PINEHURST, N.C. — The championship match of the U.S. Amateur might be a 36-hole affair, but there was no easing into the finale for John Augenstein. The Vanderbilt senior continued with his aggressive philosophy of trying to jump to an early lead in match play—a big part of the reason he’s got a 17-3-1 record in the format since spring 2017—winning four of the first five holes on Pinehurst No. 4 en route to taking a 2-up lead against Andy Ogletree through the morning 18.
“I always try to win the first six holes,” Augenstein said earlier in the week. “Brandt Snedeker, a Vandy alum, told Coach Limbaugh a couple years back, that I forget the exact statistic, but it was the guy in match play statistically, if you win the first six holes, you have an over 65 percent chance of winning the match. … I think when you make that little statement early on that your competitors normally feel like they’re kind of behind the whole time.”
Augenstein didn’t just win holes, he made an early statement with seven birdies on the round as he easily adjusted to the green speeds on a course he hadn’t played since his first round of stroke play on Monday.
For the first time in U.S. Amateur history, the 36-hole championship match is being played on two courses. The afternoon 18 will move back to Pinehurst No. 2, Donald Ross’ famed course that has held all the matches through to the championship. (No. 4 was the second course used during stroke play on Monday and Tuesday.)
Still, Ogletree, a Georgia Tech senior, held tough despite missing some makable birdie putts on the first and fourth holes. He eventually found his own rhythm, cutting Augenstein’s lead in half through 13 holes when he won the 12th and 13th with pars. While missing another makable birdie putt on the 16th hole to fall back to 3 down, Ogletree made two more birdies on the 17th and 18th, the latter winning the hole to give him some momentum heading into the afternoon.
Neither golfer looked as if they were battling nerves on Sunday, despite much still on the line. The winner not only earns the Havemeyer Trophy but gets a spot in the Open Championship and a guaranteed place on the 10-man U.S. Walker Cup team that will head to Royal Liverpool in three weeks to face their rivals from Great Britain & Ireland in the biennial matches. Augenstein finished the round the equivalent of five under par, with normal match play concessions. Ogletree was three under.
But here’s an omen that might work in Augenstein’s favor: the last five U.S. Amateur champions have not trailed after 18 holes.
The championship match resumes at 2:30 p.m. on the No. 2 course, which will play at 7,302 yards, the shortest it’s been set up all week.