Championship Is a Grueling Grind
As several of the nation’s top amateur golfers converged this week in Pinehurst for the 112th playing of the Men’s North and South Amateur Championship they were confronted with three principal obstacles.
112th Men's North & South Amateur Golf Championship.
The 112th Men's North and South Amateur Golf Championship was contested Tuesday through Saturday at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. Play in the longest consecutive-running amateur tournament in the United States began with three straight days of stroke play on Course No. 8, before shifting to famed Course No. 2 Friday and Saturday, featuring four rounds of match play. Photos by Philip Taylor.
Standing tall alongside their potential path to the final day and a chance at grabbing that coveted Putterboy trophy, the culprits were clear: a freshly revamped tournament format with a deep and talented field in an event culminating on the still newly restored Pinehurst No. 2, scorching Sandhills’ summer weather conditions and the five-day pressure cooker of competing in what has long been regarded as one of the most grueling of weeks in the illustrious history of amateur championship golf in the United States.
Diverse Field Gets First Taste of New Format: The North and South, hosted by Pinehurst Resort, is the longest running-consecutive amateur golf tournament in the nation. For the 112th rendition of the venerated championship, whose former winners include Francis Ouimet, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange and Davis Love III, the cast was the same but the location for days one-through-three was different.
Tuesday marked the first of three rounds of medal play at Pinehurst No. 8 as 132 golfers teed it up on the Centennial Course.
The lads hailed from across all stretches of the continental United States, coming to the championship from at least 25 different states.
There was also an international flavor as players also arrived in Pinehurst from Australia, New Zealand and India.
Still others had much less distance to travel. As always this year’s championship featured a strong Tar Heel state contingent, including golfers from Southern Pines, Pinehurst, Sanford, Asheboro, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Cary, Raleigh, Concord, Morrisville, Yanceyville, Kernersville, Lexington, High Point, Davidson, Holly Springs, Smithfield, Asheville, Henderson, and Winston-Salem.
Select Few Get to Play Pinehurst No. 2: Come Thursday afternoon, the second of two cuts had been made as 16 golfers remained after three-plus rounds of stroke play on Course No. 8. The other 116 gentlemen left Pinehurst Resort and/or Moore County without ever stepping foot on the famed Pinehurst No. 2 — Donald Ross’s crown jewel course — in competition. The final two days of the championship shifted back to Pinehurst No. 2, Friday and Saturday, with four rounds of match play slated, including an 18-hole Saturday afternoon matinee finale at 1 p.m. to determine the 2012 champion.
Last year’s North and South runner-up, David Erdy, of Boonville, Ind., was a party to both the old format — six rounds of match play all contested out of the main clubhouse on No. 2 and then the new format this year. After making it through to Saturday’s morning semifinal, with a 4-and-3 win against Thomas Sutton in the afternoon quarters on Friday, he discussed the changes.
“It is a lot more difficult to get to the finals this year,” Erdy said, “because you have to play two different mentalities in stroke play and match play. Last year if you got hot or got a little bit of an easier draw in your bracket those things could make it a little easier getting to the finals.
“I like that it is more difficult though. It is more challenging and it’s a little more fun.”
After eventual champion Jack Fields chipped in on the 18th and final hole in last year’s morning half of the final 36-hole match, Erdy held a slim 1-up edge going into lunch. That afternoon Erdy would watch the Southern Pines native catch lightning in a bottle on his way to a decisive 5-and-4 victory to take the title.
Brand New Format, Same Old Grind: Whether it is stroke or match play, it still requires quite a bit of golf for a player to make it to the final round or two of the event. Each of the 16 match-play qualifiers had played at least 54 holes in brutal and excessive heat, while performing under the pressure of making two cuts over at No. 8 just to get to the marquee arena.
By Saturday afternoon that total number of holes played might reach as many as 126 holes, while the number of golfers left standing is two.
“Probably the thing I don’t like (about the new format) is it is just a marathon,” said Erdy. “It is a lot of golf and it has been really hot.”
Nevertheless Erdy did what he needed to do over at No. 8 and admitted he was happy to get back on Pinehurst No. 2.
“When my caddy and I passed the first hole after putting our stuff in the locker room Thursday afternoon, we put our hands in the air and said, ‘Finally, we are back home.’
“It feels nice to be back on No. 2 and it is where we wanted to be. Now it is like a treat, because you play really well for three days and then you get to be back on a great championship golf course.”
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story