ARDMORE, Pa. – Talk about a bounce-back moment.
In his morning round, Yardley Country Club’s Christopher Ault started with a disappointing round of 9-over-par at Merion Golf Club (East). Four bogeys and three double bogeys left the 2014 Middle-Amateur runner-up with nothing but frustration.
“I made a lot of uncommitted swings at Merion. That annoyed the hell out of me,” said Ault, 30, of Yardley, Pa.
At Philadelphia Country Club, during Ault’s afternoon round, it was a different story. To be exact, it was a five-birdie difference kind of story. He fired a 4-under-par 67 on his second 18 holes, carding the lowest score of the day of either qualifying venue.
“It looked easier to me after playing Merion this morning,” said a laughing Ault. “I just knew that if I committed to every shot, I wouldn’t have a problem. Once I got a few under par [at Philadelphia Country], it was a different story.”
Ault’s round at Philadelphia Country started with a bang – literally – when he reached the right fringe off the tee on No. 1 (par 4, 324 yards). A smooth two putt resulted in his first of many afternoon birdies. Back-to-back red figures came after a 20-footer on No. 5 (par 3, 168 yards) and a tap-in on No. 6 (par 5, 500 yards). He finished 2 under on the front nine compared to the field’s average of 39.89 (nearly 4 over in relation to par.
Ault’s fourth and final nine of the day was his cleanest. His birdies on Nos. 10 (par 4, 435 yards) and 12 (par 5, 580 yards) combined with seven pars equaled a 2-under 33 on the back.
“I made easily 12 clutch putts out there. I mostly concentrated on hitting the ball in the fairway, and was trying not to think about a score out there,” he said.”
Unfortunately for the four-seeded Ault, the rest of the Championship won’t be played on the track he so excellently excelled at. Instead, he’ll head to Merion East tomorrow to square off with Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Michael Carr, the No. 29 seed.
“I’m not worried about my score today,” said Ault reflecting on his Merion round. “I believe that place fits my game great because I get to hit driver a lot. I’ll be coming into those greens with shorter clubs than most guys.”
Ault’s mammoth drives aren’t the only edge he’ll have on the 32-player match-play bracket. His experience will lend a helping hand at some point as well.
“I’ve had a lot of success in match play, so I’d say my expectations are high this week,” he said. “It’s match play, so you can’t control everything that happens, but it’s always exciting.”
Match play might be one of the more-exciting formats in the game, but being a father to your first child might have it beat in that department.
“He’ll be 15 weeks tomorrow. He’s the man,” said Ault of his newborn son, James. “I’ve had to totally adjust my schedule. I go to the golf course at 6 a.m. now, practice until 7:30 a.m. and then go to work because I can’t go after work anymore. It’s made managing time a priority. But it’s been worth it… it’s been awesome.”
Although Cole Berman didn’t finish at the top of the Day One leaderboard, he knew it really didn’t matter. The reigning BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion was already ready for the second part of the championship.
“Today I was just trying to have two solid rounds, whether you’re first or whether you’re third or second, just to make it through,” Berman said. “It really is like two tournaments within one. Day One, you just have to really grind, especially with the conditions today.”
The 20-year-old fired a 5-over-par 131 (76-75) to earn the No. 19 seed for the match-play portion of the Championship. The two qualifying courses proved to be difficult for Berman, but he’s ready to learn from his early mistakes moving into Day Two.
“Two of the toughest courses in Philadelphia; Merion probably being the toughest, especially with these conditions,” the Rosemont, Pa. native said. “It was firm and really windy. I think this is my fourth or fifth Amateur and this is definitely the toughest it’s been.”
Berman, a rising junior at Georgetown University, found consistent play at Merion in the afternoon, but was unable to capitalize with the flatstick.
“I hit every green in regulation on the front nine,” Berman said. “I hit a lot of great putts and they didn’t go in. I had two three-putts and shot 2-over (on the front nine). I’m feeling really good about my game.”
The Philadelphia Cricket Club member will now shift his focus to the bracket portion of the week. With his title last summer, Berman is prepared for anything he might face in the Round of 32 and beyond.
“I hadn’t had great match-play experience prior to last year,” Berman said. “Now I know I can make it through five matches and I have what it takes. The nice part about match play is, if you have a bad hole, you’re only one hole down. It’s like a new tournament for me.”
Scott Ehrlich hasn’t had the time to play much golf recently.
The Five Ponds Golf Club member has only been able to play six rounds of competitive golf in 2016. He also moved into a new house in Berwyn, Pa. just last week. With a new job as a Financial Advisor and Chief Development Officer at Northwestern Mutual, the 2004 BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion has been quite busy.
With all of that being said, Ehrlich still found a way to post an 8-over par 149 (74-75) in the qualifying round of the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship, wrapping up the No. 11 seed for match play.
“This is the least amount of golf I’ve played, probably ever,” the 36 year old said. “Normally, I’m playing like twice a week, three times a week sometimes.”
Ehrlich returned to Golf Association of Philadelphia Championship play for the first time since he outlasted Michael Tash, 5&4, at Philadelphia Cricket Club 12 years ago. Ironically enough, he played with Tash again on Monday during the qualifying rounds.
After he claimed the J. Wood Platt trophy in 2004, Ehrlich turned professional, playing on various circuits until 2009. By 2011, he had regained his amateur status and was living in Washington, D.C. Four months ago, he was relocated to the Philadelphia area, and he’s excited to be back.
“The pro circuit was a grind,” Ehrlich said. “I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to do it, but I’m so happy doing what I’m doing now. I’m thrilled to be back. I wish I could play in more tournaments this year, but I think next year I will play more.”
While the East Course at Merion played difficult with the wind conditions on Monday, Ehrlich isn’t too worried about match play. He’s just going to take the trip around the historic grounds one step at a time and lean on his professional experience for confidence.
“Honestly, the fact that I get to play another round out here, that’s it in the end,” Ehrlich said. “Most people probably practice and play more than I do right now. I always feel like I have a leg up mentally, with my tournament experience being pretty extensive.”
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