Stanford University teammates Viraat Badhwar and Maverick McNealy birdied five of their final nine holes and fired a 4-under-66 Sunday to register a 36-hole stroke-play total of 10-under 130 to win medalist honors by two strokes at the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Olympic Club.
The 19-year-old sophomores, who were members of the 2015 Pac-12 Conference golf championship team in late April, birdied holes 10, 12, 16, 17 and 18 after nine pars on the outward nine of the Lake Course, which has hosted five previous U.S. Open championships. Their only bogey came on the 14th. Each birdied two holes and both birdied 10.
“Every time you look at a list of champions you always fall on the first one first,” said McNealy of winning the medal. “To have our names on top would be awesome. There’s always a first for everything and it’s cool to be part of the first one.”
McNealy, of Portola Valley, Calif., won the 2015 Pac-12 player of the year and the individual conference crown with a 61 in the final round but he leans heavily on his good friend and teammate Badhwar for support. However, Badhwar, who hails from Australia but was born in India, reciprocates with praise.
“He was my anchor today as per usual he played really well,” said Badhwar, who finished T26th at the 2015 Pac-12s and posted a pair of top-10 finishes this collegiate season.
McNealy, who qualified for the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur, called the timing of the Four-Ball ‘a nice lull’ in the hectic spring quarter at Stanford.
“What better way to prepare for NCAA Regionals and nationals than play this golf course in this condition in this competition?” he asked.
High school golfers Sam Burns and Austin Connelly finished at 8-under-par 132. Burns, 18, of Shreveport, La., and Connelly, 18, of Dallas, who also holds Canadian citizenship, posted a 4-under-par 66 on the Lake Course. They tallied five birdies against a bogey in the second round.
“We were trying to win the medal but we gave a few away yesterday,” said Connelly, who will attend the University of Arkansas. “We had a bad stretch in the middle today but we both birdied 17 and gave ourselves a chance.”
Burns, who has won three consecutive Louisiana state high school titles and will attend LSU,
is a slightly longer hitter but he savors having Connelly, an arrow-straight driver, as a partner.
“It’s good to have a partner like Austin who is going to hit every fairway and then hit it to about 20 feet on every green,” Burns said. “I might hit a few more wedges but if he’s in the fairway, I can be more aggressive.”
Three strokes off the pace at 7-under 133 were Californians Jordan Nasser of Irvine and Taylor Wood of Rancho Santa Margarita, who played collegiately at the University of Southern California and the championship’s youngest side, a pair of 16-year-old Hawaiians, Kyle Suppa, the current Hawaii State Amateur champion, and Kyosuke Hara, a karate black belt who qualified for the 2014 U.S. Amateur.
“He’s typically a very straight hitter of the golf ball,” Wood said of Nasser. “So we have him go first to make sure there is a ball in play and 95 percent of the time that works. It’s the first one and our plan was to be aggressive try to shoot another 5- or 6-under and we definitely wanted to be medalist at the inaugural event. That was the goal setting out today.”
At 6-under-par 134 were Southern Methodist University teammates Bryson DeChambeau and Austin Smotherman and Bandon Dunes Resort caddies Kyle Crawford and Tim Tucker.
The California-native SMU teammates posted a 5-under-par 65 on the Lake Course. The caddies followed their first-round 66 on the Ocean Course with a grinding 1-under 69 that included five birdies and four bogeys.
“We didn’t have wind until the back nine but that’s when Austin started playing well – he made four 3s in a row,” said DeChambeau, 21, of Clovis. “We kind of struggled in the middle of the round but once I birdied 10 we caught fire.”
The duo played a bogey-free round and made four of their birdies on the inward nine.
“We have been playing under the mantra of ‘help each other beat each other’ since the practice rounds,” DeChambeau added.
Smotherman, 20, of Loomis, adjusted their usual go-for-it mentality with a more tempered approach.
“Just because we are young doesn’t mean we aren’t smart,” said Smotherman. “You have to play smart on a U.S. Open golf course and you have to have patience too.”
Also at 134 were Texans Zach Atkinson of Colleyville and James Edmondson of North Richland Hills. Their 66 on the Ocean Course included a hole-in-one on the par-3 10th hole by Atkinson.
The inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play on the Lake and Ocean Courses of The Olympic Club. The lowest-scoring 32 teams begin five rounds of match play on Monday at 9 a.m. the Lake Course, with the 18-hole championship match scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Following the conclusion of stroke play, eight sides were tied at 1-under-par 139, so an 8-for-3 playoff will begin at 7 a.m. on the Ocean Course to determine the final three sides that advance to match play.
Pete Kowalski is the USGA’s director of championship communications. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.