Clay Pinson and his brother, Bret, were two minutes late March 28 for their tee time for a match in the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifier at The Bluffs Country Club & Golf Resort in St. Francisville.
The Pinson brothers got a reprieve and escaped penalty because the first fairway was not clear and they couldn’t play.
Taking advantage of their good fortune, the Pinson brothers fired a five-under-par 67 and earned medalist honors, advancing to the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, a United States Golf Association tournament to be played May 2-6 at the historic Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Under the four-ball format, each golfer plays his own ball, tee to green, with the lowest total score by either golfer counting on the card for each team on that particular hole.
Behind the Pinsons in The Bluffs qualifier were Patrick Bailey and Seth Thornton, of Houston, who qualified for the championship with a four-under 68, while Brandon Avdiett, of Metairie, and Todd McPherson, of New Orleans, finished as the first alternates.
Clay Pinson, whose home course is The Bluffs, and Bret, who plays at the Country Club of Louisiana, both played collegiately at Louisiana Tech, and they’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success. Clay has won The Bluffs championship twice, and Bret has won the CCLA championship five years in a row.
“My brother played better than I did; he played very well,” said Clay, a two-handicapper. Bret, he said, is basically a scratch golfer.
“It didn’t hurt playing on my home course. The competition was out-driving us by 30 or 40 yards on every hole, but we played strategic and knew where to place the ball.”
But Bret is 57 and Clay is 45, and that’s what made their victory in the qualifier so improbable and the win that much sweeter.
The Pinsons are believed to be the oldest team in the field.
“It felt really good to win because many of the other teams had college golfers,” said Clay, whose wife, Nicole, caddied for both golfers using a golf cart. The brothers will walk the course at Olympic accompanied by local caddies.
More than 2,200 teams entered the inaugural amateur four-ball. The local qualifier was one of 51 held around the country. The Louisiana Golf Association was in charge of the local qualifier on behalf of the USGA and was the only one held in Louisiana.
“The four-ball format has become so popular in golf because stroke play tournaments are so grueling,” Clay said.
The 2015 four-ball championship will be the first ever, and along with the Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, the two tournaments are the first additions to the USGA’s championship schedule since 1987.
A starting field of 128 sides (256 golfers) will compete at Olympic. Stroke play qualifying will be conducted with 18-hole rounds on the famed Ocean and Lake courses May 2-3.
“It’s a pretty grueling schedule, so we’ve started walking quite a bit to get in shape for the tournament,” Clay said. “But we’re just happy to have the opportunity to play such a prestigious course and a USGA tournament.”
The field will be cut to the low 32 sides for match play rounds, which will begin on the Lake course on May 4 with first-round matches. Second round and quarterfinal matches take place on May 5, and the semifinals and finals are on May 6.
“We’re going to Olympic, and if we both play well, stranger things have happened,” Pinson said. “The first step was getting in. The second step is getting into the (match play) playoffs. If we have a couple of good days, anything can happen.”
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