Jul 24, 2023

#USAmateur Qualifying: Laurel Creek

Brown, Walters share medal at Laurel Creek

MT. LAUREL, N.J. — A random pairing proved fortuitous for Nicolas Brown and Dan Walters.

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The North Carolinians met by happenstance at Laurel Creek Country Club yesterday for a practice round in advance of U.S. Amateur Qualifying. Whatever kinship unfolded then translated into co-medalist honors Monday in U.S. Amateur Qualifying administered by GAP at Laurel Creek (par 71, 6,878 yards).

Brown and Walters posted identical 9-under-par 133s to advance to the Championship proper. The 123rd U.S. Amateur will take place Aug. 14-20 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo.

“I had never met Dan, but we know all of the same people and play all the same tournaments. We ran into the same people all of the time,” Brown, 24, of Greenville, N.C., said. “He’s a great guy. We were like, ‘Let’s go represent North Carolina well.’ That’s cool we were able to do it.”

A familial feeling compelled the co-medalists northward. Brown is spending the week with his girlfriend Allison Hussey, who lives in nearby Marlton, N.J. Walters grew up in Lancaster, Pa. and cut his competitive golf teeth throughout the Philadelphia region.

“I come up this way because I really enjoy bentgrass. It just feels like home,” Walters, 38, of Winston-Salem, N.C., said. “And I can come up here and see some customers, get on grass that I like. I’ve been playing pretty well. At least I felt like I have.” Walters is Director of Sales for the Canusa Corporation, a diversified paper, packaging and recyclable commodities company.

“I just felt comfortable on this golf course. I feel like it’s pretty forgiving off the tee. The rough, you can hit it in there and get out no problem,” Brown, who just completed graduate school at East Carolina University, added. “The golf courses here are a lot different than they are back home. I actually think it’s easier than back home. The grass around the greens … chipping is a lot easier. I feel like when I did get out of play, my chipping was going to bail me out.”

Brown didn’t need a safety valve after opening with a 6-under-par 71. Prospects appeared bright for his first USGA appearance.  

“I played in a bunch of [U.S. Amateur Qualifying] over the years, and I’ve come close. I think I’m a lot more experienced than I used to be, especially in 36-hole events. I played college golf for four years. You’re used to the waking up early and grinding it out the whole round,” he said. “This is a big day.”

Brown ensured that by starting Round Two in a fiery fashion. He birdied No. 2 (par 4, 373 yards) after knocking a 54-degree wedge 103 yards to five feet. Back-to-back birdies on Nos. 4 (par 4, 402 yards) and 5 (par 5, 509 yards) moved Brown to 9 under. He spun a pitching wedge from 135 yards to three feet on the former, executed a 30-yard chip to two feet on the latter. A two-putt birdie from 12 feet on No. 9 (par 5, 555 yards) overshadowed a miscalculated 7-iron on No. 7 (par 3, 187 yards) for bogey from the front bunker.

“The whole back nine, I just knew if I could birdie [No. 15], then I was going to be in a good spot,” Brown, who is in the process of starting a career as a financial advisor, said.

He did one better. Brown buried a 20-footer for eagle on No. 15 (par 5, 520 yards) after annihilating an 8-iron from 185 yards.

Perhaps the level of adrenaline in that swing matched the intensity of Walters’ frustration following a three-putt bogey on No. 7 (par 3, 187 yards), his 16th hole in Round One. Walters went on to play the final 20 holes in 8 under. A tap-in birdie on No. 8 (par 4, 366 yards) and a two-putt birdie on No. 9 (par 5, 555 yards) assured an opening 3-under-par 68 — five off the pace set by 18-hole leader Jack Tarzy.

Walters tried to stay patient “like an old guy is supposed to” in Round Two. Four pars to start tested that patience. He broke through with a birdie on No. 5 (par 5, 509 yards), where his pitch from the front right stopped six feet from the hole location. Walters’ hybrid on No. 9 (par 5, 555 yards) settled hole high amid a sprinkling of refuse sand from the front bunker. His ensuing chip translated into a seven-footer for birdie. Walters moved to 6 under by stuffing a lob wedge from 90 yards to a foot on No. 10 (par 4, 403 yards).

The par 4, 459-yard 12th hole is where, per Walters, matters “turned into a really nice round.” After a superb drive, he drew a 6-iron from 178 yards to seven feet for birdie. Walters stamped it with a birdie on the next hole (par 4, 384 yards), where he knocked a gap wedge 91 yards to four feet. Walters roasted a 5-iron 204 yards to 10 feet for a crack at eagle on No. 15 (par 5, 520 yards). Hesitating to face a testy comebacker, he rolled the putt into no-brainer birdie range instead.

“I’ve got two boys (Luke, 9, and Sam, 6), and they’ve been playing a lot of golf. That means I get to play a lot of golf with them,” Walters said. “They’ve each won the last three U.S. Kids Golf events they’ve played. I’m thinking, ‘I come here, I better keep it up.’”

This marks Walters’ second U.S. Amateur appearance (2005). He qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2021 and gained the Round of 32 that year. Walters teamed with Evan Beck for a pair of U.S. Amateur Four-Ball appearances (2022-23). The two reached the semifinals a year ago at Country Club of Birmingham in Birmingham, Ala.

Walters, a former Meadia Heights Golf Club member, gained the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship quarterfinals in 2005 and semifinals in 2006. He also finished second in the 2005 Pennsylvania Golf Association Amateur Championship.

Walters turned professional in late 2006. He moved to Winter Park, Fla. and competed in Hooters Tour (now Swing Thought Tour) and mini-tour events. Of note, Walters finished as low professional in the 2008 Pennsylvania Golf Association Open Championship.

Walters became associate men’s head golf coach at Wake Forest University in 2009, a position he held until 2018. He regained his amateur status that year.

Invitations in hand, Brown and Walters exchanged phone numbers before they left Laurel Creek Monday. A joint practice round at Cherry Hills is all but guaranteed.

Tarzy, 19, of Medford, N.J., tied Laurel Creek’s course record in Round One with an 8-under-par 63. He matched David Sanders, who set the mark in 2008. Sanders is a professional with conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“It’d be nice to pair it with something better than a 75 [in Round Two], but I’ll take it. It was a good day. I played well,” Tarzy, a rising sophomore at the United States Naval Academy, said. “It’s pretty cool. Dave Quinn [director of instruction at Laurel Creek] is my swing coach. He said he shot 63 here and thought he had the course record. It may not be official though.”

Tarzy turned into Tarzan, king of the Laurel Creek jungle, to emerge as the event’s 18-hole leader. He opened with a three-footer on No. 1 (par 4, 437 yards) following a sound wedge from 60 yards. Tarzy’s 9-iron set up a 15-footer for birdie on No. 3 (par 3, 162 yards). That 9-iron didn’t hide afterwards. It became responsible for four more Tarzy birdies: 145 yards to 30 feet on No. 4 (par 4, 402 yards), 160 yards to three feet on No. 12 (par 4, 459 yards) and 145 yards to eight feet on No. 13 (par 4, 384 yards).

On No. 7 (par 3, 187 yards), Tarzy put a 7-iron 20 feet below the flagstick. He canned the left-to-right breaker. Tarzy converted a 15-footer for birdie on No. 9 (par 5, 555 yards) following an 8-iron from 167 yards to 15 feet.

“I made good decisions going into greens. I picked good targets,” Tarzy, a semifinalist in the 2021 GAP Junior Boys’ Championship, said.

Perhaps his most exemplary red figure transpired on No. 10 (par 4, 403 yards), where Tarzy holed out for eagle. His 60-degree wedge from 61 yards landed on the front of the putting surface. Like Tarzan swinging from vine-to-vine, his golf ball glided to its destination. No surprise that No. 17 (par 3, 215 yards), the day’s most difficult hole, staged Tarzy’s lone bogey. He did so after missing the green with a 5-iron.

Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The organization’s 340 Member Clubs and 100,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

Name, city, stateRd1-Rd2–Total
Dan Walters, Winston-Salem, N.C.68-65–133
Nicolas Brown, Wendell, N.C.65-68–133
Alternates (in order)
*Brian Hollins, Medford, N.J.68-69–137
*Tyler Gerbavsits, Huntington, N.Y.68-69–137
Failed to qualify
Jack Tarzy, Medford, N.J.63-75–138
John Barone, Dunmore, Pa.69-69–138
Pietro Bovari, Italy66-72–138
Riccardo Fantinelli, Italy73-66–139
Connor Bennink, Philadelphia, Pa.72-67–139
Wanxi Sun, Danville, Calif.71-69–140
Vince Kwon, Marlton, N.J.70-71–141
Benjamin Feld, Philadelphia, Pa.74-67–141
Jack Irons, Naples, Fla.71-70–141
Joey Russo, Sewell, N.J.74-69–143
Willis Rogers, Charleston, S.C.72-72–144
Shane Lawler, Malvern, Pa.74-70–144
Xiong Da, Peoples Republic of China75-69–144
David Kim, Dresher, Pa.70-75–145
Tyler Clark, West Babylon, N.Y.74-71–145
Zach Arsenault, Merchantville, N.J.72-76–148
Kevin Maguire, Moorestown, N.J.74-75–149
Joe Tigani, Hockessin, Del.72-77–149
Russell Wren, Morgantown, Pa.75-74–149
Jake Beber-Frankel, Miami, Fla.73-76–149
Stephen Lorenzo, Lower Gwynedd, Pa.76-74–150
Tomas Nieves, New York, N.Y.73-77–150
Stephen Barry, Mullica Hill, N.J.76-74–150
Corey Betham, Norristown, Pa.74-76–150
Nathan Guertler, Merchantville, N.J.80-71–151
Josh Feldschneider, Marlton, N.J.78-73–151
Trace McDonald, Columbia, S.C.75-77–152
Connor Vanin, Philadelphia, Pa.78-75–153
Jai Sheth, Elkridge, Md.77-76–153
Greg Hanna, Phoenixville, Pa.79-75–154
Roberto Machado, New York, N.Y.NS- –NS
Michael Stamberger, Brielle, N.J.NS- –NS
Finbar Bonner, Belmar, N.J.NS- –NS
Steve Tarulli, Rockville Centre, N.Y.NS- –NS
Tyler Vitolo, Sandy Hook, Conn.NS- –NS
Luke Adam, San Luis Obispo, Calif.74-WD–WD
Jake Guenther, Sea Isle City, N.J.77-WD–WD
Armand Ouellette, Farmville, VA83-WD–WD
Scott Brody, Hainesport, N.J.89-WD–WD
Ross Pilliod, Reading, Pa.90-WD–WD
Brandon Dalinka, Princeton, N.J.WD- –WD
Kyle Edwards, Delaware, OhioWD- –WD
Michael Davis, King Of Prussia, Pa.WD- –WD
Casper Nerpin, Sweden83-WD–WD
* – determined in playoff
NS – no show; WD – withdrawal

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