John Augenstein and Andy Ogletree, a pair of 21-year-old college seniors, will square off in Sunday’s 36-hole final of the 119th U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.
The competitors took vastly different paths on Saturday to reach the championship match.
Augenstein, of Owensboro, Ky., registered 15 consecutive pars to start his semifinal against William Holcomb V, before a conceded birdie on the 16th closed out the Texas native, 3 and 2. It was the first bogey-free performance in a U.S. Amateur semifinal since at least 2008, when hole-by-hole scoring records began.
Ogletree, of Little Rock, Miss., played his 17 holes in 7 over par, with the usual match-play concessions, but took advantage of several miscues by Cohen Trolio, to defeat the 17-year-old, 3 and 1. Ogletree’s score is the highest in relation to par for a semifinal winner in at least the last 11 years.
While Holcomb made more birdies (2 to 1), Augenstein was the steadier player throughout their match, consistently getting up-and-down around the challenging green complexes of the venerable Course No. 2 at Pinehurst.
Holcomb took an early 1-up lead with a birdie on the third hole, but bogeys at Nos. 4, 6 and 7 gave Augenstein a 2-up advantage. Holcomb birdied the par-3 ninth, but could not square the match at any point on the inward nine. When his 25-foot par putt drifted wide right on the 16th hole, Augenstein punched his ticket to the final.
“I have an opportunity to win the biggest amateur tournament in the world,” said Augenstein, No. 38 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). “There are 310 guys who teed it up this week that don't have that opportunity anymore. I'm one of the two that does.”
In the other semifinal, Trolio could not summon the same form that made him the youngest U.S. Amateur semifinalist in at least a quarter century. He opened with bogeys on each of his first four holes and six of his first seven, but remained just 1 down at the turn.
Ogletree birdied the 11th, striking a wedge to within 4 feet from the sandy native area right of the fairway, to go 2 up. Trolio responded with a 20-foot par putt from the fringe on the next hole to cut his deficit back to 1 down.
But Ogletree won the 16th with a par and followed it with arguably his best shot of the day, a 6-iron on the 206-yard 17th to 3 feet for a conceded birdie to earn his spot in the championship match.
“It means a lot to get to this point,” said Ogletree, No. 120 in the WAGR. “I’ve been playing since I was 4 years old. All the hard work that I've put in over the years – the late-night range sessions, all the times my dad would drive me to golf tournaments – it's all kind of come together, and it's unbelievable.”
The 36-hole championship match begins at 9 a.m. EDT on Sunday. The morning round will be played on Course No. 4, and streamed live on usamateur.com from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The afternoon round will be played on Course No. 2, starting at 2:30 p.m., and televised on FOX from 3:30-6:30 p.m. It is the first time that the championship match is being played on two courses.
Both players have earned berths in the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot G.C., as well as likely invitations to the 2020 Masters Tournament. The winner will also earn a spot on the 2019 USA Walker Cup Team and in the 2020 Open Championship, conducted by The R&A.
No previous U.S. Amateur champion has come from Mississippi or Kentucky. The last player from Mississippi to win a USGA title was Steve Wilson (2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur). Kenny Perry (2017 U.S. Senior Open) is the last player from Kentucky to win a USGA championship.
Ogletree is the first U.S. Amateur finalist from Georgia Tech since Matt Kuchar in 1997. Augenstein is the first finalist from Vanderbilt University since Luke List in 2004.
Augenstein has trailed for just one hole through five rounds of match play.
Neither Ogletree nor Augenstein has faced a deficit larger than 1 down in their first five matches.
“I like the golf course a lot. It has some similarities to No. 2. It's certainly not as severe around the greens, so it should yield a few more birdies, but the greens are still really firm, really fast, and you still can't fake it around there. You have to hit a lot of good shots. I think it'll be kind of a cool format to play two different courses.”
• John Augenstein, on playing Course No. 4 during the morning round of Sunday’s championship match
“Last night I slept awesome and felt great. I got lots of encouragement, and talked to Theo [Humphrey, a 2017 U.S. Amateur semifinalist from Vanderbilt], who was in my position a couple years back about what he kind of felt going into that round, and then also was fortunate enough to get a text from Justin Thomas about what he was feeling when he was going through it. Talking to both of those guys really helped me.”
• Augenstein, on his preparation for Saturday’s semifinal match
“It has less than 2,000 people, so it's not even considered a city. But it does have a streetlight. We have a little gas station that has a seafood buffet on Friday night. The food is incredible.” (Laughter)
• Andy Ogletree, on his hometown, Little Rock, Miss.
“I've actually never played with John, which is crazy, because we've grown up playing the same tournaments forever, and we play Vanderbilt in a lot of tournaments. I know he's a competitor. A lot of people say he's a bulldog. But I actually just saw a Tweet that said John is the only one with credentials here. That's kind of got me motivated and ready to go tomorrow.”
• Ogletree, on Augenstein, his opponent in Sunday’s championship match
“They canceled the club championship for a [U.S. Amateur] watch party, so I hope they move it to next weekend because I will be playing in it. (Laughter) And I will be winning it. We should make it match play!”
• William Holcomb V, on his home club, Spring Creek C.C. in Crockett, Texas
“I couldn't really get it rolling. I was in every bunker that is on Pinehurst No. 2. Putts weren't going in early and then when I made a couple putts, he fired back. But overall, it proves to me that I have what it takes to compete at this level.”
• Cohen Trolio, on his performance in the semifinal match against Ogletree