U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Round of 32: Five Storylines
May 29, 2017 | Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
By David Shefter, USGA
Stroke play in the 3rd U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship is officially in the rearview mirror at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club. The field of 128 sides has now been reduced to 32 – a playoff on Monday morning will decide the final six spots in the match-play draw.
Five rounds of match play over the next three days will produce the 2017 champions, and there are no shortage of compelling stories to follow. Here are five for the Round of 32:
Father’s Day is 20 days away, but there’s no doubt that Dan Corfee received his gift on Sunday. The 52-year-old from El Macero, Calif., had only once before played in a four-ball competition with his talented son, Ben. And it didn’t go well. When it was over, Ben, then in high school, told his father he would never partner with him again.
“We started yelling at each other,” said Dan. “Typical father-son stuff.”
But seeing his time on the competitive stage was dwindling, Dan begged for Ben to give it one more shot. Begrudgingly, the University of California-Davis graduating senior agreed to enter this year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, and they qualified, becoming one of three father-son tandems in the field.
Things looked bleak after they opened with a 1-over 72 at Course No. 8 on Saturday. But something magical happened 24 hours later. Ben and Dan shot a 64 at iconic Course No. 2, site of three U.S. Opens and a U.S. Women’s Open. Only one other team matched that total on the layout, and that came from the medalists, Will Grimmer and Clark Engle. Dan even holed a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 16.
Their 5-under 136 total was good enough to earn a Monday starting time at 11:36 a.m. against Connor Campbell and Blake Meek. They are the second father-son duo to qualify for match play in the young history of the championship, joining Andrew and John Sajevic (2015 at The Olympic Club).
“Frankly, my expectation was … to not embarrass myself,” said Dan Corfee, who like his son, played at UC Davis before getting into commercial real estate. “I wasn’t the steadiest guy today, but I made a couple of putts that mattered. That’s four-ball. That’s the great part of it.
“Ben played wonderful today. Just watching him is like a dream.”
The two Corfees have been playing golf together every weekend for the past decade, and Dan estimated they’ve enjoyed 1,000-plus rounds. They are members at El Macero Country Club and The Olympic Club.
Ben plans to spend his summer on the amateur circuit before giving Web.com Tour Q-School a shot this fall. But he’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better golf moment than this week at Pinehurst.
“There’s going to be more father-son memories for sure,” said the 23-year-old, “but this one is definitely up there.”
By the time they tee it up at 10 a.m. on Monday against one of the playoff survivors, the bogey Jordan Nasser and Taylor Wood registered on their final hole of stroke play at Course No. 8 will be a distant memory. The two former University of Southern California teammates admitted they lost a bit of focus after they realized winning medalist honors was out of reach, and they were securely into match play with a 7-under total of 134.
“That was our only bogey,” said Wood, who has known Nasser since they were high school rivals in Orange County. “So 35 holes without one [isn’t bad].”
Two years ago, the two tied for third in stroke play at The Olympic Club, only to get ousted in the opening round. Last year they didn’t enter because Nasser and his wife welcomed their first child.
But both players were anxious to return to Course No. 2 for match play, where they carded a 4-under 66 on Saturday.
“There’s a reason its’s one of the best courses in the world,” said Wood. “It will be the same game plan we had over there [on Saturday]. Just pick your spots to be aggressive.”
Nasser and Wood, a two-time All-American in college, will carry the banner for USC after their friend, reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad, and his ex-Trojan teammate Sam Smith missed the match-play cut by one stroke. Nasser won the 2006 California Amateur at Pebble Beach.
Wood, who was a professional for four years before regaining his amateur status six years ago, is one of the few competitors in the field to have played in a U.S. Open (2006 at Winged Foot). He played three years in Canada and another year on the European Challenge Tour.
“I gave it a shot and ran out of money,” said Wood. “I wouldn’t go back for anything.”
Loving This Experience
Scott Loving has been a first alternate for the U.S. Mid-Amateur three times, but the 43-year-old Texan finally got his opportunity when he partnered with fellow Houston-area native Justin Kaplan, 14 years his junior, and qualified for this week’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. The two met at the nine-hole private club where Loving plays. Conroe (Texas) Country Club has a weekly Friday afternoon game that attracts top players from the area and Kaplan, who played three seasons at the University of Minnesota and his senior year at the University of Houston, became a regular.
Loving thought he would make for a great four-ball partner.
“I call him BMW because he’s an automatic driving machine,” said Kaplan, a reinstated amateur who played briefly on the Adams and Hooters tours after graduating in 2010. “He hits it down the middle of the fairway, and I can bomb it.”
That philosophy has worked well for two days as the side posted 7-under 134, including a 6-under 65 on Sunday at Course No. 8. They, too, will play one of the playoff survivors at 11:48 a.m. in the Round of 32.
“Based on the way he plays and based on the way I play, it’s a great fit for a four-ball,” said Loving. “I hit first off the tees except for the par-3s, [where] I like to go last. And we’ll do the same thing [on Monday].”
Loving is no stranger to four-ball events. He plays in the annual Anderson Memorial at Winged Foot with a different partner. Although that might change in the future.
“I’d like to take him to Winged Foot,” said Loving.
But even if he doesn’t, the trip to Pinehurst has thus far been quite a memory.
Anyone who sees Nathan Smith and Todd White in their bracket must feel like they’re playing the venerable 12 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament. These two USGA veterans are crafty match-play performers. Smith has won a record four U.S. Mid-Amateur titles, and teamed with White to claim the inaugural Four-Ball title in 2015.
After a slow start at Pinehurst, the two managed a 1-under 69 on Course No. 2 Saturday before carding a 4-under 67 at Course No. 8 Sunday. Next up: a 9:24 a.m. matchup against Ken Tanigawa and Andrew Medley.
Expect Smith and White to grind on every hole.
“Pars can win a lot of holes over there,” said Smith of Course No. 2. “It’s that hard.
Added White: “I just always try to play the golf course and hopefully play a little better than our opponents.”
While one father/son tandem advanced, so too did one brother side. Daniel and Matthew Wetterich, of Cincinnati, Ohio, rallied from an even-par 71 at Course No. 8 to shoot a 66 at Course No. 2 to qualify. But they have a tall task in the Round of 32 against 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Todd Mitchell and 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Scott Harvey at 9:48 a.m. Harvey and Mitchell were semifinalists two years ago.
Daniel Wetterich, 21, is also the third Ohio State golfer to reach match play, joining medalists Will Grimmer and Clark Engle. Matthew, 20, just finished his sophomore season at Xavier.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.