Georgia Tech senior Andy Ogletree captured the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort Sunday, rallying from a sizeable early deficit to defeat Vanderbilt senior John Augenstein 2&1 in the 36-hole title match.
Augensetein won holes 2 through 5 in succession on Pinehurst’s No. 4 course, the latter three with birdies, to jump out to a 4-up lead. After Ogletree birdied the eighth, Augenstein again went 4-up with a birdie at 11, but bogeys at the next two holes reduced his lead to two holes. The two players swapped birdies late in the round, with the morning 18 ending with Ogletree 2-down after a birdie at the 18th.
Ogletree pulled within one hole on three occasions in the afternoon match, which was played on Pinehurst No.2, the course that has hosted numerous major championships. He finally pulled even with a birdie on the short, par-4 13th and took the lead for the first time in the match when he won the next hole with a par.
After 34 holes of quality golf from both finalists, Ogletree won the match when Augenstein 4-putted from just off the green on the par-3 seventh, for a double bogey, conceding Ogletree’s short par putt.
Ogletree shot 3-under 67 to Augenstein’s 65 in the morning 18 and was 1-under through 17 holes in the afternoon on the demanding No. 2 layout, taking advantage of a handful of Augenstein bogeys before his putting mishap on the 17th green.
“I didn’t play that bad (in the morning match), John just got off to a great start,” Ogletree said. “I knew it was going to a tough match and it’s a long day. I really did a great job of staying in it and I just knew if I kept hitting fairways and greens and keeping myself in position, it could work out.”
Both players earned spots on the 2019 U.S. Walker Cup team, which will be play at Royal Liverpool in England Sept. 8 and 9. Ogletree also earned invitations to the 2020 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, and will likely get invites to other tour events during his senior season.
Coming into the tournament, Augenstein was ranked 38th in the Official World Amateur Golf Rankings and Ogletree was 120th.
Ogletree has been a three-year starter for the Yellow Jackets, and joins Bobby Jones and Matt Kuchar as the only Georgia Tech golfers to win the U.S. Amateur. Ogletree, who comes from a small town in Mississippi, has been a steady performer at Tech since his freshman season, emerging as a junior with three top-5 finishes.
Prior to his victory in the U.S. Amateur, Ogletree won the Monroe Invitational in New York in June, his third straight top 10 in one of the top events in amateur golf.
Ogletree advanced to the finals in the U.S. Amateur with five match play wins in four days, three of them in decisive fashion, including one over a very familiar opponent.
After tying for 19th in qualifying with a score of 2-over 142 on the No. 2 and 4 courses at Pinehurst, Ogletree was seeded 20th in the 64-man match play field and drew Texas A&M’s Chandler Phillips in the first round. Ogletree twice won three holes in a row to take 3-up leads, but also lost three straight after jumping on top early. He went 3-up with the first birdie of the match by either player on the No. 2 course on the par-4 14th, and clinched his 4&3 victory with a second birdie at the par-4 15th.
Ogletree received his toughest battle from high school golfer Max Moldovan, an Ohio State commit, needing 19 holes to win their second round match. Moldovan had knocked off Stewart Hagestad, one of the country’s top mid-ams, in his opening match. Neither player led by more than one hole in the well-played match, with Ogletree puling even with a birdie on the 14th. The two players parred the next four holes before Ogletree won with a par on the first playoff hole.
After falling 1-down after two holes in the third round against St. Mary’s Blake Hathcoat, Ogletree won holes 3 through 7 with four pars and one birdie, and closed out the match 5&4 with a birdie at the par-4 12th and a par at the 14th.
In one of the more anticipated matches of the tournament, at least in the state of Georgia, Ogletree rolled past UGA senior Spencer Ralston of Gainesville 6&5. The match was all square after four holes when Ogletree went on another tear, winning the par-5 fifth with a birdie and taking the next three holes with pars to go 4-up. Ralston closed within three holes when Ogletree bogeyed the short par-3 ninth. Ogletree put the match away by winning holes 11, 12 and 13, two of them with birdies, and was 1-under for the match when it ended after 13 holes.
Ogletree faced one of the biggest surprises of the 64 players to advance to match in the semifinals in fellow Mississippian Cohen Trolio, a high school golfer who had never participated individually in a national amateur event. Trolio never trailed in any of his four match victories, but was behind from the first hole against Ogletree and never pulled even. Ogletree led by one or two holes the entire match, leading 2-up on five occasions before wrapping up a 3&1 victory with his second birdie of the day on the par-3 17th.
It was not an especially well-played match, as Trolio bogeyed six of the first seven holes and did not make a birdie, while Ogeteree made his first birdie on the par-4 11th. Trolio was only 1-down after 15 holes, but Ogletree parred the long and difficult par-4 16th and was conceded his 5-foot birdie putt on the 206-yard 17th.
Ralston, who came into the tournament with hopes of a spot on the Walker Cup team after a tournament title earlier this summer in the Players Amateur and a fifth place finish in the Dogwood, won two tight matches before rolling past Parker Coody 6&5. Coody and his twin brother, both members of the golf team at Texas, qualified for match play.
After tying for 12th in qualifying at 1-over 141, Ralston was seeded 12th and won his opening match 2&1 over Michigan golfer Brent Ito. Ralston won seven holes in the match, but was 1-down after 11 holes before winning the 12th with a birdie and the 14th and 15th with pars.
Ralston let a 3-up lead after 10 holes slip away against Julien Sale of France in the second round, but won 1-up with a clutch birdie on the 18th, his third of the match. Ralston lost holes 11, 12 and 13, two of them to pars, but birdied 14 before another bogey at 15 dropped him back to all square.
In his third round victory over Coody, Ralston carded pars on all 13 holes he played, and since Coody never made a birdie, Ralston never lost a hole. He was 3-up after five holes and won holes 9,10 and 11 to take an insurmountable 6-up lead before closing out the match two holes later.
Also advancing past the first round was Steven Fisk of Stockbridge, who recently completed an outstanding career at Georgia Southern. Fisk tied for ninth in qualifying at 140 and was seeded 11th and drew UCLA’s Devon Bling, the 2018 U.S. Amateur runner-up, in the first round.
Fisk crushed Bling 6&5, taking a 6-up lead after 10 holes and playing 13 holes on the difficult No. 2 course in even par for 13 holes. In the second round, Fisk drew Australian native Karl Vilips, the top-ranked junior in the world and a 2020 Stanford commit, and lost 3&1 after falling 4-down after six holes.
Vilips had a birdie and an eagle in his opening stretch of winning holes, but Fisk battled back, winning five holes in an 8-hole stretch from 8 to 15 to cut his deficit to 1-down. But bogeys at 16 and 17 killed Fisk’s comeback hopes. Despite the loss, Fisk was selected to compete on the U.S. Walker cup team.
Also qualifying for match play was Noah Norton, Ogletree’s Georgia Tech teammate. Norton, who qualified with a score of 143, lost 7& 6 to Coody in the first round.
Alpharetta’s Chandler Eaton, a member of the golf team at Duke, shot a second round 68 in qualifying, but missed a large playoff for the final three spots in match play with a score of 146. Also missing the playoff by a shot was UGA golfer Trent Phillips.
Also failing to qualify for match play was Ben Carr of Columbus (Georgia Southern), Luke Schniederjans of Powder Springs (Georgia Tech), Colin Bowles of Albany (Georgia Southern), Spencer Ball of Cumming (Mercer), junior golfers Maxwell Ford of Peachtree Corners and William Love of Atlanta, and Preston DeSantis of Johns Creek (Berry).
DeSantis won a qualifier at Jennings Mill to get into the U.S. Amateur, with Ball, Bowles and Ford also advancing from that qualifier along with Ralston, who was first alternate after losing in a playoff. Carr won a qualifier at Capital City Crabapple, with Love, Schniederjans and Ogletree also advancing. Fisk, Eaton, Phillips and Norton were exempt from qualifying.