U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
5 Things: Weather Looms Large at Jupiter Hills
May 19, 2018 | Tequesta, Fla.
By David Shefter, USGA
The most important person at Jupiter Hills Club the next few days won’t be hitting a golf shot, nor will he be reading a putt or signing a score card.
But on-site meteorologist Joshua Nagelberg will be providing vital information for everyone involved in the 4th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Especially with a forecast that is calling for rain during each of the first two rounds of stroke play.
For Saturday’s first round on the Hills and Village courses, the outlook calls for a 60 percent chance of rain at 2 p.m. EDT with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms. By 5 p.m., it rises to 80 percent (rain) and 60 percent (thunderstorms). The Sunday forecast is almost identical.
One good thing: Jupiter Hills was constructed on sandy soil, so the courses drain quickly.
While the weather was the main topic of conversation during practice rounds, here are four other storylines for Round 1:
The first three renditions of this championship produced winners from three different age demographics. Mid-amateurs Nathan Smith and Todd White won the inaugural event and they were followed by Southern Methodist University golfers Benjamin Baxter and Andrew Buchanan. Last year, high school students Frankie Capan and Shuai Ming “Ben” Wong hoisted the trophy.
That leaves only group: seniors.
Several 50-and-over sides have qualified for this year’s championship and a few have a puncher’s chance of being the last team standing. That includes reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Sean Knapp and his partner, 1997 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Rick Stimmel. The two Western Pennsylvania natives have enjoyed highly decorated careers. Stimmel has competed in six U.S. Amateurs, a U.S. Open and thee U.S. Mid-Amateurs, and won the 1996 Pennsylvania State Amateur. Knapp, who won the Pennsylvania State Amateur in 1997, is competing in his 44th USGA championship.
The oldest competitor in the field, 69-year-old James Smith is competing alongside 32-year-old Jamie Miller, making them the side with the biggest age difference. A Buffalo, N.Y., native who now resides in Juno Beach, Fla., Smith has qualified for two U.S. Senior Opens, four U.S. Senior Amateurs and two U.S. Mid-Amateurs. Miller comes from a strong pedigree of golfers. His father, Allen, was a member of two USA Walker Cup Teams (1969 and 1971), a USA World Amateur Team and spent 15 years on the PGA Tour. His mother, Cindy Miller, played three seasons on the LPGA Tour and has competed on the Legends Tour.
Another interesting partnership has 56-year-old Jack Larkin, the 1979 U.S. Junior Amateur champion from Atlanta, Ga., playing with 28-year-old Hayes Brown, of Charlotte, N.C. Larkin also was a quarterfinalist in the 1988 U.S. Amateur. This is his 12th USGA championship.
These Alternates Are ‘OK’
Last year at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, alternates Clark Collier and Kyle Hudelson – both Oklahoma City, Okla., natives – parlayed their last-minute invite into a runner-up finish. They got into the field when the exempt side of Cole Hammer and 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Philip Barbaree withdrew a week before the championship.
This year, another set of alternates from the state of Oklahoma are hoping for the same fortune. Tyler Carson and Austin Hannah, both from Jenks, were added to the field two weeks ago. Last year, Carson, 36, and Hannah, 31, qualified for the championship and advanced to match play, but lost in the Round of 32.
Speaking of Hammer, the 18-year-old University of Texas signee from Houston, Texas, is partnering with fellow junior standout Garrett Barber, who will be joining Barbaree at Louisiana State University this fall. Barbaree, who enrolled at LSU a semester early, withdrew from the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball a year ago when the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Championships. The side was exempt because both golfers were inside the Top 400 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ (WAGR).
Hammer and Barber are exempt for this year’s championship under the same criteria.
Three years ago, Hammer made national headlines by qualifying for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Barber, 18, won’t be traveling far to play at Jupiter Hills as he resides in nearby Stuart, Fla. He is the only player to have won the Jones Cup Junior and the Jones Cup, the latter coming earlier this year at Ocean Forest Golf Club in Sea Island, Ga.
Two Minutes For …
There will be plenty of Rules officials working at Jupiter Hills to assist the competitors, but there will also be an official competing. Garrett Rank, of Canada, just completed his second full season as a National Hockey League referee, working 73 regular-season and three postseason games. Rank, the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up and two-time Canadian Mid-Amateur champion, won’t have to worry about making any calls this week, unless, of course, it comes down to deciding whether he or his partner, Patrick Christovich, will tee off first. Rank and Christovich have advanced to the semifinals in each of the last two championships, losing in 19 holes last year to Collier and Hudelson.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.