TULSA, Okla. – No matter how hard he tries, the Walker Cup will not be far from Dan Woltman’s mind during this week’s U.S. Amateur.
The final two members of the U.S. team will be named either later this week or soon after play concludes Aug. 30 at Southern Hills. Woltman is arguably the favorite to earn one of those final spots, but still must play well here.
His 72 at Southern Hills on Monday helped his cause.
“Obviously, (the Walker Cup) is on my mind,” Woltman said. “… But if i just keep playing the way I’ve been playing, hopefully I’ll be in a good spot at the end of the week.”
His pairing for the first two rounds of stroke play probably didn’t help Woltman keep the Walker Cup off his mind. Woltman was paired with Morgan Hoffmann, one of the eight players named to the U.S. team earlier this month. On Monday, Hoffmann wore a hat featuring Merion’s trademark wicker baskets, which the club uses in lieu of flags.
Hoffmann bought the hat 10 days ago at a practice session for the U.S. team. Many thought Woltman should’ve been at that session. He won this year’s Northeast Amateur, made the Sweet 16 at the Western Amateur and had top 10s at the Players Amateur and Sahalee Players Championship.
Woltman didn’t sulk when he wasn’t named to the team. Instead, he won his U.S. Amateur qualifier the day after the selections were announced.
“It was nice to get out there and play some solid golf after hearing some bad news,” said Woltman, who also won the Wisconsin State Open last week.
His resiliency was on display again Monday.
He made pars on Nos. 1 and 3 after hitting his tee shots into the trees. He also got up-and-down from a bunker on No. 12 and thanks to a touchy chip shot on the 15th. The ball carried just 15 feet, but rolled about 60 feet down a large ridge.
“That was a fun one,” Woltman said.
Woltman made his first birdie on No. 4 after hitting a 60-degree wedge to 8 feet. He made the turn in 1 over after bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9, but hit a 7-iron to 12 feet on the par-3 11th to get back to even par.
He made bogeys on Nos. 14 and 17 before finishing with a solid par on Southern Hills’ difficult finishing hole, an uphill, 463-yard par 4.
“I’m very satisified with 72. I think that’ll be a good number out here today,” Woltman said. “One mental mistake and one really bad golf swing and you shoot 2 over. That just happens out here because you can’t make too many mistakes.”
He kept the ball in play most of Monday, but said he made his only bad swing of the day on the 17th tee, hitting his tee shot into trees well right of the fairway. Woltman’s mental mistake came on the ninth hole, when he was “too cute” with his approach, which spun off the green and down a large hill fronting the putting surface.
He still bettered Hoffmann by two shots during a difficult day at Southern Hills. Fast greens, difficult hole locations and high winds made birdies rare. Hoffmann had just one birdie, and was 4 over after 14 holes, but made four scrambling pars to keep himself inside the cut line for match play.
He hit a difficult flop shot to 2 feet on No. 15. On the next hole, he hit the green after hooking his 6-iron shot from a fairway bunker around trees. He made a 4-foot par putt on No. 17, then two-putted for par on 18.
“I played horrible on the front nine,” Hoffmann said. “The back nine, I actually hit the shots I wanted and executed. The putts just didn’t go in.”
Hoffmann and Woltman predicted that the 36-hole cut could come as high as 10 or 11 over because of the difficulty of both Southern Hills and Cedar Ridge Country Club.
Hoffmann, a sophomore at nearby Oklahoma State, was a quarterfinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur, and one of the pre-tournament favorites. Woltman was the No. 3 seed last year at Pinehurst, but lost in the first round. That was the only time he made match play in three previous Amateurs.
If Woltman were to make the semifinals here, or the Walker Cup team, he’d be able to avoid prequalifying when he attempts Q-School later this year.
“I’m just here playing golf,” Woltman said. “I don’t know what (the U.S. Golf Association) is thinking. I thought I played well enough to make the first eight but I didn’t, so I’m going to try to continue doing what I’ve been doing all summer.”