RICHMOND, Va. – The U.S. Amateur Championship is the country’s oldest championship and one of its most prestigious. VCU rising senior Adam Ball (Richmond, Va.) is set to play in his fourth U.S. Amateur, but the feeling of competing in the revered event has not faded with time.
“Cannot wait. You have no idea. I can’t wait,” Ball said. “It’s my last one, too, so it’s pretty important to me. I’ve been working pretty hard for it. I’m excited.”
On Monday, Aug. 17, Ball will tee off at 1:20 p.m. at Olympia Fields Country Club outside of Chicago. He will be one of 312 golfers vying for the title of “U.S. Amateur Champion”.
Ball and his competitors will play 18 holes each on Monday and Tuesday. The top 64 scorers will advance to the match play bracket and eventually winnow to a sole champion on Aug. 23.
In 2013, Ball reached the quarterfinal round before he fell to eventual champion Matt Fitzpatrick.
“It was a magical week,” Ball said. “I got there, and the golf course really fit my eye and my swing while I was there, and my putter got hot for a couple of days. The next thing I knew I was in the quarterfinals and playing the eventual champion, and it was a really cool week. It was a neat experience to play on national television, to get that first one under my belt.”
It’s a grueling format, complete with a distraction few college golfers face, network TV coverage (Fox Sports 1 and Fox will broadcast match play). But Ball says he enjoys the challenge.
“It’s a big grind, especially once you get into match play and you’ve got 36-hole days. You’re playing two matches. It’s very mentally difficult. Strenuous. I think that’s probably the hardest part, because you’re not playing the golf course, you’re playing another person. It’s not something that you’re used to,” he said. “I really like it. Anything can happen in match play.
“It’s just the competitiveness of playing against another person, and the thing about match play is, there’s not a whole lot of times you’re going to play it safe. It’s just, how many birdies can I make?”
Ball is headed to Olympia Hills at a good time. The Richmond native set a VCU single-season record for scoring average (71.73) in 2014-15 and captured the 2015 Atlantic 10 individual title. He’s continued his superb play this summer, scoring a win at the historic Monroe Invitational with a course-record 62 in the final round, as well as a victory at his U.S. Amateur Sectional at Willow Oaks Country Club in Richmond. Ball fired a course-record 65 there as well.
“The whole spring gave me a lot of confidence going into the summer. I played probably the best schedule this summer probably that I’ve ever played, and I played really well. I finished outside the top 10 once, I think. So I’ve got a lot of confidence going into next week. I’m hitting the ball good, playing good. It’s just all about where my head’s at when we get there,” he said.
Ball hasn’t played the two courses, Olympia Hills’ North and South layouts, on which the tournament will be contested, so his practice rounds Saturday and Sunday will carry extra importance. However, Ball says keeping a clear head will be of even greater significance.
“I just need to stay in the moment, not get ahead of myself, like last year when I played in Atlanta. I think I put too much pressure on myself because of what I had done two years ago, and I kind of went out there with the mindset of, ‘don’t mess up’, which is the opposite of what you need,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there with a go-getter attitude and just go out there and do all the preparation and all the coursework and all the studying of the golf course and just get everything down and make sure I’m completely prepared for everything that’s going to be thrown out there and just get out there and relax and play the game that I love.”
Previous winners of the U.S. Amateur Championship include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.