Aman Gupta just keeps showing up. The Oklahoma State player is riding out an opportunity this week as one of the last men into the U.S. Amateur field at Bandon Dunes, a bucket-list golf destination along the Oregon coast.
Consider this a condensed version of the headlines: Gupta goes from on-site alternate to Bandon Trails competitive course record-holder with his opening 7-under 64 (alas, a short-lived title after Wilson Furr replaced it 24 hours later with his own 62) to now staring a down a spot in the quarterfinals. He’s one match away.
Gupta brought a new putter to Bandon Dunes, and used it to hole 11 putts on the front nine of Bandon Trails on Monday in his opening 64. He drew two early tee times in stroke play, itself a bit of luck considering how much the wind picked up in the afternoons. But just to be playing brought a sense of relief in itself, as Gupta told media officials on Monday.
“Coming out here as first alternate with the craziness going around the world right now, I thought I had a very good chance,” he said, “and Friday afternoon when Robbie Z (of the USGA) called me and told me I was in, that was a huge relief. But I still have a tournament to play, so it was just the same as normal.”
Gupta will be entering his third year at Oklahoma State. Already this summer he has top-15 finishes at the Palmetto Amateur and Southern Amateur.
In match play this week, Gupta got through Van Holmgren, a Florida Gulf Coast transfer, on Wednesday afternoon in 16 holes. He drew Liberty’s Jonathan Yaun in the next round. It made for an interesting match, considering that Yaun was in much the same position as Gupta.
Yaun was another on-site alternate who gained entry just before the tournament started. He’s prone to exceptional hot streaks in match play, and delivered one of those in the Round of 64 when he birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to take out world No. 4 amateur Davis Thompson.
Yaun demonstrated a bit of that against Gupta on Thursday morning, going birdie, eagle, par at Nos. 8-10 to turn the match in his favor.
“I knew that I’m playing good, so I didn’t really change my game plan,” Gupta said of keeping his head on straight. “I didn’t get down on myself. I was like, just keep doing what you’re doing, if you lose, you lose. But if you do what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to make a comeback.”
Gupta ultimately got it back with pars at Nos. 14 and 15, and then it got really entertaining.
Gupta thought he had hit a terrific shot on the daunting yet reachable par-4 16th, but discovered it had taken a hard kick into a small hole in the ground. From there, Gupta hit “probably the best shot I’ve hit all week” to five feet. He missed his birdie putt, but Yaun, who had hit the green, three-putted for par.
On No. 17, Gupta scrambled for par to match Yaun, and when the two matched birdies at the par-5 18th, it was Gupta moving on.
In Gupta’s case, the man on the bag is absolutely worth noting.
When Cowboy teammate Austin Eckroat failed to qualify for match play, Gupta gained head coach Alan Bratton as a caddie. That’s particularly encouraging news for Gupta, considering that Bratton was on the bag for two of his former players in their U.S. Amateur title runs: Peter Uihlein in 2010 and Viktor Hovland in 2018.
“He’s good at figuring out the number and helping you just commit to what you have because at the end of the day you know what you need to do and you know what you need to hit that shot,” Gupta said. “He does a really good job just keeping yourself stable and giving you some good numbers, and just go play.”
If there’s a putt that needs to go down, Bratton will certainly let his man know.
“He’ll fire you up at certain times, but otherwise he’s pretty even keel,” Gupta said.
He’s going to need both if his U.S. Amateur run is to continue.