Facing a 30-foot eagle putt on the first playoff hole of a U.S. Amateur qualifier on Tuesday, Cole Anderson just wanted to give himself a chance to two-putt for birdie.
“I got a read that I thought was good, and just needed to get the speed right to kind of cozy it in there and tap in for [birdie],” Anderson said.
Instead, the rising junior from Camden Hills High School buried the putt to earn a spot in next month’s U.S. Amateur Championship at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California.
Anderson, a two-time Class A individual state champion who has committed to play collegiate golf at Florida State University, didn’t know how to react when his ball dropped into the center of the cup.
“To be honest, I was completely shocked,” Anderson said. “I was like, oh my God, I’m going to play in the U.S. Amateur. It’s something you dream of, really.”
The U.S. Amateur is scheduled for Aug. 14-20 and features two rounds of stroke play before the top 64 players head to the match-play portion of the tourney.
The field is reseeded after stroke play.
Anderson’s qualifier was held at the Andover Country Club in Massachusetts, where he carded an 11-under 135 over the 36-hole event. He shot a 69 for the first 18 holes and a 66 over the second 18.
The top three players qualified for the U.S. Amateur. Anderson was tied with Brandon Wu of Scarsdale, New York, and Alex Jamieson of Duxbury, Massachusetts, after 36 holes, so that trio went to a playoff to decide who would join Spencer Soosman of Westlake Village, California (133) in the big show.
The only hole that was needed was the par-5 10th, which measures at 459 yards. Anderson reached the green in two in spite of putting his tee shot in the right rough.
Wu also hit the green in two while Jamieson had to lay up. Wu two-putted for birdie while Jamieson settled for par, putting Anderson and Wu in the top three.
Anderson actually held a one-shot lead after making an eagle on the 16th hole during the second go-around, but was forced into a playoff after bogeying No. 18.
He was able to gather himself and give himself a chance to make birdie in spite of missing the fairway on the playoff hole.
“I hit [the putt] and looked at it, about three-quarters of the way I was like, this could actually go in,” said Anderson, who plays out of the Samoset Resort club.
Alex Plummer, club pro at nearby Goose River Golf Club, caddies for him.
Anderson said he plays every day when he’s home, and he’s already started doing his homework on Riviera, which has hosted four major championships, the most recent being the 1998 U.S. Senior Open.
“It’s fairly long but it’s more about hitting it straight than bombing it,” he said. “They’re going to set the golf course up hard. I’ll start to get a feel for it in the next couple weeks.”
Curtis Luck of Australia won the U.S. Amateur last summer and current PGA pro Bryson DeChambeau did so in 2015.
The winner gets to play in the 2018 Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championships, but that’s not something that Anderson is thinking about.
“It’s one of those tournaments where you have to set your goals one step at a time,” said Anderson, whose first mindset is to make it to match play. “It’s a process. You have to take it one shot at a time really.”
Anderson said he enjoys watching Brooks Koepka — this summer’s U.S. Open champ — and superstar Jordan Spieth, and really looks at the way Spieth approaches the mental aspect of the game.
“He knows what he needs to do to shoot good scores,” said Anderson, who also looks up to Maine amateur star Ricky Jones, who has played in five U.S. Amateurs.
“I’ll definitely rely on [Jones] a little bit,” Anderson said. “He’s always fun to play with.”
Anderson said he has a long-term goal to play on the PGA Tour.