It isn’t all that unusual for a Tour player to avoid venues that don’t seem to suit his game. After missing the 36-hole cut at the Southern Amateur in July, Will Holcomb decided to take that approach with Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas.
As it turns out, the seeds were planted for this week’s Maridoe Amateur during the week of the Southern. Holcomb later received an invitation and found himself having to go back on his plan.
“I found out it was match play and I love match play,” he said.
Holcomb finished a brutal 54 holes at Maridoe with rounds of 73-76-69, good for medalist honors at 2 over and a navy cashmere sweater emblazoned with the Maridoe patch to commemorate that. He noted that his wife Graycie, who was on her way to Carrollton to watch the match-play portion of the tournament, might be a bit angry with him.
“She says the No. 1 seed never wins,” Holcomb noted.
Standing off the 18th green waiting for his medalist photo opp, Holcomb was at a bit of a loss for words at the accomplishment. In a tough field full of the country’s best-ranked amateurs (Holcomb checks in at No. 73 in the World Amateur Ranking), the player from Crockett, Texas, rose to the top.
Scores: Maridoe Amateur
“It’s every bit as hard as any golf you want on a calm, sunny day,” Holcomb said of playing Maridoe in this week’s cold and windy conditions. “The first day was 35 degrees and freezing cold. That wasn’t easy. Yesterday was a little better. Ever since it warmed up, I’ve been kind of warming up myself.”
Holcomb is perhaps most well-known for his deep runs in match play at Pinehurst No. 2. He was a U.S. Amateur semifinalist in 2019 and finished runner-up to Tyler Strafaci, the eventual 2020 U.S. Amateur winner, at the North & South Amateur earlier this year.
It bodes well for him that six rounds of match play are to follow – just like a USGA championship.
“Just keep doing what I know how to do in match play and just fight – that’s really what I love doing,” Holcomb said of his match-play mindset. “I don’t play golf because it’s fun, I play golf because I want to win. When you get to play golf in the purest form, like one-on-one basketball, that’s really fun.”
Holcomb, a self-described “corona year senior” at Sam Houston State, can banter on the course as well as anyone. He marks his ball with a smiley face with the tongue sticking out in homage to a high school golf buddy who used to make that face when he’d drop a putt on Holcomb in a friendly match. He’s walking the course this week with caddie Marcus Jones, Maridoe member who works for College Golf Fellowship.
Holcomb’s final-round 69 on Wednesday helped him overtake 36-hole co-leaders Leo Oyo, who ultimately got the No. 2 seed, and Frankie Capan, who landed the No. 12 seed.
Seemingly everyone in this field has a Maridoe war story to tell, particularly as the North Texas wind howls and temperatures hover near 40 degrees.
Capan, a past U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champ who plays for Florida Gulf Coast, had two-time Korn Ferry Tour winner Davis Riley on his bag on Wednesday. Riley has played Maridoe frequently and helped Capan with some local knowledge before the event.
Leaders are on the course. Frankie has gone from carrying his bag in round 1 and most of round 2…to a soon to be PGA Tour card carrying member who has a little experience around Maridoe. pic.twitter.com/gXpSLztamd
— Ryan Frazer (@AgoraGolf) December 2, 2020
Julian Perico, an Arkansas junior, said Maridoe doled out plenty of punches. Perico snuck into match play as the No. 61 seed, calling Maridoe the hardest course he’s played. That’s from a player whose home course at college is Blessings Golf Club, a notoriously difficult, hilly layout.
“If I had to compare Maridoe to Blessings, this one is way tighter, the greens are way harder to hit, it’s way more penal off the tee, the greens are way harder to put on. It’s also faster, firmer and the wind feels 20 mph harder,” he said.
Perico was paying close attention to the leaderboard on Wednesday afternoon – excitedly shouting to another player at one point during his post-round interview when he learned he was safely on the bracket. He’ll face No. 4 seed Noah Goodwin, an SMU player who won a college event at Maridoe this fall, in the first round.
Thursday can’t be as adventurous as Perico’s previous 24 hours. Perico didn’t finish his second round, but realized once he left the golf course he had forgotten about a project and an essay due on Wednesday. He spent most of the night on the project, which was for an entomology class he’s taking.
He went to bed at midnight and woke up at 5:30 a.m., to finish the final three holes of his second round. Two hours later, he was off for his third round.
He’s used to balancing golf and schoolwork, he said, but not firing tournament rounds in the 80s.
“I think it’s so cool we get to play three rounds. At least you get to stay three days out here,” he said when asked about the format. “…I would have been done by a long shot. They gave me a chance and I took advantage of it.”
The bracket had only two holes in it on Wednesday night as a playoff was still needed to determine the Nos. 63 and 64 seeds.
Let match play begin.