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Observations from Friday's U.S. Amateur

By: Tony Dear


The Green Effect

On Tuesday, I mentioned how burnt and brown Chambers Bay near Tacoma is looking. Last night, however, I eventually got to see a few minutes' coverage on Golf Channel and was struck by how much greener it looks. Apparently, both NBC and Golf Channel use filters in their cameras to enhance the green in the turf. Asked what he thinks of this, assistant superintendent John Ellis said it was a shame because it gives a false impression. "This is a links course. It's supposed to be brown," Ellis said. "I don't know why they would want to make it look green."

Light Weights

In his championship application, Jed Dirksen, a junior at the University of Iowa, listed "lifting weights" as among his off-course interests. I saw him playing for the first time today and wondered what sort of weights he must be lifting. The 21-year-old can't weigh more than 150 pounds and would probably fit quite easily into the stand bag he was carrying himself.

Self-Raking Bunkers

Andy Soden, my host for the week and one of the army of volunteers who are out the course at 4.30 a.m. filling divots, mowing greens and moving tee markers, tells me there was no need for the crew to rake the bunkers before play this morning as yesterday's wind did it for them.

"The wind got so strong it just smoothed the sand in the bunkers all by itself," he says. Considering the amount of work the volunteers (full-time superintendents from courses all over the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia) have had to do on the course this week, that was a blessing but it created one problem. "The wind exposed lots of pretty large stones in the bunkers," says Soden, showing me a potato-sized rock he had taken out of the sand besides the 10th green. "I wouldn't want to hit that with my sand wedge."

Old Before His Time?

Friday was the first day players were asked to participate in formal press conferences. Three of the four semifinal winners made it up the hill to the media center, located in the Environmental Services Building at Chambers Creek, while defending champion Byeong-Hun An answered questions down the hill at the 18th green, where he beat fellow University of California golfer Max Homa, who had beaten Tacoma's own T.J. Bordeaux Wednesday.

First in was David Chung, who beat NCAA champion Scott Langley 1-up. But there was a half-hour gap between winning his match and arriving at the ESB building.

Turns out that Chung, 20 and a junior at Stanford, took advantage of the on-site massage therapists and chiropractors immediately following his victory, which came on the 102nd hole he has played this week. "They have a good crew here," he said. "As much walking as we're doing, and as much strain playing a lot of golf puts on your body, it's nice to get loosened up."

Chung, from Fayetteville, N.C., has used a belly putter ever since his coach at Stanford, Conrad Ray, suggested he give it a try following problems with the conventional putter. That was over a year ago. Since then Chung has won the North and South Amateur, the Porter Cup and Western Amateur.

So, how come a 20-year-old athlete needs post-round stretching and a belly putter, both favored (required?) by the more mature player? "I must be getting old," he says. "I feel like I have a 35-year-old body because I'm so tight. But what else can I say? I guess my genes are just no good."

Power Lunch

This afternoon, while I enjoyed some lunch on the clubhouse patio overlooking the golf course and Puget Sound, I couldn't help but notice the distinguished group of diners at a nearby table. Holding court for much of the time was Mike Davis, the USGA's Senior Director of Rules and Competition. Also present were David Fay, executive director of the USGA; USGA President Jim Hyler; USGA Secretary Thomas O'Toole Jr; Larry Gilhuly, USGA Green Section's Northwest Director; Matt Allen, General Manager of Chambers Bay; David Wienecke, Chambers Bay's Head Superintendent; Robert Trent Jones Jr, Chambers Bay's designer; and a couple more USGA officials wearing the organization's familiar white shirts and blue vests but whose backs were turned.

Two things came to mind. First, where was my invitation? And second, I bet they're not talking about last night's episode of South Park.

What Now?

With all four matches going off the first tee before 9 a.m. PDT, Friday's round was done by 1 p.m., leaving the four winners with a spare afternoon. The only one who headed back to the range after lunch was 18-year-old Patrick Cantlay, a recent graduate of Servite High School in Anaheim who is headed to UCLA as soon as he finishes here.

On the putting green, Cantlay met with teacher Jamie Mulligan, who also works with John Cook, Paul Goydos, John Merrick, John Mallinger, Craig Barlow, Peter Tomasulo and Brett Lederer at Virginia CC in Long Beach, Calif. Also, there were Cantlay's father, brother (his mom, sister and other brother were up in the clubhouse), his caddie for the week - high-school golf coach Dane Jako, and Zach Vinal, an assistant pro at Virginia CC. Joining the group were members of the Perry family, with whom Cantlay is staying this week.

Should he win on Sunday, young Cantlay certainly won't be short of people with whom to celebrate.

Utility Man

While sitting in the media center this afternoon, I couldn't help but laugh when a local resident walked into the Environmental Services Building and said to no one in particular, "Anyone know where I pay my utility bill?"

You wouldn't hear that at the Masters.

Tony Dear is an Englishman living in Bellingham, Wash. In the early 1990s he was a member of the Liverpool University golf team which played its home matches at Royal Liverpool GC. Easy access to Hoylake made it increasingly difficult for him to focus on Politics (his chosen major) and, after dropping out, he ended up teaching golf at a club just south of London where he also made a futile attempt at becoming a "player." He moved into writing when it became abundantly clear he had no business playing the game for a living. A one-time golf correspondent of the New York Sun, Tony is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the Pacific Northwest Golf Media Association and the Golf Travel Writers Association. He is a multi-award winning journalist, and edits his own web site at www.bellinghamgolfer.com.