By STUART HALL
Patrick Reed has played Pinehurst No. 2, the Olympic Club and even a couple of rounds at Augusta National. Not surprising, those courses left favorable impressions on the 19-year-old.
And so did Bryan Park Golf and Conference Center, recent host of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
“Easily the best public course I have ever played,” said Reed, a rising sophomore at Augusta State University who reached match play’s third round. “You can’t take anything for granted when you play here.”
Eventual APL champion Lion Kim did Reed one better, though, on Bryan Park platitudes. During a light-hearted United States Golf Association question-and-answer session conducted after the semifinals, Kim was asked: “If you could play one course for the rest of your life, what would it be?”
Kim responded: “This golf course.”
Granted, Kim was likely trying to score some points with the locals, but his answer underscored the favorable sentiment of many players.
“During the college season we play a lot of top courses, especially in the post-season,” said Harris English, who attends the University of Georgia. “This is every bit as good as those courses.”
In preparation for its 85th Amateur Public Links championship, the USGA stiffened the Champions Course. The course played to 7,218 yards — 7,139 yards for match play — making it the third-longest course in championship history. For match play, the par-4 10th hole was shortened from 390 yards to 311, thus creating high risk and reward value. Also, the 482-yard third hole was reduced from a par 5 to a par 4.
And then there were the typical USGA setup specifications — greens rolling at 11 on the Stimpmeter and grass graduating from .5-inches in the fairway to 1.5 in the intermediate rough and 2.5 in the primary rough.
“This is why I enjoy USGA events the most,” said Jimmy Liu, who, at age 14, was the youngest player in the field. “They make you test yourself. If you win one of these titles, then you have earned it.”
Throughout the week, the word “patience” was uttered frequently. Often the word was used in the context of not forcing the course to relinquish birdies that it may not have to offer.
“When you get behind in match play, you sometimes have to get aggressive. That can be difficult around here,” said Bhavik Patel of Bakersfield, Calif. “If you don’t watch yourself, you can easily dig yourself a bigger hole than you were already in.”
As the APL wore on, making the Champions Course seem longer was player fatigue. Heading into the scheduled 36-hole final, David McDaniel of Tucson, Ariz., had played 91 holes in five match play rounds — one more hole than five stroke-play rounds — and seven more holes than Kim of Ann Arbor, Mich.
While seven extra holes may not seem like much, the roughly two extra hours off the course was a welcomed relief.
“I would not have wanted to walk this course all week without a caddie,” Patel said. “There were some climbs that, even if you’re in the best of shape, were a hike. So that’s another instance where the course can be difficult. You don’t think about that as much as setup, but over the week those little things can catch up with you.”
Ultimately, Kim outlasted the field and “those little things,” winning the title with a 6-and-5 victory over McDaniel.
“This whole week, just the whole golf course really fit my game perfectly,” he said.
The Champions Course, though, was not a willing participant in Kim’s march to victory. In 151 holes, including 36 holes of stroke play and given the usual match play concessions, Kim finished a modest 6 under. He was 1 over in the 31-hole championship.
Given its stern and fair treatment of the field, maybe Kim wouldn’t mind playing Bryan Park for the rest of his life after all.