Ghim shares medal at APL, then caddies in playoff

The U.S. Amateur Public Links stroke-play co-medalists, left to right: Doug Ghim, Zane Thomas, Byron Meth and Rico Hoey.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links stroke-play co-medalists, left to right: Doug Ghim, Zane Thomas, Byron Meth and Rico Hoey.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

NEWTON, Kan. – Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights, Ill., did double duty on the second day of the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Sand Creek Station Golf Course.

First, the Texas freshman fired a 6-under 65 for a 36-hole total of 134 that shared medalist honors with three other contestants in stroke-play qualifying.

“I made so many putts," Ghim said, "it was ridiculous.”

But he wasn’t done yet. Family friend Joshua Lee of Fleming Island, Fla., finished at 5-over 147 and had to compete in an 11-for-7-man playoff to reach match play. His father, however, was too tired to caddie for him, so Ghim’s father drafted his son to work what amounted to three extra holes. Ghim steered Lee to the 64th and final seed for match play, but not before telling him what he thought of his Florida State stand bag.

“You have the worst bag I’ve carried since the first grade,” Ghim told Lee.

Byron Meth of San Diego, Zane Thomas of Las Vegas and Rico Hoey of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., matched Ghim at 134.

This is the first USGA event for Thomas, who is the top overall seed, after being an alternate at the U.S. Junior Amateur, U.S. Amateur and Publinx “six or seven times” – he lost count. Thomas, a UNLV junior, made the most of the opportunity, sharing the overnight lead and chipping in at the fifth hole with a sand wedge from short of the green. He toured his second nine in 32 (the front side) en route to a 68.

On a sunny, balmy afternoon, Meth, 21, played steady golf – “not too flashy," he said. A senior at Pacific, Meth poured in 20-footers on Nos. 9 and 10 and carded a bogey-free 4-under 67.

“We definitely got the lucky side of the draw,” Meth said.

Hoey, 18, a USC sophomore, carded a bogey-free 64, the low round of stroke play.

“This is one of those tournaments where no one really remembers who the medalist was,” Hoey said.

Defending champion Jordan Niebrugge, 20, will be happy to start with a clean slate in match play. He rallied from 6 over after 27 holes to shoot 71 and finish at 4-over 146, one stroke inside the playoff.

There was plenty of drama for those forced to battle for one of the remaining seven spots. Aaron Flores, 23, of San Antonio, stuck an 8-iron from 165 yards to 6 inches on No. 10, the first playoff hole, and tapped in for birdie to be counted among the fortunate. Quite a recovery after he sliced his drive out of bounds and made triple bogey at No. 16 during his second round and needed a 4-foot birdie putt on his final hole just to make the playoff.

“This is a long time coming for me,” said Flores, an alternate last year who never got the call.

On to the second extra hole were five survivors for three remaining spots. At the 364-yard 11th hole, Vinnie Murphy of Edgewood, Wash., punched his ticket in dramatic fashion. The 20-year-old holed a 60-degree wedge from 88 yards for eagle.

“Clutchest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Paul McClure, who sneaked into match play with a birdie on the same hole, said to Murphy.

Three contestants – David Pastore, Talon Supak and Lee – remained for one spot. Short of the green in two, Lee pulled the flag and chose to chip with a 52-degree wedge.

“Get in!” a fan screamed.

It did, making up for Lee’s three-putt from 6 feet on his final hole of stroke play.

“I had to do something exciting,” Lee said. “Everyone in my group made birdie on the first playoff hole, then a hole-out for eagle. It was my turn.”

Lee and the other playoff survivors will try to follow in the footsteps of Dean Prince, 40, of Santa Rosa, Calif., who in 1978 survived a 14-man playoff for one of the last 11 spots in match play, and went on to win.

The Publinx was first contested in 1922, recognizing the spread of public-course golf in America. After nearly a century of existence, the championship is being played for the final time this summer.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: This marks the first time since 1939 that four players have shared medalist honors at the APL. … Sean Knapp, 52, Oakmont, Pa., was the oldest player to qualify for match play. … Issei Tanabe, 15, of Japan is the youngest to qualify. … Tanabe is one of seven foreign players advancing to match play. … Michael Gellerman of Sterling, Kan., was the only player to qualify in his home state. … All four of the medalists had starting times in the afternoon. Sam Horsfield (137) was the top finisher among players in the afternoon-morning wave of play. … Paul McClure of Mobile, Ala., rallied from a 79 on Monday to shoot 68 and get into the playoff. He advanced as the 63rd seed.