Fields Faces Playoff Battle
Jack Fields, the pride of Southern Pines and Pinecrest High School, demonstrated his tenacity on a golf course once again Tuesday when he shot 34 on his final nine holes to earn a spot in a 26-man playoff for two berths in match play for the U.S. Amateur Championship being held at Pinehurst Resort.
He was scheduled to tee off at 8:20 this morning on the No. 4 Course.
Nobody said it was going to be easy. It never is when the stakes are so high.
For Fields, the stakes were astronomical. Shoot a good round and join 63 other golfers in match play. Shoot a high number and take the rest of the week off.
This was the big one for Fields ... the national championship being played in his own front yard. Plus it was a kind of trifecta for the 18-year-old headed for the University of North Carolina this fall on a golf scholarship. He had already won the North Carolina High School state 4-A championship and the North Carolina Amateur a few weeks ago.
Pressure is nothing new to Fields. Heck, his dad Mike had promised him a car if he qualified for the Amateur and he shot 65-74 at Pinewild Country Club to get that done.
He shot 63 in the final round of the state amateur to make up a
final-round deficit of seven strokes. That 63 included an eagle and a double eagle at Raleigh Country Club, another Donald Ross creation.
Still, when he opened with a 38 on the back nine of No. 2 Tuesday, his hopes appeared dim. But he rallied with birdies on holes 3 and 7 to make the playoff.
"He hit every fairway and every green on that nine except for No. 8," Mike Fields said. "He made a seven-footer on the 7th hole, but then three-putted No. 8."
Fields was looking forward to playing the famed No. 2 course after an opening 73 on No. 4 Monday that had put him in borderline territory.
"I've always played No. 2 pretty well," he said, then went out and
made birdie on his first hole, the 10th, as he was starting on the
That proved to be the highlight of that nine, though, as he ran into trouble with a three-putt bogey on his fourth hole (13) from some 20 feet above the hole. Trouble came in the form of the dreaded bogey train as he proceeded to lose strokes on the next three holes before righting the ship.
A tremendous tee shot on the par-3 17th left him with a 10-foot birdie putt and a chance to turn things around. But the ball hung on the lip of the cup.
A routine par on 18 netted a 38 and left him facing a huge hill to climb on the final nine.
Despite the opening 73, Fields wasn't all that comfortable with his golf swing on Monday.
His driver wanted to go a little left. His irons wanted to go a little right.
That's not a good combination when you're in the first round of
attempting to qualify for match play in the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Especially when you're playing a golf course as tough as Pinehurst Resort's No. 4.
The result was three double bogeys, enough bad stuff to ruin the day when you're trying to make the Tuesday cut of 64 players from among a field of 315.
But for Fields, who grew up in Southern Pines and has been playing competitive golf for most of his young life, there was no thought of failure.
He rallied with four birdies, including a brilliant up-and-down from the pine straw on the par-5 17th hole, putting himself back in good shape for Tuesday's second round.
"I think I'll have to shoot at least another 73 or better on No. 2
tomorrow to have a chance of making match play," he predicted.
There was an omen early on Monday that it might be a trying day when Fields had an early birdie putt lip out.
"Then on the second hole, I really messed it up," he said. "I hooked a 4-iron, then chunked a wedge."
His problems continued on No. 6, where he four-putted for a double bogey from 20 feet. He was still able to make the turn at 2 over par, though, only to find disaster on the 10th hole.
"I hit it left off the tee and had a terrible lie," he said. "Then I
plugged it in the lip of the bunker and ended up having to make a putt from 10 feet for double bogey."
A birdie on the tough 13th hole got him back to 3-over. A bogey on 16 proved only a mild setback as he responded with the birdie on 17.
"I was worried about the chip on 17," he said. "I never considered trying to putt it, but I was afraid that the wedge might slide underneath the ball in the pine straw."
He executed the shot perfectly, with the ball stopping about two
feet past the cup, then rolled it in for birdie.
Trouble still awaited on the par-4 18th, though, as his drive caught the huge waste bunker on the left side. His iron shot went right and he chipped it about 15 feet past the cup, then made the par putt.
"Getting up and down on 18 was huge for my confidence," Fields said. "I feel a lot better leaving with a par than with a bogey. I just didn't concentrate well enough on the shot from the waste bunker. You certainly don't want to bogey the last hole when you're going to be playing No. 2 the next round."
Fields had a 2:25 tee-off Tuesday afternoon and had hoped to use the morning to solve his swing problems.
"I'll go out to my home course (National Golf Club) and work on some things," he said. "I don't feel that good about my game right now, but if you can get into match play, anything can happen."
Now all he has to do is outlast 24 other players this morning and he's there.
More like this story