Ben Warnquist Leaps the Field to Capture Medal at US Am Qualfiier

Ben Warnquist shattered the leaderboard for the U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying round at Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club in Columbia, July 10, when he included nine birdies in a second-round 64 and his two-day, two-round total of 134 broke a log jam and earned him the medal.

Such was the crowd, the second round began with 11 players within three shots of the lead and another 14 four back. Even so, the only playoff that developed was for second alternate.

With four places in the championship at stake, Warnquist, 26, from Olney and Manor Country Club, was trailed by Evan Katz, Washington, D.C., 68-68–136; Michael Brennan, Leesburg, Va., 70-67–137, and Elliott Grayson, Shelby, N.C., 69-69–138.

First-round leader Oliver Whatley, from Chevy Chase, Md., slipped back with 67-72–139 to become the first alternate. A 12-foot birdie putt at the first playoff hole (No. 1) brought Bart Mease, Gaithersburg, Md., the nod against Nick Sorkin, Jupiter, Fla. The two had tied with 69-71–140 in regulation play.

The course in Howard County was played at 6,915 yards with a par of 72.

Warnquist, who had previously qualified for the 2016 Amateur, ran home a series of birdie putts from about 15 feet on the front side, capped it with a 35-footer at the ninth, then highlighted the back nine with a 25-footer at the 16th. He bogeyed the 10th after driving into trees and having to chip out. He hit 16 greens and finished with 25 putts.

Katz, a Duke University junior who just turned 21, had five birdies, including three of the par-5’s (one a 2-putt) and a chip-in. He missed the green in regulation at the 14th, leading to his only bogey. “I just wanted to stay in the moment and not get ahead of myself,” he said, and that worked out well.

Brennan, who has won two Middle Atlantic Amateurs, came into this week fresh off winning the Virginia State Amateur. The high school senior, 17, had six birdies (including all four of the par 5’s) and, “I didn’t miss any putts I thought I should make.” At the other end, “I struggled with my drives, and at 13, I went from rough to a slice with a ‘mud ball’ that wound up behind a tree, and [eventually] a two-putt from the fringe for my only bogey. There were also good ‘saves’ at 15 [from 20 feet] and 16.

Those last two were critical, as Brennan was only 2-under through 14, then followed the two birdies with a final one at the 18th. As he said, “I finished solid.”

In his second straight 69, Grayson, 23, a recent graduate of the University of Akron, had three birdies in a bogey-free tour and reported, “No mistakes.

The 119th Championship will be played Aug. 12-18 at the Pinehurst (N.C.) CC.