Notes: In the Southeast, Murray is the player to beat
Grayson Murray can identify the difference between striking the ball well and scoring well. Murray’s ballstriking has been reliable over the past year, but it took some low scores to get the Raleigh, N.C., teen in a frame of mind that could make him a consistent contender.
Murray, a 19-year-old who began college at Wake Forest last fall only to transfer to East Carolina in the spring then enroll at UNC-Greensboro for this fall, felt his confidence soar earlier this summer when he qualified for the U.S. Open.
“Pretty much every course right now seems pretty easy to me,” Murray said in reference to Merion Golf Club, where he missed the cut.
Murray has, unfortunately, gotten more press recently for moving from college to college than for his game. That should change with each tournament success he experiences. At last week’s North & South Amateur, Murray easily advanced through the first two rounds of match play at Pinehurst No. 2, guessing he was a few shots under par in each of those rounds. He finally fell to Zachary Bauchou in the semifinals, on the final hole.
“I fought hard to make it go to 18,” Murray said. “... Match play is not really my thing.”
Considering that Murray rarely plays match play, his North & South success shows another area of growth. He is exempt into the U.S. Amateur later this summer as a U.S. Open qualifier, and is making stroke-play starts at this week’s Players Amateur and at the Cardinal Amateur.
This summer’s schedule is a little more loaded than usual for Murray, who doesn’t like to jet across the country to find competition when there’s so much in his corner of the world. He also concentrated more on summer school last year than on golf tournaments. Murray is a communications major.
With the early-summer confidence boost also came a few observations. Murray works with Ted Kiegel, who also is Webb Simpson’s swing coach, and has since he was 9 years old. He places himself in the top tier among his piers in ball-striking, but recognizes he needs to elevate his short game. At Merion, he was able to put his game beside top Tour players like Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Luke Guthrie and Josh Teater.
“You notice the really top players, when they struggle, their (bad) rounds aren’t as high,” Murray explained.
It’s a good indicator of success, and also the direction in which Murray’s game is heading.
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WEATHER COMING: The Players Amateur tournament committee has decided to schedule the first two 18-hole rounds on Thursday in an effort to beat bad weather headed toward Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, S.C. The second round will begin on the same tees as the first round, 30 minutes after the contestants sign their scorecards.
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THAT'S THE SPIRIT: Before Alex Mahlik, no member of Burningtree Country Club had ever won the Spirit of America Championship, an invitational (with a focus on college players) annually hosted at the Decatur, Ala., club. Local player Mahlik, however, won July 7 by a distant five shots.
It has been just over a month since Mahlik sunk the winning putt for his Central Alabama Community College team at the NJCAA National Championship. Mahlik was third in scoring on that team for the season, and was sixth at the national championship. He finished 54 holes at Burningtree with an 8-under 205 total after rain shortened the championship from 72 holes. Mahlik, who finished seventh there last year, took a four-shot lead into the final round.
Thanks in large part to Mahlik, Central Alabama won the team portion of the championship. Teammate John O’Toole tied for 24th at 4-over 217.
Mahlik will continue his college career at Arkansas Tech in the fall, a NCAA Division II school in Russellville, Ark.
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SAN DIEGO IN 2017? The San Diego Union-Tribune reported July 2 that members of San Diego Country Club have approved hosting the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur. A San Diego Country Club official later contacted by Golfweek, however, said a contract has not yet been signed and declined further comment, at the U.S. Golf Association’s request.
The U.S. Women’s Amateur last was played at San Diego Country Club in 1993.
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A SPIDER SHALL LEAD THEM: The U.S. Golf Association last week named John “Spider” Miller as the next U.S. Walker Cup captain. Miller, a two-time U.S Mid-Amateur champion, will captain the Americans for the 2015 matches at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s in Lancashire, England.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Miller, 63. “I am extremely thrilled and honored. It’s one of the goals that amateurs aspire to and I’m very fortunate to have been selected to follow Jim Holtgrieve. I will be reaching out to former captains, all of whom are my friends, to help me prepare.”
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COULD THE STREAK CONTINUE? Qualifying has begun for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, to be played Aug. 5-11 at the Country Club of Charleston in Charleston, S.C. Ashlan Ramsey (read her Golfweek blog here) is among the most notable players already into the field. Ramsey, who joins the Clemson roster in the fall, already this summer has won Georgia Women’s Match Play, the Women’s Eastern Amateur and the Women’s Western Amateur.
Ramsey won the qualifier at Cougar Point Golf Course in Kiawah Island, S.C.
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AND THE MEN: Only one U.S. Amateur qualifier has been completed – at Sky Creek Ranch in Keller, Texas. Recent North Texas graduate Carlos Ortiz, of Mexico, won that qualifier while Ian Davis of Edmond, Okla., and Thomas Birdsey of Trophy Club, Texas, also advanced.
Ninety-seven more U.S. Am qualifiers will be played in the next three weeks.
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OHIO HISTORY LESSON: There are seven past champions in the field this week at the Ohio Amateur, including the past three champions. That list consists of 2012 winner Nathan Kerns, a former Marshall player; 2011 winner Korey Ward of Xavier and 2010 winner Michael Bernard, currently a sophomore at Ohio State.
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UPSETTING: The Pacific Northwest Golf Association Men’s Amateur is under way at Bandon Dunes Resort in Bandon, Ore., and already the No. 1 seed has fallen. That happened in the first round of match play, when No. 64 seed Kyle Schrader, a Washington native and a junior at Western Washington, defeated New Zealand’s Joshua Munn, 2 and 1.
Defending champion Shotaro Ban of San Jose, Calif., also lost in the first round, to Jesse Heinly of Bend, Ore.
Notables still alive for today’s quarterfinals include Carl Jonson, last year’s runner-up and Cameron Peck, the former Texas A&M standout who won the Washington Amateur last month.
Matches are being played on both the Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails courses.