Mark Lawrence Jr. survives epic comeback to advance at U.S. Amateur

USGA

Mark Lawrence Jr. survives epic comeback to advance at U.S. Amateur

Amateur

Mark Lawrence Jr. survives epic comeback to advance at U.S. Amateur

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Mark Lawrence Jr. won five of his first six holes Wednesday at the U.S. Amateur to take a 5-up lead through six holes of his match against Tyler Strafaci. Nine holes later, Strafaci was winning with three holes to play.

That’s when Lawrence’s caddie reminded his player that he had packed a light suitcase.

“I didn’t bring enough clothes, so I just told him to make sure that I had to go do laundry,” said Chris Kapsack, who played college golf at James Madison and has known Lawrence for more than 10 years.

Kapsack will need to go buy some detergent now. After halving the par-3 16th hole with par, Lawrence squared the match with par at the par-5 17th. Then at the par-4 18th, Lawrence stuck a 9-iron from 170 yards out to about 3 feet to set up the winning birdie.

kind of got off to an early lead, but he started playing really well in the middle; he made four or five birdies.

“I just had to try to stick with it,” said Lawrence, a rising junior at Virginia Tech. “Then just kind of went my way the last couple holes. Hit a good shot in there on 18, which helps a lot.

“I have a great caddie, and just I’ve been playing well, so I believed that I could get it back.”

Strafaci had made a spirited run with four birdies in a six-hole stretch to square the match back up by the 13th hole. Strafaci was trying to become the second USGA champion in his family. His grandfather, Frank Strafaci Sr., won the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public Links.

Lawrence is making quite the name for himself, as well. He was a standout junior golfer, winning three straight Virginia State Junior Match Play titles, winning the 2015 Virginia State Junior Stroke Play and finishing runner-up at the 2015 Virginia State Amateur. He played at Auburn for one season before transferring to Virginia Tech prior to his sophomore year.

Kapsack first met Lawrence when he was 12 years old. Lawrence was a few years younger and the two would frequently tee it up together at Hermitage Country Club near Richmond, Va.

“He was always the young guy in our groups,” Kapsack said.

But Lawrence had the game to compete with the older kids. Through the years, though, he couldn’t ever remember losing a 5-up lead.

“I’ve probably been 3 up before and lost a match. I don’t know,” Lawrence said. “I honestly try to forget about stuff like that.”

Said Kapsack: “I feel like everyone goes through something like that at some point. You know, you live and learn, and he put it together.”

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