Koepka Right Back Where He Wants to Be, in Match Play
August 19, 2015 | Olympia Fields, Ill.
By Dave Shedloski
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Chase Koepka admits he doesn’t have a considerable amount of match-play experience, but he has a chance to rectify that in this week’s U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club.
Playing for the second time in the USGA’s oldest championship, Koepka was assured of being among the top 64 scorers in two rounds of stroke play after he added a 1-over 71 on Tuesday to his first-round 69. The even-par 140 score has him tied for 14th among the 312 competitors.
“The hard part is over,” said Koepka, 21, of North Palm Beach, Fla., whose last name might be familiar to golf fans; his brother, Brooks, competes on the PGA Tour and is the No. 17 player in the world.
With his play here in the southern suburbs of Chicago, Koepka, an All-American at the University of South Florida, advances to match play for the second time in as many tries. Two years ago at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., he made it to the second round, beating Michael Miller of Brewster, N.Y., in the opening round before falling to Charlie Danielson of Osceola, Wis.
Last year Koepka missed most of the summer season, including the U.S. Amateur, with a wrist injury. Now he has a chance to redeem himself, and will face Todd Mitchell in the Round of 64. But it doesn’t matter who he plays, he said.
“I really like where my game is right now,” he said.
Koepka is coming off a junior year in which he led the USF golf team with a 71.6 stroke average and won his third individual collegiate title at The Invitational at the Ocean Course. His strong play has continued into the summer with a runner-up finish at the Players Amateur and joint third at the Sunnehanna Amateur.
Driving has fueled his performance so far at Olympia Fields; he missed just one fairway each day on the North and South Courses. “I’m giving myself a lot of chances to make birdies, and that’s what you have to do,” he said.
While Chase spent the weekend preparing for the U.S. Amateur, his older brother was competing about three hours north of Chicago in the 97th PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, where he rallied to finish tied for fifth, his third top-10 finish in a major championship. Chase wanted to watch Brooks play, but decided to concentrate on his preparation.
It paid off, and he enjoyed talking on the phone with his brother Tuesday afternoon as they traded their stories of success.
“He told me great job and to keep my foot down,” Chase said. “I have to continue to play my own game and stay patient, make good decisions.
“I haven’t played a lot of match play, but I hope that I can use whatever experience I have to my advantage. We played more match-play events this year at USF, and that should help. And the more I win, the more experience I’m going to get.”
Brooks surprised Chase by showing up to watch his younger brother two years ago in Boston, but he is competing in this week’s final PGA Tour regular-season event in Greensboro, N.C., the Wyndham Championship. One of his two playing partners for the first two rounds is Tiger Woods, who won three U.S. Amateur Championships. An ideal scenario for the family is a busy Sunday with the older brother vying for his second PGA Tour win and the younger competing in the 36-hole Amateur final.
“Yeah, it could be a fun week. I’m looking forward to staying here as long as I can,” Chase said. “I’m playing some really great golf right now and feel good about what I’m doing, and I hope it’s a great week all around for the Koepkas.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work previously has appeared on USGA websites.