U.S. Open competitors return to amateur golf at Northeast

RUMFORD, R.I. — When Baylor’s Kyle Jones showed up on the first tee Wednesday at Wannamoisett Country Club, he wore a reminder of his unforgettable experience at last week’s U.S. Open: a polo he bought from the Chambers Bay clubhouse.

“It was really cool being around all those (PGA Tour) guys,” Jones said. “You watch them on TV every week and you know what they’ve done in their careers, and it’s really cool to eat lunch around them and watch them on the range.”

Jones is one of three players in this week’s Northeast Amateur field who played the week prior at Chambers Bay. He missed the U.S. Open cut along with South Carolina’s Matt NeSmith while recent Virginia grad Denny McCarthy tied for 42nd.

“Hell of a week,” said McCarthy, whose highlight came when he aced the par-3 ninth hole during a practice round.

McCarthy got to keep the flag from that hole-in-one, and he also took away memories of playing alongside the likes of Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Cody Gribble, Webb Simpson, Blayne Barber and Jordan Spieth, who went on to win at Chambers Bay.

Not to mention, McCarthy recorded worse than bogey just once in 72 holes.

“The key thing out there is you want to limit the mistakes and the big numbers,” McCarthy said. “I only made one double.”

Jones’ playing partners included Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker, a fellow Baylor product who reached out to Jones early in the week to play a practice round. NeSmith might have gotten the best draw, playing practice rounds with World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland.

“It definitely lived up to my expectations,” said NeSmith, whose keepsakes from the tournament include a flag signed by his practice-round partners. “I loved it.”

While Jones went back to Chambers Bay on Sunday to watch the final round, NeSmith didn’t. Instead, he took things easy over the weekend in Washington to prepare for the Northeast Amateur, one of the premier amateur events of the summer.

“I didn’t want to wear myself out,” NeSmith said. “It was a long week last week even though I didn’t make the cut.”

However, NeSmith also missed the cut Friday at Wannamoisett, shooting 75-70-71.

“It was tough to come here after the U.S. Open,” NeSmith said. “For some reason I never really played well here; I’ve been here for the last four years and I can’t quite figure it out.

“It sucks to not play good, especially since it’s a Walker Cup year.”

The Northeast Amateur is considered a must-play for U.S. Walker Cup hopefuls. U.S. captain Spider Miller was at Wannamoisett scouting potential selections. While NeSmith, ranked 49th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, is somewhat of a longshot to make the U.S. team, Jones (18th) and McCarthy (12th) are on the bubble.

Jones is having the best week of the three in Rhode Island (he’s T-12 at even par, six shots better than McCarthy), and although he very much wants to make Miller’s squad, he’s trying not to put pressure on himself.

“I’m trying not to think about it,” Jones said. “If I take care of business every tournament, then business will take care of itself at the end.”

McCarthy would also like to play in the Walker Cup, and he put off turning professional for a shot at making the team.

“I think it’d be an awesome honor being part of that team,” McCarthy said. “It’s been a goal of mine ever since I came to college. I think it’d be pretty cool to end my amateur career with a Walker Cup.”

Playing in a U.S. Open doesn’t hurt their chances of making it. Neither does a good finish Saturday at the Northeast.

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