Meet the Hawaii teen who won a USGA four-ball qualifier -- by himself
A popular golf joke goes something like this: "Your back must be tired." "Why?" "Because you've been carrying your partner all day."
As golfers, we've all been in that position as either the person carrying the workload or being carried. Or maybe we've just been the wise guy trying to be funny. Regardless, no one has handled such a situation better than Brent Grant.
A recent graduate of Moanalua High School in Honolulu, Grant, 18, was set to try to qualify for the USGA's new event, the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, on Friday with 47-year-old Bill Walbert. When Walbert was called into surgery that day, Grant invited another friend to team up with him instead, but when he arrived at Honolulu Country Club, he was informed the deadline had passed for making a substitution. Under USGA Rule 31-2, however, Grant was still allowed to compete as a single.
Turns out, the kid's got a pretty strong back. Grant shot a bogey-free 63 by himself to claim the site's only qualifying spot for the May event at the Olympic Club.
"Something just went right," Grant told the USGA. "The putts just started to fall and I was focused on what I was doing."
As if playing one-on-two and beating an entire field of competitors wasn't incredible enough, the 63 was five shots better than Grant's previous low competitive round. That came in 2013 when Grant, who plans on attending Oregon State next fall, qualified for the U.S. Amateur with Walbert on his bag.
Grant and Walbert, a retired U.S. army major turned physician assistant, met at the Navy Marine Golf Course near Pearl Harbor and have been friends since Grant's freshman year. Grant's dad, James, is in the Navy. Barring another last-minute surgery or another unforeseen circumstance, Grant and Walbert will team up at the Olympic Club.
"He's very good," said Grant of Walbert's game. "He's got an unconventional swing, but he can boom it. He hits it as well as anyone I know. He wouldn't have hurt me [at the qualifier], that's for sure."
Grant did the heavy lifting in earning the pair's trip to San Francisco, but his older partner will cover the travel expenses as a thank you. About time he picks up the slack.