MIDWAY, Utah – University of New Mexico senior James Erkenbeck shot 67 Tuesday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course to earn medalist honors at the U.S. Amateur Public Links.
Erkenbeck, of San Diego, finished at 7-under 135 (68-67), one shot ahead of Oklahoma State’s Talor Gooch (72-64) and Florida’s T.J. Vogel (71-65).
“I haven’t won anything in awhile. It’s been about three years. It’s been lingering on my mind. It definitely feels good,” said Erkenbeck, No. 60 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings this past season. “(Starting the day) at 3 under, it’s kind of a weird situation because you’re playing to make match play, but at the same time you’d like to win the medal.”
He took care of that with a bogey-free 67 Tuesday. He birdied the 195-yard, par-3rd hole by hitting 9-iron to 6 feet. He hit lob wedge to 6 feet to birdie No. 10, then made birdie on the next hole by hitting gap wedge to 12 feet. He also two-putted for birdie on the par-5 16th. He got up-and-down from behind the 18th green to secure medalist honors. Erkenbeck made just two bogeys in the Publinks’ two rounds of stroke play.
He credited work with sports psychologist Jay Brunza, who used to work with Tiger Woods, for his good play this week.
Erkenbeck has played in two previous U.S. Amateur Public Links, losing both times to a current PGA Tour player. He lost to Rickie Fowler, 5 and 4, in the first round of the 2009 championship at the University of Oklahoma Golf Course in 2009. Erkenbeck fell in the Round of 16 of last year’s championship at Bandon Dunes to Harris English, losing 1 down.
Erkenbeck grew up in San Diego – former U.S. Open site Torrey Pines was one of his home courses – but is accustomed to playing at altitude because of his time in Albuquerque. Soldier Hollow is more than 5,000 feet above sea level.
“The course sets up well to my eye,” Erkenbeck said of Soldier Hollow. “I love playing at altitude because I feel like there’s less friction and the ball actually goes straighter. So as long as you get your ball started on-line and you hit it solid, it’s not going to go too far off-line. That lets me relax a little bit.”