Vanderbilt star named to 2019 Walker Cup team
For the longest time on Sunday, it appeared that Owensboro's John Augenstein was on his way to victory in the 119th U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina.
But 36 holes is a long one-day journey, and Andy Ogletree just wouldn't go away.
Augenstein enjoyed a blistering start and was 4 up through the first five holes, but the unflappable Ogletree rallied down the stretch to capture the championship 2 and 1 -- winning four of the final seven holes.
It was a tough conclusion for Augenstein, a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, who was at the top of his game for much of the event.
"It was an awesome week and I played really solid golf most of the week," Augenstein said in his post-match interview with Fox television. "Unfortunately. I didn't play my best golf in the second 18 (on Sunday).
"I drove the ball well in the first 18, but I didn't drive so well in the second 18. I didn't putt well on the back nine. I had some makable putts that just didn't go for me."
Ogletree, a rising senior at Georgia Tech and 120th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, birdied the 18th hole on the No. 4 Course to close out the morning round -- shaving Augenstein's advantage to two holes and garnering some momentum heading into the afternoon session on the famed No. 2 course.
Sure enough, Ogletree produced another birdie to win the Par 4 No. 1 hole to start the second 18-hole round -- pulling within one -- and it was a virtual dogfight the rest of the way.
Augenstein, a former star at Owensboro Catholic High School ranked 38th among the world's amateurs, went 2 up by making a 14-foot birdie putt at the Par 5 No 5 hole.
Two holes later, however, Augenstein bogeyed the Par 4 No. 7 hole, and Ogletree's par again pulled him within one -- and it remained that way through the first nine.
On the No. 10 hole, however, Augenstein reclaimed a 2 up lead by sinking a 4 1/2-foot birdie putt, but he followed that up with a bogey on the Par 4 11th -- allowing Ogletree to again draw within one.
Ogletree finally pulled even with a birdie on the Par 4 No. 13 hole, and then he took the lead for good when Augenstein bogeyed and he parred the Par 4 14th -- marking the first time in 44 holes Augenstein had trailed in the tournament.
Both players parred the No. 15 and No. 16 holes -- Ogletree making a clutch putt to save par on the latter.
Ogletree wrapped it up when Augenstein -- trying desperately to roll in a birdie putt from the fringe -- wound up posting a double bogey at the Par 3 17th.
Afterward, Ogletree was philosophical about the way the match started.
"John is a great player," he said. "He got off to a great start, but I wasn't playing that bad -- it's a long day and I just tried to hang in there.
"I don't think (No. 13) was a turning point, and I really didn't feel any different after I got the lead. I was just trying to continue to keep the ball in the fairway and make putts at the end."
The victory provides Ogletree invitations to the 2020 Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship (British Open). At the Masters, he will be paired with defending champion Tiger Woods. He also earned an automatic spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team.
Ogletree also received a gold medal and the Havemeyer Trophy for one year.
Augenstein didn't go home empty-handed. He received a silver medal and, as a finalist, has secured invitations to the 2020 Masters and U.S. Open.
"I understand how cool it is to be a finalist here," Augenstein said immediartely afterward, "but it doesn't feel that way right now."
• Despite Sunday's heartbreak, Augenstein achieved one of his major goals by being selected to the 2019 U.S. Walker Cup team -- basically the amateur equivalent to the Ryder Cup. The announcement was made shortly after the conclusion of the U.S. Amateur.
The U.S. Walker Cup team will compete against the best amateurs from Great Britain and Scotland, Sept. 7-8 at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
In addition to Ogletree, Augenstein will be joined on the 10-member team by Cole Hammer (Texas sophomore), Akshay Bhatia (Wake Forest, North Carolina high school senior), Stewart Hagestad (USC graduate), Steven Fisk (Georgia Southern graduate), John Pak (Florida State junior), Isaiah Salinda (Stanford graduate), Alex Smalley (Duke gradate) and Brandon Wu (Stanford graduate).
The USA holds the overall series lead, 36-9-1, but the Americans have just an 8-7 edge in 15 meetings since 1989.