Auburn’s Barber on point at Western Amateur
GLENCOE, Ill. – Blayne Barber could be found on Skokie Country Club’s chipping green almost immediately after he finished his first-round 67 Tuesday at the Western Amateur. A few poor chips were Barber’s only mistakes during an otherwise flawless round at the classic layout.
Barber hit 15 greens Tuesday, but failed to get up-and-down twice in three attempts. He offset those bogeys with four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 13th, where he hit 3-wood to 10 feet.
“It was a nice, solid round of golf,” Barber said. “Pitching has always been my nemesis.”
Cam Burke, a two-time Canadian Amateur champ; Henrik Norlander, a member of Augusta State’s NCAA title team; and Jeffrey Kang, an incoming freshman at USC, are one shot back.
The field will be cut to the low 44 players and ties after Wednesday’s second round. Advancing players will play 36 holes Thursday, after which the field will be cut to 16 players for match play.
Barber didn’t play college golf this past season – he had to redshirt after transferring from Central Florida to Auburn – but will likely be one of the nation’s top players this year.
He’s No. 15 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Player Rankings. He’s coming off a third-place finish two weeks ago at the Southern Amateur, which was preceded by a T-4 at the Players Amateur. Last week, he was medalist by three shots at a U.S. Amateur qualifier at Sawgrass Country Club.
“I’m playing well and I’m handling my emotions well,” he said.
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It’s been a hectic couple days for TCU’s Tom Hoge. It’s a minor miracle that he didn’t fall asleep during Tuesday’s first round of the Western Amateur, let alone shoot even-par 71.
Hoge played a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier Monday at his home course, Fargo (N.D.) Country Club. He shot 139 to win by eight strokes. He left Fargo around 7 p.m. Monday and arrived at his hotel in Illinois at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. He slept until 9:30 a.m., then teed off at 12:50 p.m. without having seen the course.
The U.S. Am qualifier came two days after Hoge played the final round of the Porter Cup, where he tied for 26th after a final-round 65. Hoge arrived home about midnight Sunday.
“It’s been really busy, but it’s fun to be playing golf again,” Hoge said.
He was sidelined from May to July with mono, which caused him to miss regionals and the NCAA Championship.
Hoge’s U.S. Amateur qualifier made a long week even longer. He could play as many as 180 competitive holes this week (the Western Amateur is a 144-hole marathon). But the U.S. Am qualifier in Fargo is a must-play for Hoge. Four of the past five years, he’s advanced to the Amateur out of that site.
He’s won the qualifier by a combined 17 shots the past two years.
“This year, I didn’t play as well as I would’ve liked to and won by eight,” Hoge said. “I’m so comfortable on that golf course.
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Most of the top players at the Western Amateur are from NCAA Division I schools. Players from college golf’s lower levels are holding their own, though.
Justin Lower, the NAIA champion from Malone University in Canton, Ohio, shot 69 Tuesday. Lower won his national championship earlier this year at TPC Deere Run in Moline, Ill., site of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic. Lower also was named NAIA player of the year.
Chris Morris, of Centre College in Danville, Ky., matched Lower’s 69 Tuesday. Morris was a first-team Division III All-American this year and a Division III All-America Scholar. He finished third at this year’s NCAA Division III Championship.
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As if Western Amateur week wasn’t long enough, several players in the field participated in a U.S. Amateur qualifier on Monday at Northmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Ill., about four miles from Skoke Country Club.
Oklahoma State’s Kevin Tway shot 139 to earn medalist honors. The next three spots were taken by Northwestern players – Ravi Patel, Eric Chun and Sam Chien. Chun was runner-up at last year’s Asian Amateur and qualified for the British Open, where he narrowly missed the cut after a first-round 71.
Those players may be looking at four 36-hole days this week. They played two rounds Monday and will play one round apiece Tuesday and Wednesday. After those rounds, the tournament will conclude with three consecutive 36-hole days.
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Kyle Peterman was relatively unknown when he qualified for last year’s U.S. Open. Western Illinois University isn’t exactly a place where players make headlines.
Peterman missed the cut at last year’s Open at Bethpage. This summer, he’s had an impressive, but hectic, amateur season. He won the Monroe Invitational and made the semis of the North & South Amateur during a stretch of four consecutive weeks of action.
Peterman is playing the Western Amateur this week. He shot a solid, 2-over 73 that was marred by a triple-bogey 8 on the 13th hole. Peterman’s second shot from the left rough on 13 hit a tree and ricocheted out of bounds.
“I played really solid except for one hole,” Peterman said. He estimated he hit 15 greens Tuesday.
Peterman is from Springfield, Ill., but had never seen Skokie until Tuesday. He played a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier Monday instead of a practice round for this event.
Peterman failed to make the U.S. Am. out of the qualifier at Bellerive in St. Louis, which is about six hours from Skokie.
“It was really the only day I played awful this summer,” Peterman said of the qualifier.
The Western Amateur will be Peterman’s final amateur tournament of the summer. He’ll return to school to take three courses and complete his degree in recreation, parks and tourism. Peterman said he’ll go to Q-School this fall.