Notes: Hossler shakes off slow start to advance
BREMERTON, Wash. – Quick hits from the first round of match play at the U.S. Junior Amateur:
Eyes on the top: Beau Hossler is playing in his first U.S. Junior Amateur, and remarkably, Wednesday’s opener was only his second competitive match-play round. Four down after four holes, it began to look like it could be his final one at Gold Mountain.
“I was like, Are you kidding me? This is the worst joke ever!” Hossler said. “I’m just handing him holes by hitting it out of play on a wide-open golf course.”
He lost the opening hole after his opponent, Miller Capps of Denver, N.C., holed a 20-footer for birdie. Hossler lost the second hole after hitting it way left – 20 yards left of the out-of-bounds stakes. He lost the third hole after flying his approach 40 yards left and making double bogey. And he lost the fourth hole after his drive found a divot, then he flubbed a chip in front of the green and bogeyed.
“When the ball went left on 3, I was not in a good mental state. I was angry,” he said. “When you hit one that feels good and goes 50 yards left of the green, what are you supposed to do about it?”
Revert to your trusty swing thoughts, of course, and Hossler said he was laid off at the top, and the club was falling underneath him on the downswing, and as a result, the ball was flying left – left of left, really – and making birdie an impossible feat. “I knew I was going to make birdies eventually,” Hossler said, “because I’ve been doing it all week.”
Sure enough, he played his next 11 holes in 7 under par and buried Capps, 3 and 2. In Round 2, he will face Austin Smotherman.
Asked about the challenge of playing as the No. 1 overall seed, as the player whom everyone wants to defeat, Hossler shrugged and said: “It doesn’t matter to me. I’m playing golf; it doesn’t matter who I’m playing against. Obviously I’d rather play some guys over other guys, but I’m going out there and trying to make birdies.”
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Big and bold: Will Starke is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, which makes his decision not to use a caddie this week at hilly Gold Mountain all the more interesting.
“I can shoot under par at home without one,” Starke says, “so why not here?”
Any more matches like his opener Wednesday, and Starke may have to rethink that strategy. The 17-year-old South Carolina commit needed 19 holes to put away Brian Bullington, who missed a 4-footer on the first extra hole.
Starke’s is a remarkable story. He earned the No. 2 overall seed after stroke-play qualifying despite never playing an AJGA event. In fact, he struggled for an answer when asked about his greatest achievement in golf: “I was runner-up in the Carolinas Junior,” he said, straining, “and I won the Southern Cross.”
“I don’t feel like I have a target on my back or anything,” he added, “because no one here knows who I am.”
Yet now he’s advanced to the second round of match play, and the days become longer, the matches more stressful. Would he regret his decision to forgo a caddie, knowing he could play as many as 36 holes Thursday? “It might get to me if I win my match tomorrow (morning),” he said. “But it’s a good problem to have, I guess.”
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Over and out: Rough day for the elite players in the 2012 class. First, Clemson commit Cody Proveaux, No. 1 in the class, was bounced, 4 and 3, by Zach Herr. Then, a few hours later, Grayson Murray bogeyed five of the last seven holes to lose, 2 up, to Nicolas Echavarria.
“I got what I deserved,” Murray said. The Wake Forest commit has now lost in the first round of match play in three consecutive years.