just one birdie in the 14 holes of the match, they consistently saved par.
“I hit it better to start the round than I did at the end,” said McNealy, of Portola Valley, Calif., who was the 2015 Pac-12 player of the year. “V made a lot of up and downs. V kept making pars in front of me.”
The proximity of The Olympic Club to Stanford’s campus gives McNealy and Badhwar a familiar feel.
“It’s great to sleep in your own bed,” said McNealy, who won Pac-12 individual title by 10 strokes. “We carpool it up here. It’s just like another fun, home tournament.”
Smith, 36, an investment advisor and White, 47, a high school history teacher, never trailed after gaining a 3-up lead through eight holes in their 5-and-3 win over R.J. Nakashian, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Stephen Anderson, of Hobe Sound, Fla.
“Todd played incredible,” said Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur winner and a three-time USA Walker Cup Team member from Pittsburgh, Pa. “I picked him up a few times but it worked out great.”
White, of Spartanburg, S.C., who won the 2015 Azalea Amateur against a field of predominantly college players, scored birdies on the par-3 13th and 15th holes to close out the match.
Sixteen-year-olds Kyle Suppa and Kyosuke Hara, the championship’s youngest side, advanced with a come-from-behind, 3-and-2 win over 2004 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Austin Eaton III, of Lakeville, Minn. and Roger Hoit, of Summit, N.J.
The teens from Honolulu, Hawaii, won four consecutive holes (7 through 10) to erase a 3-down deficit and turn it into a 1-up advantage. They held that edge until the par-3 15th hole, when Hara holed his 8-iron tee shot for an ace, his first in competition. Suppa, the current Hawaii State Amateur champion, and Hara, a karate black belt who qualified for the 2014 U.S. Amateur, closed out the match with a birdie on the par-5 16th hole.
The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play on the Lake and Ocean Courses of The Olympic Club followed by five rounds of match play played only on the Lake Course.
The Round of 16 and quarterfinals will be played Tuesday, and the semifinals and championship match will be played on Wednesday.
On Monday morning, eight sides tied at 1-under-par 139 participated in a playoff on the Ocean Course for the final three places in the match play field. The sides of Eaton/Hoit, Ciotti/Affeldt and Jacob Huizinga/William Wrigley advanced from the playoff, but none survived the Round of 32.
Fox Sports 1 will televise the championship from 4:00-6:30 p.m. PDT (7:00-9:30 p.m. EDT) on May 5 and 6.
Pete Kowalski is the USGA’s director of championship communications. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.