Inside Day 2 at the U.S. Amateur
A painful weather delay and a happy birthday leave players in mixed spirits
By Jordan Perez
OAKMONT, Pa.—“We’re never going to finish this round!”
That cry of frustration, and others like it, were amplified through the fairways and hallways of Oakmont Country Club on a soaked afternoon at the U.S. Amateur on Tuesday. Severe weather hit both Oakmont and Longue Vue Club, leading to a suspension of play that lasted 3 hours and 50 minutes and forced most of the 156 players to play until dark. They will restart their rounds on Wednesday morning, pushing back the start of the first round of match play.
Brad Reeves was one of the lucky ones who completed both of his rounds. He battled Oakmont to a draw, with an even-par 70 for a 36-hole total of 5 under. That gave Reeves the clubhouse lead, though five players still on the course were deeper under par, led by Mark Goetz, who was 9 under with six holes left to play at Oakmont.
But the story of Day 2 was the agonizing wait that left clubhouses teeming with bored players. Some spent the delay chatting (and eating) with family, others were glued to their phones watching the latest viral videos, and, if you were Devon Bling (below), you passed the time thinking about soccer god Lionel Messi, whose commitment to Paris Saint-Germain dominated headlines during the weather delay.
“I think he did whatever is best for him and I can’t be upset with him,” Bling said.
Nor could he be bummed about his round, which restarted at 5:24 p.m. ET. Bling drove the green on the short par-4 17th and then holed a smooth 12-footer for eagle. He finished at 1 under overall to lock up his spot in match play, and Bling is greeting the opportunity to play more rounds at Oakmont with arms wide open. “I just really enjoy playing difficult golf courses that require a lot of good shots and mental strength,” he said. The 2018 U.S. Amateur runner-up at Pebble Beach knows a thing or two about the test that lies ahead.
But first a reward for the long day: watching a movie starring his favorite James Bond, Daniel Craig.
Another player who caught the lucky early wave in the second round was North Florida’s Nick Gabrelcik (below). He was moments away from finishing up on the 9th hole when the horn sounded. He spent the weather delay beside his caddie/older brother Donnie, exchanging jokes to keep the focus off the wait. Gabrelcik would finish at even par.
“Yeah, that was a little frustrating,” Gabrelcik said about having to wait so long to complete just one hole. “But it’s always nice that we can finish before the day ends and we don’t have to wake up early tomorrow.”
Once match play begins on Wednesday he will enjoy the home-field advantage of his extended Pittsburgh family. “It’s definitely nice to have them around and just keep me comfortable and relaxed and taking my mind off of golf when I’m not on the course,” Gabrelcik said.
That was the name of the game on a messy Day 2: staying comfortable and in the right frame of mind.
Happy birthday, Mark Goetz: You’re the leader!
You’d be hard-pressed to find anything sweeter than the sweet tea Goetz grabbed at a McDonald’s on Tuesday to celebrate his 23rd birthday. The lone exception was having the solo lead as the sun set on Oakmont, what Goetz calls his dream course. He grew up 40 minutes away and has been lucky to play Oakmont many times as a guest. His stellar second round (three birdies and no bogeys through 12 holes) came by way of playing it safe. He has learned the hard way not to pull driver at the 2nd and 17th, a pair of seductive par-4s that have ruined many rounds.
“I’ve been waiting on this for two years now,” Goetz said of this Amateur. “This has been the biggest accomplishment of my career, just making it here. This place is my favorite golf course on the planet.”
That has been a common sentiment this week, and the good feelings held even on gloomy day. Now this U.S. Amateur is set up for a thrilling Wednesday, with the drama of the cut line followed immediately by a frenetic 32 matches. Buckle up. This tournament is about to get as unpredictable as the weather.