BANDON, Ore.—That Robert Hoadley would be preparing to tee it up in the third round of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship Thursday afternoon probably comes as a surprise to those who watched him during his first few holes of stroke-play qualifying.
Playing in the wind and rain that fell last Monday along the Oregon coast, the rising junior at UNC Greensboro stumbled early and often at Bandon Trails GC. It began with a double-bogey 5 on the second hole, followed by a double-bogey 6 on the third hole and a triple-bogey 7 on the fourth hole. Three more bogeys later, Hoadley turned in 10-over 45.
"That front nine was kind of a welcome to Bandon Dunes," Hoadley said. "A lot of people at home were texting my mom saying, 'Is this really true? Did he really shoot 10 over?' " Still, the Southern Pines, N.C., native was determined not to let get things any more out of hand, hearing his college coaches whispering in the back of his mind to stay focused and salvage what he could from the round. Eight pars and a birdie on the back nine gave him a 79, which as he put it was better than an 80.
"I came off the 18th hole that day and I looked at everybody I just shot the best 79 of my life," Hoadley said. "At one point I didn't know if I was going to break 100."
A day later, Hoadley shot a one-under 70 at Old Macdonald, comfortably making the match-play cut. An opening-round 5-and-3 victory of Jed Dirksen, a quarterfinalist at last year's U.S. Amateur, followed by a 6-and-4 win over__Kevin Lee__ Thursday morning on Old Macdonald has Hoadley impressively among the last 16 players in the field.
Seriously, though, how could Hoadley have turned things around so quickly?
"It was more a mental shift," Hoadley said. "I was hitting the ball pretty well. I made some bad decisions off the tee."
Specifically on the par-4 fourth at Bandon Trails, where he used a driver off the tee when it wasn't necessary, hitting his shot into a bunker, then hit his second shot into a bush, proceeding to lose the ball.
"In the practice round I hit a driver and it was into the wind and I barely got to the fairway," Hoadley explained. "But in the first round, the wind had switch all the way around, and I wasn't thinking. I decided just to bomb the driver out there."
"I told my mom," he continued, "that I would even take four over for the first three holes if I could have that tee shot back."
Hoadley decided to make the cross-country trip rather than stay at home and play in this week's North and South Amateur, having yet to play the revamped Pinehurst No. 2. While still trying to get comfortable with the links conditions at Bandon Dunes Resort—"I'm on foreign land still"—he is slowing becoming more comfortable in his surrounds.
"I'm starting to learn where to play shots and where to not play shots," Hoadley said. "I'm starting to get used to it."
He can also take solace that if he continues to move on in match play, he won't have to return to Bandon Trails as the remaining men's matches will be held on Old Macdonald.