Oakmont Country Club, host of the 121st U.S. Amateur Championship

Stroke Play qualifying at U.S. Amateur - One advances
By Mike Dudurich • August 11, 2021

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.

Day One

Midway through the morning round, whispers started to circulate among the crowd behind the 18th green at Oakmont Country Club. Most of those were, ““Did you see what Mark Goetz was doing?”

Goetz, playing at Longue Vue Club in his first round of stroke play in the U.S. Amateur, put together a spectacular round of 64, making no birdies, four birdies and an eagle. He’s tied with three others for second place. Goetz simplified his approach a bit, with a very simple intent.

“With this course play hard and fast as it is, these fairways are hard to hit, and we got lucky on a couple off them. I really just kept it in front of me, that’s all I wanted to do. And it will be the same sort of thing tomorrow at Oakmont.”

It won’t be exactly the same.

Oakmont will play at 7,254 yards, as opposed to Long Vue’s 6,647.

And that doesn’t take into account, the notorious bunkers, the greens which are as hard and fast as the Parkway East. And don’t forget the pressure of trying to post a score good enough to get into the round of 64 as Match Play begins Wednesday.

Goetz’s reign atop the Day 1 leaderboard was a short one as Jacob Bridgeman of Inman, S.C. tied the course record with a 63 at Longue Vue.

He is the third player to post that score at Longue Vue. Bob Ford, the former head golf professional at Oakmont for many years, posted than in a Tri-State PGA Pro-Scratch Amateur in 1999 and Nathan Sutherland, an Oakmont member did it in the Pennsylvania Amateur in 2007.

“Today’s round should help, yes,” he said. “We're going to do the same thing, see what we can do. Yeah, this one definitely helps.”

Oakmont member Jimmy Meyers posted a four-over round on his home course that included six bogeys and two birdies for a 74. The real sting of those bogeys was that they came on the last five holes of his round.

“There were some tough pins out there, looked like Sunday pins,” he said. “I struggled a lot coming in and I’m not happy about that.”

The rest of the group of local golfers, or those with local ties, had a tough time regardless of which course they played.

Kevin O’Brien posted a 70, Jake Sollon (72), Ian Bangor and Jason Li posted 73s, Neal Shipley, Sean Knapp had 74, Palmer Jackson had a 76, Grant Martens a 77 and Matt Vogt finished with an 81.

Today’s second round will be the final stroke-play round with the low 64 scores advancing into Wednesday’s match play portion of the Am. Six rounds over five days will result in a champion being crowned Sunday evening.

Day Two

The 311 amateur golfers who teed off this morning at Oakmont Country Club and Longue Vue Club in the second day of the 121st U.S. Amateur assumed weather conditions would not be as hot and humid as it was on Day One.

And they were right. Temperatures barely got into the 80s, the front that came through brought enough rain to take some of the sheen off Oakmont’s hard and fast putting surfaces.

But that front also brought with it a 3:50 weather day and prevented stroke play from being completed. Play continued Tuesday evening but was halted at 8 p.m.

The plan is to resume the second round at 7:30 a.m. The earliest time for the start of the inevitable playoff for the 64th spot in match play would be 12:30 and the earliest time the round of 64 could begin would be 12:45.

Tuesday won’t be remembered as one of the great days for the West Penn Golf Association, with only one player from the area making it into match play, well, sort of. Mark Goetz, despite finishing his day at 8-under for the two days and two-under for Tuesday, dominated the famed Oakmont layout. No, he didn’t make a lot of birdies, but he started on the back nine and made eight pars and a birdie.

If there was a single shot that showed just how dominating he was, it came from the tee box on 18. There are bunkers on each side of that fairway and down the left side it’s 311 yards to carry the farthest bunker.

Goetz stepped up to the tee, got himself set and smoked a tee shot that cleared that bunker by 10-15 yards. That would be close to 320-ish yards. Case closed.

He finds himself at 9-under par with a two -shot lead over Jacob Bridgeman and B. Ma. Goetz still has six holes to play this morning.

“I’m excited for sure,” Goetz said. “My goal was to go out and put up the best number I can. I grew up playing these kinds of course and yes, there’s a definite comfort level here for me.”

He will most likely – barring a strong closing kicks from one of the guys just behind him – be sitting in the No. 1 seed when match play begins this afternoon.

Three of his Hannastown compatriots – Palmer Jackson, Sean Knapp and Jimmy Meyers – and only Meyers has an outside shot of making it to match play. Jackson couldn’t get his game clicked into the right gear and it all started with his swing.

“It just wasn’t on,” he said. “I could feel it from the start, and I could never get it going. And the other thing I did was once I started to not make the birdies, I felt like I was rushing over my shots to make birdies.”

He finished with rounds of 76-76. Knapp’s two rounds were 76-77.

“I had a great stretch of holes, from 8 through 12 and I made nothing on the greens,” Knapp said. “And then I triple-bogeyed my last hole to walk off like a dog with my tail between my legs.”

Jason Li got 13 holes in but was 8-over par when the siren sounded. Neal Shipley was 11-over 13 holes; Grant Martens finished his second round, shooting matching 77s.

Jake Sollon put up a pair of 72s for a 4-over par total. While he’s at that number, he’s also tied for 86th on the scoreboard. There will be some nervous times this morning for Sollon as he watches how it all shakes down.

Ian Bangor finished 10 holes of his second round and is at plus-4 and finds himself in the same boat at Sollon.

Meyers sits at 5-over through 13 holes. Joining him there is Kevin O’Brien who opened with a 74 and is 1-over through 13 holes on the back.

After posting an opening round of 81, 11 shots over par, Matt Vogt was on fire in his second round, getting to 4-under par through 13 holes.

All in all, it was a pretty good birthday for the now 23-year-old Goetz.

“Yeah, it was cool. But it feels great and is really cool, man,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in my hometown and it’s great to play this on a course in my hometown. Several years ago, I came across a Latrobe Country Club scorecard and on the front there’s a quote from Arnold Palmer. It said, ‘Hometown is not where you’re from. Hometown is who you are.’”

Day Three

For the most part, fans who showed up at Oakmont Country Club this week have seen a lot more rain than golf. Over the two days of match play, there were a little over 7 hours of weather delays.

But late Wednesday afternoon, the sun started to break through and the round actually got underway, even though it started several hours after its’ scheduled start.

Mark Goetz finished off the final few holes of his second-round 68 and finished as the medalist. He had to wait until 7 p.m. to tee off his round of 64 match against David Nyfjall of Sweden.

Stroke play wrapped up Wednesday morning and just as players started to get ready to move to the first tee, the siren went off and the course cleared before a single shot was struck. Three hours and 55 minutes later, match play finally got started.

To complete the match play bracket, a tie of 12 players had to be broken for one last spot. It took three holes, but Nyfjall broke the tie with a birdie and his prize was a match against Goetz.

That match went four holes, and it was even when the horn sounded to end play for the day.

There as no doubt that the rain had a big impact on the course on Tuesday and that continued when it rained hard for several minutes and then continued for a couple hours at a less fierce pace.

The long delays each of the last two days have played havoc with the schedule, obviously. Ten groups did not get onto the course Wednesday night to start their matches. Only one round of matches will be held today, the round of 16.

Those matches aren’t scheduled to start until 1 p.m. so golfers will return to the course at 7:30 a.m. to finish their round of 64 matches. Barring further rain or storms, round of 32 matches will get started in the afternoon with split tees being used. That’s a rarity for the USGA but will be used out of necessity as the organization struggles to get the event back on track to be ready for network television coverage over the weekend.

While the storm delays created havoc with the schedule and made for a lot of anxious and nervous golfers, there was something of a positive nature for the players. The course is playing much softer than it did earlier in the week and that includes the greens which had a great deal of their fire taken from them and are actually considerably slower.

“I’m excited for sure,” Goetz said. “I just want to put up the best number I can. I grew up playing golf courses like this and there’s a definite comfort zone for me.”

The USGA announced Wednesday afternoon that those who bought tickets for Wednesday’s round and decided not to come to Oakmont because of the weather will be able to use those tickets for Friday’s play.

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.