Two sides advance to U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Chambers Bay
By Mike Dudurich • September 28, 2020
Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.
It’s a long way from Apollo, Pa. to University Place, Washington, nearly coast to coast.
But that’s OK for a couple Pittsburgh area golfers who qualified to make that trip Monday. In a qualifier for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball championship, Andrew Hodge and Evan Ruhling, tied for medalist with a round of 64 and qualified for the national event next May at Chambers Bay.
Yes, that Chambers Bay, the one that provided a less-than-Open-like challenge for the U.S. Open in 2015.
“I know Chambers Bay had some issues in that U.S. Open, but I’ve played it since and things have changed there,” Ruhling, who’ll be competing for the first time in a USGA event, said. “The greens were fescue and they’ve been changed to bent grass. I thought it was a good golf course.”
There were two qualifiers and two alternates that advanced from Willowbrook Country Club to next year’s national event.
The team of John Dimler and Zach Fischi of Allentown and Bethlehem, respectively, also posted a 64 to qualify. The two alternates had a Western Pennsylvania flavor with Kevin Koerbel of Pittsburgh and Matt Vogt of Indianapolis getting the first alternate spot and the duo of Matt Barto and Andrew Reynolds of Leechburg and Pittsburgh, respectively, getting the second alternate.
Hodge and Ruhling are not only frequent golf partners at Longue Vue Club where they both belong, but they also happen to be brothers-in-law.
“Yeah, Evan allowed me to marry his sister,” Hodge laughed.
And to add another touch to the mix: all three of them went to college at the Queen’s University of Charlotte in North Carolina, but not all at the same time.
On the course Monday, their knowledge of each other and their games was definitely a factor as they put together a bogey-free round.
“We both played solid,” Ruhling, a resident of Pittsburgh, said. “I made a couple birdies on the front and we just helped each other. It was really a steady round of golf. Andrew got hot coming down the stretch and it was good.”
“Got hot” is an understatement of some magnitude. Hodge, who lives in Oakmont, birdied four the last six holes and put the exclamation point on what will be a special trip in the spring to next year.
Hodge, 33, played in a U.S. Mid-Am previously, will, like Ruhling, be making his first Four-Ball appearance.
“We were lucky to have not made a bogey all day, but we made some clutch par saves from 10 feet or so,” he said. “And then I hit some good shots at the end and made three of those birdies from three feet or so. The other one was from 10 feet on 16.”
An interesting aspect of the game came into play as the two made their way around Willowbrook. One of newest pieces of technology has been players using an app on their phones which allows for a real-time scoreboard.
Ruhling loves the new process and checks it a lot. Hodge, on the other hand, doesn’t want to see or know what’s going on elsewhere.
“When we got to the 18th tee, I knew that 64 was already in, so all I told Andrew was we needed a par,” Ruhling.
And when they secured that, they could start making long-range plans for a trip to the state of Washington.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.