TRUCKEE, Calif. – Playing in match play at the U.S. Junior Amateur is tough enough. But when you have to play your best friend in the first round, it’s even tougher.
That’s just what happened to Brad Dalke and Alvaro Ortiz on Wednesday at Martis Camp Club.
“We just told each other to go out there and play as hard as you can,” said Dalke, who came away with a 4-and-3 victory. “Don’t feel bad for each other. Both of us came here to win, so just go out and try to win it.”
Dalke and Ortiz first became friends while attending the Jim McLean Golf Academy in Fort Worth, Texas, about three years ago. They didn’t room together, but “we were with each other all the time practicing,” Dalke said. They’ve played nearly a hundred matches against each other, too.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Dalke said. “I love that guy. He’s awesome.”
Ortiz, 17, is two years older than Dalke and lives in Mexico. But the two keep in touch over the phone. Ortiz also nearly decided to play college golf at Oklahoma, where Dalke is committed, but instead opted to sign with Arkansas.
“When I come up to the states and we play tournaments together, we hang out a lot,” Ortiz said. “He’s a really cool guy. I really appreciate him as a friend.”
They hung out after their rounds Tuesday. They ate ice cream, talked and watched TV in the clubhouse. Then they went out to the practice area for about two hours.
“On the putting green we were joking with each other like, ‘Oh man, I’m going to play you,’ ” Ortiz said.
Said Dalke: “We were joking around that we need to meet each other in the finals and that it would suck if we got the first or second round together.”
The two were going to grab dinner together, but it got too late. Later that night, Ortiz looked up the brackets to see when and whom he was playing.
“I thought I was playing another guy,” Ortiz sad. “Then I saw Brad Dalke really close to my name and I was like, ‘Wait, this is wrong.’ So I looked at it really close, and I was like ‘Oh man, I’m going to play my best friend.’ ”
Ortiz immediately texted Dalke.
“I hadn’t seen the tee times yet, and I’m like, ‘You’re kidding,’ ” Dalke said. “I didn’t think it could happen. I didn’t think the seeding would be right.”
But there they were Wednesday morning on the first tee. Ortiz took an early 1-up lead after making a long birdie putt at the par-4 sixth hole.
“We were both making a lot of putts,” Ortiz said. “We were playing pretty solid.”
Dalke got it back with a birdie at No. 9. At the par-5 10th hole, Dalke hit his third shot to about 2 feet to take his first lead.
That’s when Dalke’s putter got hot and Ortiz’s ballstriking cooled off. Ortiz bogeyed three of the final five holes of the match while Dalke made par at Nos. 11-15, including three from 10-plus feet.
“I figured out the putting a little bit,” Dalke said. “My putting was kind of shaky (Tuesday), missed a couple short putts, didn’t really make any putts over 10 feet because I wasn’t starting on my lines very well.”
Said Ortiz: “I couldn’t have had a better match, but he played better, made every single par putt (down the stretch) and was the one that came out on top.”
Dalke will play Brian Carlson in the Round of 32 at 7:39 a.m. Thursday. And you can bet Ortiz will be rooting for him.
“I’m really honored that I got to play against my friend,” Ortiz said. “I hope he wins.”