Walicki leads way to AZ AM match play
In recent times the Arizona Amateur has been ruled by college players, with the past seven champions falling into that age-group category.
This year’s version is so heavy with collegians that even a coach from a major university showed up for the first two rounds of qualifying at the Country Club at DC Ranch. Yes, Tim Mickelson, the new guy at Arizona State who just moved into his office on Tuesday, has been “a very interested spectator.’’
“It’s been great to have the opportunity to watch a few of my future ASU players and all of this young talent,’’ said Mickelson, the former University of San Diego coach who just got the Sun Devils’ job last month.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised the way Jin Song is playing in this tournament along with several of my incoming freshmen. And if they keep going like they’re going, I plan to show up later in the week, too.’’
For the moment, Scottsdale’s Adam Walicki, a former pro who got his amateur status back just last year, is the No. 1 seed for the match play portion of this major championship, which starts Wednesday and concludes Saturday morning. Walicki, who played college golf for Michigan State and the University of Detroit, shot rounds of 66-67 to finish all alone at 7-under par.
“I guess with all these kids, I’m now officially the old fart in all of this,’’ quipped the 31-year-old stockbroker, whose only bad swing in Round 2 cost him a double bogey that he offset with five birdies.
Asked if he liked match play, Walicki, who played on the Gateway Tour in 2005, never missed a beat.
“No, and I have the record to back me up on that. But I’m willing to take a different approach if that’s what it takes. Most people I know who have had success in that format ignored their opponent and played the course, and I guess that’s what I’ll try to do when we get going tomorrow.’’
Being a wily veteran, Walicki knows that he’ll have to go through a bunch of kids if he’s going to make Saturday’s championship match. That list starts with Colin McCarty, an 18-year-old from Sierra Vista who is bound for Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. McCarty was at 6 under following a 66.
In a group tied for third place at 5 under were Juan Fernandez, the No. 1 player at Scottsdale Community College the past two years who also shot 66, and Nevada Reno’s Andrew Augustyniak, a sophomore who soon will turn pro as evidenced by his day’s best score of 65.
Song, who Mickelson alluded to, is in a group at 4 under after following his opening 65 with a 71. Other Sun Devils to make the match play included two freshman from Scottsdale — David Lowe (even par, 72) and Austin Quick (3 over, 70). A fourth incoming freshman from Scottsdale, Cameron Palmer, was 3 over for the tournament with nine holes to play before self-destructing with a 42 on his last nine holes.
The Sun Devils weren’t the only team that earned spots in the match-play bracket of 64 players. Two out of five Wildcats entered here also advanced, including Tom Conran (2 under, 68) and Dylan Kornberg (1 over, 70).
Other notables in the match play included Scottsdale’s Michael Wog, the 2009 AGA Player of the Year, who was tied for third at 5 under after a 69; Phoenix’s Paul Welle, the 2008 AGA Player of the Year with a 73 that left him 1 over; and Peter Kyo Won Koo, the 15-year-old from Chandler who earlier this year captured the Arizona State Stroke Play title and was 4 over after a 73.
It took an aggregate of 5 over to make the match-play bracket, with nine players at that number going after seven spots in a playoff. The final four days of the 87th Arizona Amateur include 32 matches on Wednesday, two rounds on Thursday, the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday with the championship set for Saturday at 7:30 a.m.