U.S. Amateur: Michael Thorbjornsen makes mess of 18th hole, but still finishes as co-medalist in stroke play

·7 min read

PARAMUS, N.J. — Oops.

Michael Thorbjornsen had the U.S. Amateur medal in his back pocket Tuesday until the 20-year-old Stanford All-American made a mess of the 18th hole at Arcola Country Club. An ill-timed double bogey resulted in Fred Biondi, Luke Gutschewski and Hugo Townsend sharing the honor.

He drove into a bunker, hit a chunky gap wedge, chipped to eight feet and three-putted to finish at 3-under 138.

No harm. No foul.

“Yeah, I mean, medalist, solo medalist, same thing,” said Thorbjornsen, who last month won the Western Am. “It doesn’t really matter. Kind of just more disappointed in myself for just doubling the last hole, whether it’s for nothing or for the whole tournament to win the U.S. Amateur or win medalist or whatever. I just don’t like playing bad golf.”

Biondi who’s a senior at Florida by way of São Paulo, Brazil, was the only player in the field with a pair of sub-70 rounds. Only eight players finished in the red. Gutschewski plays at Iowa State. His father, Scott, is prepping for the Korn Ferry Tour finals. Townsend is a 23-year-old native of Ireland and resident of Sweden. He played four seasons at Boise State and is heading for graduate school at Ole Miss.

Thorbjornsen ranks among the favorites this week.

“I’d say I have the momentum I need,” he said. “Kind of just going to forget about this last hole here, sort out my driver tomorrow morning or whenever I’m teeing off, maybe hit the gym or something, I don’t know, because it’s unacceptable the way I’m hitting my driver right now, especially at Ridgewood.”

Thorbjornsen is making his fifth appearance in the U.S. Amateur. He reached the quarterfinals in 2020 at Bandon Dunes. The Massachusetts resident won the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club.

Experience is a bonus.

“It’s definitely going to help,” Thorbjornsen added. “Just playing all these match play events … I kind of know how it’s going to go. I’m really happy that we’re playing Ridgewood as a match play course. Very tough, have to hit the ball well. I played well there yesterday. Felt like I can play well again there (Wednesday) and this upcoming week.

“Yeah, it’s completely new tomorrow. Who cares about what happened today? I’m going to try and forget about it.”

Back to the day job

Christian Cavaliere is ready to get to work. Literally. The 24-year-old Katonah native struggled from the start of stroke play at the U.S. Amateur, finishing well back Tuesday with a 16-over total of 157.

Advancing to match play was the goal, but reality struck quickly.

Cavaliere is the creative force behind Tremont Sporting Co, a company he founded a year ago that designs and produces high-end golf products like headcovers and headwear. Keeping up with the growing demand requires more and more time off the golf course.

“I’m going to get back to the sewing machine,” he said with a laugh. “I think it’s where I belong.”

“The courses were hard and I didn’t play well this week. I made a lot of bad swings and was sloppy with my putting. The U.S. Am is special, but I’m getting a little sick of playing in this event and not even sniffing match play.”

Cavaliere was 4-over just three holes into the championship and shot a 78 on Monday at Arcola. He followed up with a 79 at Ridgewood.

Finding a suitable work-golf balance is a project for another day.

“I haven’t put in anywhere near the prep time this year as I have in past years,” added Cavaliere, a former Boston College player who’s appeared in three consecutive U.S. Ams. “I’ve played some good golf this summer, but I’m probably not as sharp as I could be. I have to budget my time and I probably need to manage expectations and be OK with some of the outcomes, knowing I’m not able to put in the same kind of work, but I’m still so competitive and this kills me. Not being in contention and just kind of moseying around, the fire this lights in me is crazy.”

2022 U.S. Amateur
2022 U.S. Amateur

Charlie Jackson putts at the 2022 U.S. Amateur at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)

Crunching the numbers

The members were undoubtedly keeping score in the background, which is part of the fun when hosting a U.S. Amateur. Ridgewood is located a mile away from Arcola, so the courses have long been compared and contrasted.

So, which one is the more difficult test?

“Honesty, I felt the afternoon wave Monday at Arcola was tougher than the morning wave today here at Ridgewood because the greens were so firm and the pins were tucked,” noted Shea Lague, a sophomore at San Diego State, who followed a 74 at Arcola with a 71 at Ridgewood. “But the rough is pretty gnarly out here so I’d say they’re about even.”

Ridgewood is a Tillinghast classic. Arcola was reworked by Robert Trent Jones. Ridgewood is playing to a par of 71 at 7,487 yards. Arcola is playing to a par of 70 at 7,256 yards.

“I feel like they played pretty similar,” said Tommy Kuhl, an All-Big 10 performer at Illinois last season who closed with a 69 on Tuesday at Ridgewood, climbing into the top 10 with an even-par total of 141. “Obviously, they are totally different styles. I feel like this is a bigger, championship-style golf course. … This place is tough. You have to be on your game. The rough is long and there is a lot of mental fatigue. You can’t lose focus out there.

“This is going to be such a fun course for match play because I feel par is going to win a lot of holes.”

Based on the numbers, Ridgewood (76.8) was more difficult, but the margin was roughly half a stroke in relation to par. Arcola is known for its slick putting surfaces and the greens were firm. Despite the weather, the rough at Ridgewood is juicy and will be an issue right into the weekend.

Timing during stroke play was a major factor, as well.

“I was just happy to be out early,” said Townsend, who shot a 67 on Tuesday at Arcola after opening with a 71 at Ridgewood. “I played in the afternoon yesterday, and the greens were getting baked, the wind was picking up. I mean, the courses are tough, the rough is thick.”

Quotable

“Oh, man, it’s awesome,” Mark Costanza said of a slippery 25-footer he made on his final hole at Arcola for birdie to gain a spot in a 15-for-11 playoff. “I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t make that putt and we’ll obviously see what happens, but I played really well the last two days. I made a triple yesterday and I made a double today. If I take just a couple strokes off both of those, I’m in clean. It would have been really disappointing given how well I played to not have a chance, but I’m glad that at least I have a chance now, and it’s such an amazing stage, and being so close to home, I hope I can keep moving on.”

“It was not easy,” Biondi said of the conditions over the first two days.

“It means a lot,” said Adrien Dumont de Chassart, who finished stroke play 1-under and moved on to match play. “I don’t think anyone from Belgium has ever won a U.S. Am. And it would be also cool to play in the majors. Just having access to the Masters and U.S. Open is something very cool.”

Up next

There will be 15 players vying for 11 spots in a playoff that starts on the 15th hole at Ridgewood at 7:30 a.m. Players begin teeing off in the Round of 64 at 9 a.m.

Mike Dougherty covers golf for The Journal News and lohud.com. He can be reached at mdougher@lohud.com or on Twitter @lohudgolf.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek