USGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship Qualifying – Poppy Hills GC
December 1, 2014
The first time Tim Mickelson met Jake Yount was at the 2004 U.S. Junior Championship at the Olympic Club.
Then, Mickelson was the head coach at the University of San Diego, and Yount was one of the prospects he had his eye on.
Come May, the duo will return to the historic Olympic Club, only this time they’ll be teammates.
Mickelson and Yount were one of three teams advancing through a qualifier for the 2015 inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship held Monday at the new par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course, posting a medalist-earning 8-under 63. Also earning spots in the championship, to be held May 2-6, were the team of Jason and Ryan Higton (64) and the tandem of Brady Exber and Kevin Marsh (65).
While in San Diego, Mickelson, now the head coach at Arizona State and the younger brother of Phil Mickelson, built USD into a national contender. Yount, 27, would end up playing for Mickelson there from 2005-2009.
“Every time I play with him it ends up that I’m against him, so it’s going to be nice to be on the same team for a change,” Yount said.
While Yount remains active on the amateur circuit (he won the 2012 NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship), Mickelson is more busy coaching. The 37-year-old only plays 25-30 rounds a year and Monday’s qualifier was just his fourth round in the last two months.
Just recently, the younger Mickelson made news by hiring Phil as an interim assistant coach at ASU, albeit Phil is mostly helping with recruiting.
Come May’s championship, Tim will look to gain some inside Olympic Club knowledge from his older brother.
“I’ll ask him if I can get his yardage book,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson and Yount didn’t need much assistance in the qualifier, as the pair racked up nine birdies against just one bogey. Among the highlights were Mickelson chip-in birdies on holes No.1 and No.3. Following a front-nine 4-under 32, the two really got going, carding four straight birdies from holes No.10 through No.13.
“It was typical four-ball,” Mickelson said. “Neither one of us were out of it on any of the holes. We really ham and egged it.”
For the Higton brothers, who hail from Fresno, it was also an afternoon where just about everything went as planned. Jason, 35, and Ryan, 32, would pencil in eight birdies with just one bogey coming on the 17th.
The only real catch for the Higton’s was trying to figure out where they stood on the leaderboard. While in at 64, Jason forgot that since its renovation Poppy Hills has changed to a par-71 from a par-72, so the two thought they would be in a looming playoff at 65.
“It’s super that we’re in,” said Jason, who won the 2011 NCGA Four-Ball Championship title playing with J.R. Becko. “We both bogeyed 17, and we didn’t know how we stood.”
Following the bogey on 17, the pair, who have won multiple Fresno City Four-Ball titles playing together rebounded with what turned out to be a crucial birdie on the 18th.
Marsh and Exber, on the other hand, did end up in a three-team playoff at 65 along with the tandems of Jason Anthony and Randy Haag and Jonathan Keane and 2004 San Francisco City Amateur winner Stephen Sparolini.
Marsh, winner of the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, 2012 California State Amateur Championship and a multiple Stocker Cup champion (2009, 2010 and 2012), and Exber, who won this year’s Stocker Cup and is a member of the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame, won the playoff on the first hole of sudden death (No.1) with a par.
While Exber reached the green in regulation from the fairway, Marsh hit a brilliant, purposeful high draw-hook from near the 7th fairway that landed closest to the pin out of all the six players. Both the Sparolini/Keane team and Anthony/Haag squad were unable to get on the green in two.
Marsh’s shot, from 200 yards out, had to first maneuver through a two foot window amidst the trees.
“I’m better off with a shot like that than being in the middle of the fairway,” Marsh said. “It looks impossible, so I’m not as nervous over it. It’s great that we’re in. It was a grind.”
No one had to gut it out more than Haag. The record six-time NCGA Player of the Year and Olympic Club member initially looked to be in a great spot as he and Anthony, who finished second in the 2014 NCGA Player of the Year race, took the early lead with a 65. Following their round, however, Haag experienced a bout of atrial fibrillation (rapid heartbeat), so Anthony took him to the hospital for a shot. Haag, who has experienced the condition before while golfing, and Anthony returned to the course to find out they were in a playoff.
The first alternate spot was earned by Keane and Sparolini on the second playoff hole (No.2). Haag and Anthony will be the second alternates.