Three Ohio State golfers obtained extra preparation for the upcoming collegiate season after they competed in their respective U.S. Amateur Championships this month.
Redshirt junior Michael Bernard and freshman Will Grimmer both participated in the 115th playing of the U.S. Amateur, which lasted from Aug. 17 to 23, at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Illinois, after qualifying at regional tournaments this summer.
Junior Jessica Porvasnik joined her fellow Buckeyes as she teed it up at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Portland Golf Club in Portland, Oregon, from Aug. 10 to 16.
For both tournaments, players competed in a two-day stroke play tournament to begin the event. The 64 players with the lowest two-round score advanced to a match play tournament that eventually crowned a champion.
Bernard, who was playing in his first U.S. Amateur, did not advance past the two stroke play rounds after tallying a 9-over-par 149.
During his first round on Olympia Fields’ South Course, the Huber Heights, Ohio, native did not play up to his expectations. He struggled getting off the tee en route to carding a 9-over-par 79.
“I got off to a really bad start,” Bernard said. “I just didn’t hit the ball very good and played mediocre.”
However that all changed for Bernard on the second day.
On the North Course — traditionally regarded as the tougher of the courses at Olympia Fields — he bounced back, shooting an even-par 70.
Although he did not advance to the match play, Bernard said the improvement from day one to day two is a confidence booster for him as the collegiate season approaches.
Overall, Bernard said he is “fairly happy” with his performance at his first U.S. Amateur — which is the oldest golf championship in America.
For Grimmer, the other Buckeye in the men’s field, this was his second appearance at the tournament after competing in 2014 at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia.
The Cincinnati native, who also played in the 2014 U.S. Open, completed the two rounds of stroke play with a 1-over-par 141. His score tied him for 27th place, allowing him to advance to the match play tournament.
Grimmer credited playing in two major tournaments last summer as a reason why he was able to perform well at Olympia Fields.
“Those two experiences were huge for me,” he said. “It helped me to be able to deal with the pressure of all the media being there, the crowds and cameras on every hole. The nerves didn’t seem to bother me this year.”
In his first match against Arizona State’s Broc Johnson, he trailed for most of the front nine. Grimmer was playing well but Johnson was better, having tallied three birdies through six holes.
“He was just going off,” Grimmer said. “Michael, my caddie, was just telling me to stay patient because (Johnson) was going to come back to Earth a little.”
Grimmer won the par-3 seventh hole and the par-4 ninth to even the match at the turn.
“I saw him get a little flustered,” Grimmer said. “Once you see your opponent show a little emotion, it’s easy to kind of pick your feet up a little and say, ‘I got this guy.’”
A strong back nine, featuring three birdies in the final four holes, allowed Grimmer to complete his comeback and defeat Johnson.
The following day in the round of 32, Grimmer faced Robby Shelton, a junior at the University of Alabama.
Shelton — who is a member of the 2015 U.S. Walker Cup Team — led most of the match, eventually closing out Grimmer on the 16th hole.
“Once you get to the top 32 in the U.S. Am, you’re playing against the best players in the world. You can’t make stupid mistakes. You can’t hand him holes, you’ve got to make him win the holes,” he said. “I just made a couple of mistakes that earlier in the week I wasn’t making.”
Although he fell short of hoisting the Havemeyer Trophy, Grimmer said he believes that his performance at the U.S. Amateur will be crucial as he enters his first season of collegiate golf.
“The experience here is going to be huge in terms of what it takes to go out and try to help win tournaments for the team,” he said.
Grimmer, Bernard and the rest of the OSU men’s golf team are slated to open their 2015-16 season on Sept. 4 in the Carmel Cup in Pebble Beach, California, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
For Porvasnik — who also played in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open — this was her second career appearance in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Last year in the U.S. Amateur, the former Big Ten Player of the Year won two matches, advancing all the way to the round of 16 before her pursuit of the Robert Cox Trophy was cut short by Andrea Lee.
She began her first round in 2015 steadily, putting well on the front side that lead to an even par-35.
On the back side, things began to head south. Porvasnik made bogey on the par-4 11th, then dropped three more shots on the closing nine en route to carding a 4-over-par 76 for the day.
She again shot a 4-over-par 76 on the second day, bringing her total stroke play score to an 8-over-par 152. Although she did not qualify for the match play for a second consecutive year, Porvasnik gained a clear picture of what she needs to work on for the upcoming season.
“My putting and chipping was really good,” she said. “I learned I need to work on my ball striking and stay patient.”
Porvasnik said she has “big goals” for the Buckeyes this season. She hopes they can improve upon their seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 2013-14 and make it a third consecutive campaign with at least a share of the Big Ten title.
Porvasnik and the rest of OSU women’s golf team are scheduled to begin their pursuit of these goals when they open their 2015-16 season on Sept. 14 at the Dick McGuire Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico.