ROLAND, Ark. —The Alotian Club, site of the 111th Western Amateur Championship, may be a lot of things most U.S. golf courses aren’t, but immune to inclement weather isn’t one of them.
Wednesday’s second round of the Western was delayed an hour in the morning due to early storms, and the club and the Western Golf Association were able to try out their course evacuation plan a little after 5 p.m. as another cell with lightning moved through the Roland area. A 77-minute delay pushed play well into the evening, and 30 players were unable to finish before a horn signaled a halt to the second round at 8:03 p.m.
Those last 10 threesomes will have to finish starting at 8 a.m. Thursday before a cut line can be established that sends the top 44 players and ties on to the third and fourth rounds of stroke play. After the cut is set, the remaining players will go on the first and 10th tees at about 10:30 a.m. They’ll play another 18-hole round on Friday starting at 8 a.m. (if the weather cooperates) to establish the Sweet Sixteen for weekend match play.
However, it appeared that even with two dozen-plus players still needing to wrap up their rounds, 1-under-par would be safely in for the next two rounds, and Little Rock’s Joe Doramus could breathe easier as nightfall approached.
The Arkansas Razorback rising redshirt senior out of Little Rock Central had to hold his breath all afternoon after carding a 2-under-par 70 that moved him to the expected cut number. He knew he had work to do after a 1-over 73 on Tuesday and said his Wednesday round, with four birdies and two bogeys, went well overall.
"I started off pretty hot," said Doramus, who birdied two of his first three holes, then bounced back from bogeys at 5 and to birdie No. 9. The pin there, cut in the front middle on the severely back-to-front-sloped green, played havoc with most putting attempts all day.
"That really changed the momentum for me, turning at 1 under," Doramus said. "I was able to build off of that and play smart, and then birdied 17 and felt good about the round."
Joining him in a happy celebration, after Doramus took a few minutes to join a local radio broadcast inside the media tent, were Warren Stephens, the owner of The Alotian Club, and the club’s chief operating officer, Dan Snider, along with Doramus’ father, an Alotian member.
Even a missed 8-foot putt at No. 16 did not disappoint the youngster much.
"That hole was playing 224 [yards] and I hit a 4-iron pretty much at the flag," he said. "I felt really good about it. I wish I’d made the putt. I hit a really good but just barely missed it."
A birdie on the par-5 17th put Doramus at the expected magic number, and he safely got up and down for par on 18.
"I hope it’s good enough," he said.
Jonesboro’s Austin Cook, who recently completed his Razorback eligibility, has more to worry about. Cook dropped four strokes on his front nine and made up just one on his second nine to finish 3-over for the day, even par for the tournament.
But three of Cook’s and Doramus’ teammates from this past spring seem safely into the next two rounds. Sebastian Cappelen covered the course in even par to maintain his 3-under score from Tuesday and Nicolas Ecchavaria, barring a late collapse, was in comfortable shape at 4-under for the tourney. The big surprise among the Hog entrants may have been rising sophomore Taylor Moore of Edmond, Okla., who was also at 4-under-par with a handful of holes to finish.
Seth Reeves, the Georgia Tech senior-to-be who was part of a three-way first-round lead at 7-under, wasn’t quite that sharp Wednesday but still shot a 2-under 70 to finish two rounds at 9-under 135. One of the first day tri-leaders, though, Stanford’s Cameron Wilson, went backward with a 6-over 77 and stood at 1-under after two rounds, on the expected cut line. Southern Cal graduate Sam Smith, the third first-round front-runner, also stumbled a bit, shooting 2-over on Wednesday.
Wilson’s Stanford teammate, Patrick Rodgers fired a 4-under 68 to reach 9-under and a tie with Reeves, along with Wisconsin’s Jordan Niebrugge, who improved 3 shots on his first-day 66.
Cal’s Michael Weaver, the 2012 U.S. Amateur runner-up, led a group of five players at 7-under 137.
However, the tournament’s most amazing story to this point was the play of 15-year-old David Snyder from McAllen, Texas, who had the day’s best round at 6-under 66 and was in the group at 7-under for two rounds. Snyder had seven birdies on Wednesday and said he hit every fairway but missed three greens.
Snyder, who recently qualified for the U.S. Amateur and was an alternate in qualifying for the U.S. Open in June, said the key to his round "was just making the birdie putts. Yesterday I played solid and didn’t make as many birdie putts. Today they went in."
Snyder started playing golf competitively at age 7. Last week he won the U.S. Teen World Championship at Pinehurst, N.C.
A shock in the other direction was the play Wednesday of Cal’s Michael Kim, ranked No. 2 among amateurs in the Scratch Players world rankings. Kim fought a balky driver and found trouble most of the round, recording a 12-over-par 84 — or 18 shots worse than a 15-year-old.
World amateur No. 1 Cory Whitsett of Alabama found some second-day success after a difficult first round and finished at the 1-under expected cutline. One ’Bama teammate, Justin Thomas, also in the top 5 of world amateurs, solidly built on his first-round 68 with a 70 on Wednesday for 6-under. But Crimson Tide golfer Bobby Wyatt, last year’s Southern Amateur runner-up at Little Rock’s Chenal Country Club, had to put on a mad rush after a first-round 4-over 76 and was teetering near the cutline at 1-over.
Fordyce’s Lane Hulse, who plays collegiately at South Alabama, was 2 over par for the day and still at 1-under through 15 holes before darkness arrived.
Arkansas’ Doramus grew up playing at the Country Club of Little Rock, but he possesses some local knowledge at Alotian thanks to his dad’s membership.
"I’ve played it quite a bit," said Doramus, who compared conditions now to the typical Alotian setup by adding, "It’s definitely playing tougher. The greens are pristine, they are perfect, and the pin positions are the main difference I see in the golf course. They’re really trying to put [hole locations] on slopes to make you think twice about your shots. "And obviously the pressure, that’s another thing, you have to take that into account. It’s different playing tournament golf as opposed to going out and just playing for fun."
Doramus made sure he reduced some of that pressure with a solid second round. And, if this were an NCAA college event, Arkansas as a team would be in good shape.