Charlestonâs Smart brilliant in U.S. Amateur Qualifier, shoots 7 under
BLUE BELL, Pa. â Henry Smartâs first trip to Cedarbrook Country Club paved the way to his first national championship. So the London native naturally decided to make a return visit in pursuit of another appearance. It worked out in his favor once again.
Smart carded a 7-under-par 136 to earn medalist honors in a U.S. Amateur Qualifier administered by the Golf Association of Philadelphia at Cedarbrook (par 72, 7,045 yards) and Old York Road Country Club (par 71, 6,547 yards) Monday. In 2010, he qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Cedarbrook and Sunnybrook Golf Club in a playoff.
Jacob Hicks, a rising senior at East Carolina University, and Vinay Ramesh, an incoming Princeton University freshman and Spring Mill Country Club member, finished a shot back. Locals Michael R. Brown, Jr. of Links Golf Club and Jack Wallace of Philadelphia Cricket Club also advanced Monday.
The U.S. Amateur will take place Aug. 17-23 at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill.
âAs soon as I saw this was one of the qualifying sites, that was part of the reason I came up âŠ a little bit of good mojo,â Smart, 26, of Charleston, S.C., said. âI have good memories here. A GAP event is fantastic. Pace of play is quick. The hole locations are fair. You couldnât ask for a better set-up for a U.S. Amateur Qualifier. [Former University of Virginia teammates] Cory (Siegfried) and Cole (Willcox) all speak so highly of the GAP. That was one of the reasons why I came up and did it.â
As mentioned, Smart graduated from the University of Virginia in 2011. He participated in European Tour Q School as an amateur but didnât make the cut. Smart then took a job as an assistant golf coach at the College of Charleston in 2013.
Like the institutionâs cougar mascot, Smart pounced onto the leaderboard Monday.
He reeled off four straight one-putts to secure a 3-under-par 68 at Old York Road in the morning. Smart, with favorable confines on the horizon, maintained his red figure rhythm with a birdie on No. 10 (par 5, 538 yards), his first hole at Cedarbrook. An eagle on the par 5, 554-yard 12th hole assured Smart of his qualifying status. He powered a 2-iron 235 yards to 15 feet.
Although he missed a makeable four-footer on No. 15 (par 4, 431 yards), Smart shook off the head scratcher by knocking a 7-iron to 25 feet on No. 16 (par 3, 172 yards) and converting an aggressive putt that dropped the right edge. Smart stopped a 6-iron from 180 yards at a foot on No. 17 (par 4, 428 yards) for another birdie. He inked a 31 on Cedarbrookâs back nine to move to 8 under â three shots clear of his fellow sweatbox sallies.
âThe back nine was hard because I knew from the leaderboard that I was a little bit ahead of the field. I played really conservative coming in,â Smart said.
Played to his last name is more like it. Smart registered five straight pars before finding a three-putt bogey on No. 6 (par 5, 569 yards). But he erased the error immediately with a birdie on the next hole (par 4, 377 yards), knocking a pitching wedge 125 yards to two feet.
Hicks tied a competitive course record at Old York Road, carding a 5-under-par 66 to emerge as the eventâs 18-hole leader.
Starting on the back nine, Hicks rolled in an uphill 20-footer for birdie on No. 11 (par 4, 391 yards). He followed with a bombastic 3-wood on the next hole (par 4, 355 yards), which yielded a straightforward 45-yard chip shot to three feet for another 3. Hicks then assembled an unthinkable stretch on Old York Roadâs complicated complexes. He birdied No. 14 (par 3, 160 yards) following a 9-iron to five feet; No. 15 (par 5, 500 yards) following a downwind 6-iron from 195 yards to the greenâs front edge and No. 16 (par 3, 205 yards) after a downwind 6-iron to seven feet above the hole location.
âAt that point, I was thinking 29. I wasnât scared. I knew my game was ready,â Hicks, 21, of Mebane, N.C., said. âI didnât think I tied the course record. It didnât seem like it was playing that hard. I just played pretty solid.â
Hicksâ inward tour proved a bit less frenetic; he carded a birdie against a bogey. The afternoon at Cedarbrook saw more of the same until Hicks arrived at the par 4, 431-yard 15th hole. With an optimal yardage of 103, he landed a 60-degree wedge five feet right of the hole location and watched it spin into the cup.
Fresh off a Top 20 finish in the Carolinas Amateur Championship over the weekend, Hicks decided to head north for qualifying because he âloves the courses up here.â By advancing to his first U.S. Amateur, he answered a personal challenge. He played in every event this season for the East Carolina University menâs golf team. However, Hicks wasnât selected to travel with the team to NCAA Regionals.
âThat stung. I was pretty big contributor and [coach Press McPhaul] sat me,â Hicks said. âThis summer I was like, âIâm going to show him. Iâm going to play well.ââ
Like Hicks, Ramesh, 18, of Newtown, Pa., crossed the No. 1 goal off his summer list Monday by qualifying for his first U.S. Amateur.
âWhat fueled my drive here was last week. I missed the cut for the [Pennsylvania Golf Association] Open. It was a brutal wakeup call,â Ramesh said. âI made a triple bogey on the 10th hole [at Radnor Valley Country Club]. I just let that get to me too much. I just used that as fuel for today.â
Ramesh, a recent Pennsbury High School graduate, implemented a physical tweak from last weekâs round as well.
âWhat I was struggling with at Radnor Valley was I wasnât committing to anything. Today I was committing to all my putts,â Ramesh said. âI was very clear with what I wanted to do.â
Middle-amateurs Brown, 42, of Maple Shade, N.J. and Wallace, 31, of Beverly, N.J. also qualified Monday. Brown will be playing in his second U.S. Amateur, Wallace his first.
Golf Association of Philadelphia