Rainey, Kocher Seeking Another Pinehurst Moment May 29, 2017 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C. By Bill Fields

Pinehurst continues to provide fond memories for Charlotte, N.C., natives David Kocher (left) and William Rainey. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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David Kocher and William Rainey are from Charlotte, N.C., but each of these competitors in the 3rd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship knew the 90-mile drive east on N.C. Highway 24/27 to Pinehurst Resort & Country Club very well growing up.

There were winter and summer junior tournaments, and Kocher’s grandparents, David and Grace Kocher, lived near the fifth tee of Pinehurst Course No. 5, a great location for a golf-loving kid.

“We’d spend four or five weekends with them every summer and play a loop of four holes near their house over and over,” said Kocher. “I have tons of awesome memories from those days. It was a lot of fun.”

Kocher and Rainey certainly enjoyed their tour of Pinehurst Course No. 2 in Monday’s Round of 32. The 21-year-olds who have known each other for a decade defeated Houstonians Walker Lee and Andrew Minton, 4 and 3, to advance to a Tuesday morning Round-of-16 match against standout juniors Wilson Furr and Davis Shore, who beat Micah Dean and Alex Rodger, 5 and 4, in their opening match.

For Kocher, a rising senior at the University of Maryland, and Rainey, who recently graduated from the College of Charleston, their familiarity with Pinehurst courses and the hundreds of rounds they’ve played here, has given them a comfort level this week.

“It doesn’t even feel like a USGA event because of all the tournaments we’ve played here,” said Kocher. “It’s just like another tournament at Pinehurst. There is a comfort zone in playing in the Sandhills, and there is also a comfort zone playing with a really good teammate.”

Added Rainey: “It takes a lot of local knowledge out there, especially with the greens, and that’s key.”

The 2016 North Carolina Open champion, Kocher has won before at Pinehurst, capturing the 2014 North & South Junior on Course No. 8. The previous year in that event, he was in a grouping with Will Grimmer when Grimmer shot a 59 on Course No. 1, believed to be the first sub-60 round recorded at the resort.

On Monday, Kocher accounted for three of the side’s four birdies, holing 20-footers on Nos. 6, 10 and 15, the last one to close out the match on the warm, sunny day. On the sixth and 15th holes, Rainey hit his tee shots 6 feet from the flagstick, but didn’t have to attempt his close-range birdie putts.

“I was in there tight, and he stole my thunder,” said Rainey. “But I don't mind picking up my coin in that situation.”

Kocher also isn’t a stranger to this championship. Last year he advanced to the quarterfinals at Winged Foot Golf Club with Maryland teammate Connor Tindall, who has turned professional. “I needed a new partner, and I asked Will,” Kocher said. “He’s a heck of a player.”

Rainey’s caddie this week has game as well. Mary Chandler Bryan, his girlfriend of nearly three years, is the younger sister of tour professionals George IV and Wesley Bryan who, like Rainey, played golf for the College of Charleston and plans to turn professional after a summer of amateur competition.

“My brothers love him too,” said Mary Chandler. “He fits right in with the family.”

Rainey has been mentored by the Bryan brothers, and has seen Wesley, 27, work his way up through development circuits to winning on the PGA Tour this spring at the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island, S.C., which helped him earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open via the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“It’s the coolest thing in the world to have a mentor like that,” Rainey said. “I’m about to turn pro, and talking to George and Wesley is great because they’ve been through it all. I started dating Mary Chandler when Wesley was on the mini-tours. I’ve seen the whole process. I’ve asked Wesley all kinds of questions, and he gives me a lot of good advice.”

The Bryan brothers drew a lot of attention for trick-shot videos, but Rainey was getting noticed for his golf sideshows well before that. Rainey used an Olive Garden breadstick to pop a golf ball into a cup on a table 6 feet away. He pulled off his most astounding trick in the summer of 2013, wedging a football into his backyard basketball goal from about 45 yards away.

“That took off and got about 3 million views on Vine,” Rainey said. “Right after that, the Bryan brothers started doing their thing like a profession. I’ll bust out a few [trick shots] here and there, but the Bryan brothers, they retired me.”

You Tube Link: William Rainey  Trick Shots Compilation

Mary Chandler defends Rainey’s golf trickery. “He says they took him out of business, but I still think Will’s better,” she said. “I’ll take his side.”

“I just hit regular shots,” said Kocher.

And hopefully those will be good enough this week to add one more Pinehurst memory.

Bill Fields is a Connecticut-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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