LORTON, Va. – Garrett Rank had just finished his second-round 3-under 67 Tuesday to add to his opening 65 at Laurel Hill Golf Club, giving him an 8-under 132 in the 88th U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
So what did this year’s newly crowned stroke-play medalist do?
He walked straight from the 18th green to the practice range and hit balls for some 15 minutes.
“I was just doing a little maintenance,” said Rank, 25, of Elmira, Ontario. “I made some good swings coming in, and I just wanted to cement good swings after the round.”
Not bad for someone who had just made his way quite successfully around the course in temperatures in the mid-to-high 90s, with the heat index at times reaching above 105.
“Just wanted to make sure everything was still in sync,” said Rank, a referee in the Ontario Hockey League.
Rank’s total was two strokes better than that of Ian Davis, who came in with 65-69 for 6-under 134, and three better than first-round leader Eric Sugimotto, who went 63-72.
“I got off to a good start and then just plugging award,” said Rank, who advanced to the APL’s Round of 16 in 2012 and finished runner-up last year at the U.S. Mid-Amateur. “On the back nine, I pretty much just played it safe.
“You get a lot of confidence being medalist at a USGA championship, and that’s huge,” said the Canadian National Championship winner. “I’ve gained a lot of experience in match play in USGA events over the last few years, and I hope I can use that to my advantage moving on to match play here.”
The low 64 scorers advance to match play, which begins Wednesday and concludes with the 36-hole championship match Saturday.
Thirteen players finished tied for 54th at 5-over 145 and battled in a playoff for the final 11 spots.
Six players tied at 3-under 137, including Michael Kim, the California junior and winner of the Haskins Award as this season’s college player of the year.
“Mainly, all I was looking for was getting something to get me comfortably into match play,” said Kim, who was low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open, tying for 17th.
“I pretty much stayed on the conservative side, just trying to make a lot of pars, which I did,” said Kim, who had rounds of 69-68. “I haven’t had any real low rounds yet, but maybe that will come in match play.”
Davis, a senior at Oklahoma State, followed his opening 65 with a 69, which included four birdies and a trio of bogeys.
Davis, who won the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in Dallas in October and finished eighth at the NCAA Championship last season, birdied all three par-5 holes. Including an up-and-down from just over the green on the ninth, his final hole of the day.
For the two rounds, Davis, who had OSU assistant coach Brian Guetz as his caddie, played the par 5s in 5 under and the par 3s in 2 under.
“I was just trying to come in under par today and with that birdie on the last I was able to do that,” said Davis, who earlier this month advanced through sectional qualifying for next month’s U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. “I actually felt like I hit the ball a little better today, but I couldn’t get a few putts to drop I missed a couple of six to eight footers. But overall I’m very happy with how I’m playing.”
For Sugimotto, a junior at the University of Pacific, the first two rounds were like day and night. After his first-round leading and record tying 7-under 63, he struggled in with a 2-over 72.
The 19-year-old from San Diego bogeyed three consecutive holes starting at No. 4. He birdied the short par-4 10th — his lone birdie of the day — then finished with eight straight pars.
“I started off with a couple of bad shots and put myself in some not-so-ideal places,” said Sugimoto of his three consecutive bogeys. “But I stayed patient and avoided any mental errors or big numbers coming in. I still feel good about where I’m at and how I’m playing.”
The low round Tuesday morning belonged to Sam Horsfield of England, whose 66 gave him his 4-under total. One of the youngest players in the field at 16, Horsfield double-bogeyed the third hole, but birdied six of his last 10 holes.
• • •
OLDIES BUT GOODIES: At 51, Greg Condon and Sean Knapp are the oldest players in the field and after two rounds of stroke-play qualifying, both are still standing.
Condon, however, the oldest by four months, finished on the cut line and is involved in a playoff to advance to match play. He shot 70-75–145, 5-over par.
It appeared Condon was on his way home. After making bogeys at Nos. 1, 4, and 6, he managed birdies at 7, 9 and 10. Then it all came undone as he made bogey on six consecutive holes — 12-17 — and stood at 6 over. But a birdie at the par-5, 18 kept his hopes alive.
Meanwhile, Knapp, easily advanced into the 64-player, match-play field, shooting rounds of 69-73 for a 2-over 142. But he certainly didn’t make it easy on himself.
Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., and playing in his 34th USGA Championship, appeared in good shape after opening with a 1-under 69 in Monday’s stroke play qualifying round. Things were going nicely for the 1998 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist and two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinalist. Starting on the 10th hole he made birdie at the 15th. Then it got interesting if not outright intense for the vice-president of financial sales at Fuhrer’s Inc.
He made bogey on the 17th and followed with a double bogey at the par-5 18th and a bogey at No. 1. That left him 2 over on the tournament with the projected cut being 3 over.
He got one back with a birdie at No. 1, but again tumbled with another double bogey at No. 6, putting him at 3 over. A birdie at No. 2 and two closing pars gave him some breathing room.
“Starting out, the main thing you want to do is make match play,” said Knapp, who has won just about everything golf-related to win in Pennsylvania. “It was pretty intense there for a while, but I accomplished the first goal and now it’s on to match and who knows.”
COWBOYS RIDING HIGH: Oklahoma State’s golf team was well represented at this year’s APL with three players and each advanced to the 64-player, match-play field in impressive fashion.
Cowboys seniors Ian Davis and Talor Gooch and sophomore Jordan Niebugge all finished among the top 15 in the stroke play portion of the championship.
Davis had rounds of 65-69 for a 6-under 134; Gooch shot 68-69 for a 3-under 137; and Niebrugge came in with 71-67 for a 2-under 138.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said new OSU coach Alan Bratton, on hand this week to watch his threesome. “Not only for them to make match play but for all three to finish in the top 15. All of them are playing well, so we’ll see what happens from here on out.”