Backspin Volume 3, Issue 8 - Page 24

Pierce and Cruz Valle qualify for U.S. Open 24 Brandon Pierce of Covington, Louisiana, earned medalist honors after shooting a 36 hole total of eight-under par 134 on Monday at the U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifier at Links on the Bayou in Alexandria. Pierce shot a 68 in his first round and then fired the low round of the day in the afternoon, a five-under par 66. Pierce, a member of the LSU Men’s Golf Team, will advance to the Championship proper at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield, Michigan to be conducted Aug. 15-21. Fernando Cruz Valle of The Woodlands, Texas also qualified for the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship after surviving a 4-hole playoff over Blake Caldwell of Ponchatoula, Louisiana and Eric Ricard of Shreveport. This will be the first time for both Cruz and Pierce to compete in the U.S. Amateur Championship. Pierce put himself in contention with the first round 68 and started his second round two shots back of first round leaders Caldwell and Cruz Valle. His second round 66 included six birdies, 11 pars, and one bogey coming at the par 4 15th hole, which was ranked as the toughest hole of the day. Pierce played a crucial role in LSU’s 2015 Men’s Golf National Championship, and he is comfortable in match play. He said, “I love match play because if you make a high number on a hole, you can move past it easily. I can make a lot of birdies, and I feel good about where my game is right now. I’m excited about the opportunity to play in the U.S. Amateur and represent Louisiana.” The 6th time was the charm for Cruz Valle who had attempted to qualify for the U.S. Amateur on 5 previous occasions before Monday. Cruz Valle is a rising senior at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. He, along with LSU golfers Blake Caldwell and Eric Ricard, went to a playoff for the final qualifying spot and two alternates. The sudden death playoff took place on the par 3 18th hole which was playing 207 yards on Monday. The committee determined that the playoff would continue on hole 18 as long as was necessary to determine the final qualifying spot. The tough finishing hole yielded only 7 birdies to a field of 62 of the best Amateur golfers in the region over 36 holes. The tee shot is daunting, having to carry a water hazard, and the gusting winds at Links on the Bayou on Monday added to the difficulty. Cruz almost closed out the playoff on the first attempt after hitting an excellent tee shot to the back right tier of the green, 10 feet from the hole location, but he missed the birdie putt. All three competitors had a chance to advance with long birdie putts but were unable to convert. Cruz, Caldwell and Ricard all made pars the first two times they played hole #18. The third time, Caldwell hit his tee shot into the hazard and ended up making double bogey. Cruz and Ricard made par again and went back to the tee. Cruz hit his tee shot safely on the green, and Ricard hit his tee shot into the hazard and went to the drop zone, but was unable to hit his third shot close to the hole. Cruz lagged his putt to two feet and tapped in for par, winning the playoff and punching his ticket to Oakland Hills. Ricard is a former LGA Amateur Champion. A field of 312 players will play 18 holes of stroke play on Aug. 15-16 on each of