MAMARONECK – The folks at the USGA are on to something.
Watching the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship play out at Winged Foot over the last five days was a memorable experience. The venue was perfect. The storylines were plentiful. The golf was outstanding.
There’s a reason why so many local golfers take sides on weekends and play four-ball. It’s a good time unless both players are simultaneously knee deep in trouble.
Andrew Buchanan and Ben Baxter were 4-down through eight holes in a semifinal match on Wednesday, but the SMU teammates came roaring back to beat Garret Rank and Patrick Christovich 2 and 1 to make the final.
Quick turnarounds are part of the format.
“Yeah, it sucks being down, but we said they were going to make six birdies today,” Buchanan said. “It doesn’t matter if they come in their first six holes or their last six holes.”
The math was almost dead on.
“So they got really hot early, then what did we birdie, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16 and 17? Yeah, seven. We said they were going to make six birdies and that if we made seven we would beat them.”
Putting match play into a four-ball event increases the drama exponentially.
For most of the participants, the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship is the closest they’ll come to securing a rare USGA title.
It’s essentially a made for television event.
So many of the players involved have a good backstory. There are college teammates who play a ridiculous amount of golf each spring competing with experienced mid-ams who sneak away from work and figure out a way to compete.
There aren’t many stages where those groups can share the spotlight.
What the USGA needs going forward is a couple of recently retired professional athletes with a passion for the game to qualify and give the event additional marquee value.
Hopefully, the event will come back.
In the meantime, how about introducing some kind of local four-ball tournament?
“Definitely,” said Cameron Young, who teamed with Wake Forest teammate Paul McBride this week and made the Round of 32. “It would obviously have a lot different feel from this. I think it would be a fun tournament for guys to play in, a break from the normal stroke play.”
There is so much potential.
Winged Foot has its Anderson Memorial Four-Ball Invitational, but that precious event brings in an impressive national field.
A local equivalent would have to open it up to all comers with a day of stroke play to narrow the field to 16 teams. After two days of match play, a champion is crowned. How much fun would it be watching a top high school team going head-to-head with seasoned mid-amateurs? How cool would it be seeing a team from Winged Foot battle a team from Quaker Ridge?
There are some issues.
“We already have so many organizations going after the same clubs to host events,” said Gene Westmoreland, the former rules and competitions director at the MGA and longtime Winged Foot member.
Yes, the schedule is crowded.
We have invitational events tripping over each other right now, competing for calendar dates and top competitors. We have multiple organizations conducting similar championships. We have to reorganize that setup at some point in the very near future.
So let’s keep this four-ball idea close.
No club is likely to volunteer to give up the course for three or four days and host a match play event. Several of the Met area’s finest would have to come on board to make a four-ball, match play event a reality.
The best golfers will take a few days off to compete on great courses.
“And that’s a big part of making a tournament work,” Westmoreland said. “It’s a very popular format, and if this was done the right way, I could see it becoming popular.”