U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Family Ties Fuel Cooke, Leopold Into Sweet 16 May 27, 2019 | Bandon, Ore. By Tom Mackin, USGA

Tyler Cooke (left) and Bobby Leopold are into the Round of 16 for the first time as U.S. Amateur Four-Ball partners. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Home

Brothers-in-law Tyler Cooke and Bobby Leopold have already teamed up to win two Rhode Island Golf Association Four-Ball Championships. Now, the Ocean State residents are one step closer to capturing a national title in the same format.

Cooke, 27, of Warwick, and Leopold, 34, of Coventry, defeated Jonas Mikals and Dustin Hall, 7 and 6, on Monday to advance to the Round of 16 in the 5th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Their margin matched the largest in championship history.

“We played pretty good from the get-go,” said Leopold. “We made a nice birdie on the third hole and they missed their opportunities. On the fourth, Tyler and I played it steady and had easy looks for par. On the par-3 fifth, we both hit it inside of 5 feet and made birdie. Then we birdied the par-5 sixth (to go 4 up) and just kept rolling from there.”

On Tuesday, Cooke and Leopold face recently retired NFL defensive tackle Kyle Williams and Gregory Berthelot in a Round-of-16 match at 7:12 a.m. PDT. The winner advances to the quarterfinals in the afternoon.

“I feel like the way we’re playing, we have a chance to win,” said Cooke. "And Old Macdonald sets up perfect for me. It’s wide and I can bomb it 330 [yards], wedge it on and try to make some putts. Bobby is the best putter on the planet. So we’re both in essentially every hole.”

The duo, whose home course is Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I., the annual home of the prestigious Northeast Amateur, encountered much calmer weather conditions Monday on Old Macdonald than the gusty conditions they faced during their final stroke-play round on Sunday.

“This course is an interesting test of golf,” said Leopold, the 2017 New England Amateur champion. “You can have one day where it’s 5-miles-an-hour winds and another day where it’s 30-miles-an-hour winds. I feel like we hit it solid enough that we don’t have to worry too much about the wind. But picking clubs can be tricky here. That’s the hardest thing. On a par 3 you can miss your spot by a foot and you end up 45 feet away instead of being 5 feet away.”

Said Cooke: “Winning before in this format back home helps a ton. I think we shot 24 under the first time we ever played together in a four-ball event.”

“I know that I can make three or four birdies, he’s going to make five or six,” added Leopold, who grew up in Surrey, England, and played golf at Division II Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. “I just need to do my part and I know he will take care of the rest. That’s kind of nice to have in four-ball.”

Not only is Leopold married to Cooke’s sister, Taylor (the couple are parents of three boys, including a 6-week-old), but his father-in-law, Scott Cooke, is also his caddie, something he did when the side qualified for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Pinehurst. And that’s just fine with Tyler

“I can’t play with him,” he said with a laugh. “I love my dad, he’s the best, but he puts a little pressure on me for sure.”

The senior Cooke has been on Leopold’s bag for some of his best performances.

“He caddied for me when I made it to the Round of 16 a couple of times in the U.S. Amateur (in 2011 at Erin Hills in Wisconsin and the following year at Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado),” said Leopold. “We’ve almost come to blows a couple of times having arguments about stupid stuff. But it’s easier that he’s my father-in-law rather than my dad (Leopold’s parents, Peter and Christina, traveled from their home in England to attend the championship at Bandon Dunes).”

Leopold was anxious to pair up with his brother-in-law on the course, but had to wait for him to get off the ice first. Cooke played two seasons on the University of Connecticut’s hockey team before switching to the school’s golf team.

“He was still playing hockey, so I played the first few U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships with Brad Valois,” another good player from Rhode Island who was the medalist in the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur, said Leopold. “Soon as Tyler started playing golf though, it just made sense to team up. We got on well together and have kind of different games. I hit it fairly long, but he takes it to another extreme. Courses like Old Macdonald set up perfectly for him. I feel like we have a good chance if we keep it going.”

Competing against each other in amateur tournaments does get difficult at times, according to Leopold. “At the end of the day we both want to win, that’s just the way it is. And unfortunately someone has to lose.”

Last year, they were paired together in the final round of a Rhode Island tournament with a lot on the line.

“If Ty won, he would win Rhode Island Golf Association Player of the Year for the first time,” said Leopold. “If I won, I would win that title again (after doing so in 2011, 2014 and 2017). I was definitely trying, but I knew that when I started playing badly, he’s going to win. And he did. You definitely root for each other.”

That’s especially true for Cooke and Leopold this week at Bandon Dunes.

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA digital channels. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com.