Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
U.S. Amateur field dotted with Arkansas connections
Arkansas golfer Mason Overstreet tees off on the first hole during the first round of an NCAA golf tournament on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 in Ponte Vedra, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
FAYETTEVILLE -- A robust group of four University of Arkansas golfers will tee off today in the 120th U.S. Amateur Championship in Bandon, Ore.
The Razorbacks will be represented by seniors William Buhl and Mason Overstreet, junior Julian Perico and transfer junior Segundo Oliva Pinto in the 256-man field at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Additionally, Arkansas State University senior Zan Luka Stirn and Fayetteville native Luke Long, a senior at the University of Houston, are in the field.
The championship will be played on two courses: Bandon Dunes, a 7,218-yard par-72 course built in 1999, and Bandon Trails, a 6,883-yard par-71 layout that debuted in 2005. Each player will play one round on each course during two days of stroke play before the field is cut to 64 for match play.
Buhl has the local experience, having played the courses in 2015, while Perico is riding a hot hand, having shot a pair of sizzling 64s during a three-day stretch at Blessings Golf Club. The second of those rounds, on Aug. 3, was played from the back tees at over 7,600 yards and is in the certification process as the course record.
"My driving and my short game, those are like the strongest parts of my game right now," Perico said. "I've improved a lot of the parts of my game I was struggling with that I never had time to practice."
Perico also took the lull created by the covid-19 pandemic to lose weight by better training and eating more healthy.
"I've always been kind of chubby, so I decided to make a couple of changes with my trainer Joe [Chowansky] at the university."
The field was composed strictly on USGA rankings due to the inability to hold qualifiers during the coronavirus crisis.
"For four guys to get in the Am out of 250 guys from all over the world is a pretty good accomplishment," Arkansas Coach Brad McMakin said. "We've never had more than two guys in the Am at once, so being able to have four guys shows a lot about where our program is."
Buhl has gotten in more practice than tournament play this summer by a wide margin, but he snagged a tie for sixth in the NWA Charity Classic at Bella Vista Village Country Club in late June on the All Pro Tour. He had 27 birdies and one eagle in that event.
"I've been practicing or playing every day," Buhl said. "From working with my assistant coach [Barrett Lais] to playing 18 holes, and I've been lucky enough to have at least two or three teammates in town for most of the whole summer."
Buhl said he worked through some swing issues and is striking the ball well and putting good heading into the US Amateur.
"So hopefully I have no flaws by the time I get out to Bandon," he said.
At the Southern Amateur, played at Marido Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas, July 15-18, Perico tied for sixth at 2 under, while Overstreet tied for 30th (5 over) and Buhl tied for 54th (10 over).
"Julian's on a heater right now," McMakin said. "If he can stay out of his own way this week, if he can get in the 64, he's a guy that can go a long way in the match play.
"But if any of these guys can get hot, it's a trip to the Masters if you get to the finals. It's life changing. The U.S. Am for these kids, they all know if they can get in the 64 they've got a shot and it can be life changing."
120th U.S. Amateur
Where Bandon Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore.
Courses Bandon Dunes 7,218 yards, par 72; Bandon Trails 6,883 yards, par 71
Field Top 264 amateurs based on USGA rankings, no qualifiers
Format Stroke play today and Tuesday; round of 64 match play on Wednesday; rounds of 32 and 16 on Thursday; quarterfinals on Friday; semifinals on Saturday; 36-hole final on Sunday
Four University of Arkansas golfers, one from Arkansas State University and one former Fayetteville High School player is in the 264-man field.
Segundo Oliva Pinto (UA); 9:11 a.m.;Trails
Julian Perico (UA);9:22 a.m.;Trails
William Buhl (UA);9:33 a.m.;Dunes
Luke Long (Fay);2:08 p.m.;Trails
Mason Overstreet (UA);2:52 p.m.;Trails
Zan Luka Stirn (ASU);3:58p.m.;Dunes
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