Wildcats Wu, Whalen Fire 62 for First-Round Lead May 21, 2016 | Mamaroneck, N.Y. By Brian DePasquale, USGA

Patrick Christovich (above) and his partner, Garrett Rank, got off to a strong start with a 5-under 65 on the East Course. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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Northwestern University teammates Andrew Whalen and Dylan Wu, playing on Winged Foot Golf Club’s East Course, fired an 8-under-par 62 Saturday to grab the lead after the first day of stroke play in the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The par-70, 6,728-yard East Course and par-70, 7,033-yard West Course are both being used during the stroke-play portion of the championship.

Whalen, 22, of Ephrata, Wash., and Wu, 19, of Medford, Ore., posted eight birdies, including a run of four consecutive, and registered no bogeys in the afternoon. Their round was two strokes better than the low stroke-play score at last year’s inaugural championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif.

“I think we are a good pairing,” said Wu, who was not able to practice on the East Course after playing in NCAA Regionals earlier in the week at Oklahoma State University. “I am confident in my driving capabilities and he hits really far. We both made key putts today for momentum.”

Whalen, who advanced to the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur quarterfinals, where he lost to eventual champion Jordan Spieth, made a 4½-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth to start the team’s birdie barrage. Wu, who finished sixth in this year’s Big Ten Championship, followed with a 20-footer on No. 10 before his 103-yard wedge set up another birdie on the following hole. Whalen completed the run by getting up and down from the left greenside bunker on the par-5 12th.

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by five rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Wednesday, May 25, starting at 1 p.m. EDT.

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Drew Allenspach, 29, of Louisville, Ky., and Matthew Van Zandt, 30, of Houston, Texas, who failed to qualify for match play in last year’s championship, got off to a quick start on the West Course with an early string of four consecutive birdies en route to a 7-under 63. Allenspach struck his approach shot on the par-4 sixth to within 4 feet to set up the third birdie in that stretch despite hitting the leaf of a tree.

Van Zandt, who like his partner is a regional staff member for the College Golf Fellowship, a Christian ministry, kept the round on schedule for his team with par saves at Nos. 9 and 10. He made par putts of 8 and 6 feet, respectively.

“It was a situation where I knew my partner was playing well,” said Allenspach about Van Zandt, who like Wu advanced through U.S. Open local qualifying earlier this month to sectional play in June. “I know I don’t have to light the world on fire, just try and throw a couple circles on the scorecard.”

Brandon Matthews, 21, of Dupont, Pa., and Patrick Ross, 24, of Dunmore, Pa., also used the experience of competing in last year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball to their benefit in carding a 63 on the East Course. The former Temple University teammates made five birdies on the inward nine during the morning’s pristine conditions.

Ross nearly holed an 8-iron approach on the par-4 14th before later drilling a 5-iron to within 2 feet on the 218-yard, par-3 17th. Matthews, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 U.S. Amateur, sank a 25-foot uphill birdie putt on the final hole to cap the round.

“We did not put any stress on ourselves today,” said Matthews, the first Temple player to earn All-America honors since 1988. “Pat almost made four shots and had tap-ins for four birdies. He hit it absolutely outstanding on the back nine.”

Robert Crockett II, 37, of Louisville, Ky., and Andy Roberts, 35, of Owensboro, Ky., turned in the third 63 on the East Course. Crockett chipped from the front fringe to within 2 feet on the par-5 12th for one of the team’s eight birdies. Roberts made a 10-footer for birdie on the par-3 17th.

Former Southern Methodist University teammates Jason Enloe, 42, of Dallas, Texas, and Alex Buecking, 43, of Columbine Valley, Colo., joined Braden Baer and Cole Nygren with 6-under 64s on the East Course.

Buecking, who works in banking and real estate, performed some magic with three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the inward nine. He holed a 40-yard shot on No. 14 before making two long putts, including a 50-footer from off the front of the green on the par-4 16th.

“Every time I went over and hugged him and said, ‘thanks,’” said Enloe, SMU’s head golf coach. “We had three big group hugs over the last five holes.”

Baer, 22, of Westminster, Colo., and Nygren, 22, of Longmont, Calif., totaled seven birdies and one bogey. Nygren, a senior on the Cal Poly golf team, helped his team make consecutive birdies on holes 16 and 17. He hit his approach on No. 16 from a fairway bunker to within 12 feet and then delivered a 4-iron to tap-in range on the next hole.

Patrick Christovich and Garrett Rank, a pair of mid-amateur players, are among four teams that each shot 5-under 65s on the East Course. Christovich, 37, of New Orleans, La., made a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 10 and set up another short birdie putt with an 8-iron approach on No. 13.

“We both gave ourselves some looks,” said Rank, a 28-year-old Canadian who was the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up. “Patrick made a nice putt on the 10th hole and we both hit great drives and second shots on the par 5 (12th). We gave ourselves chances on those holes and one of us was able to convert.”

Defending champions Nathan Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Todd White, 48, of Spartanburg, S.C., were bolstered by a hole-in-one on their way to a 3-under 67. White, a high school history teacher, recorded an ace on the 153-yard seventh with an 8-iron on the West Course, which has hosted five U.S. Opens.

“The conditions were perfect,” said White, who along with Smith was a member of the victorious 2013 USA Walker Cup Team. “I am appreciative of the venues [for this championship] – The Olympic Club last year and Winged Foot this year. What more can you ask for?"

Brian DePasquale is the USGA’s manager of championship communications. Email him at bdepasquale@usga.org

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