BANDON — A former NFL player, a former Major League Baseball pitcher and a bunch of other really good golfers are among the players who will be vying for the title in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which starts Saturday at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
The tournament includes a total of 256 golfers ranging in age from 15 to 63, all competing in two-man teams, or sides in four-ball lingo. There are father-and-son combos, brother duos and golfers with past success in United States Golf Association championships. And there is a team of two Bandon Dunes caddies who hope their intimate knowledge of the two courses to be used in the tournament — Old Macdonald and Pacific Dunes — pays off.
The public is invited to watch the tournament, which continues through next Wednesday.
The action starts Saturday. The 128 sides will play 18 holes of qualifying on each of the two courses, with half the field on each course Saturday and Sunday. The top 32 teams will advance to the match play portion of the event, which will be played on the Old Macdonald course.
This is the sixth USGA championship to be played at the resort. The previous one was the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four Ball back in 2015.
The men’s champions that same year, Nathan Smith and Todd White, are among the teams competing this week.
Also in the field are the runner-up of the three most recent editions of the event — Chip Brooke (a former Bandon Dunes caddie) and Marc Dull last year, Clark Collier and Kyle Hudelson in 2017, and Scott Harvey and Ben Warnquist in 2016.
Smith, White, Scott Harvey, Michael McCoy and Stewart Hagestad all have played for the United States in the Walker Cup, the amateur version of the Ryder Cup.
Hagestad and Matt Parziale played in the U.S. Open last summer and McCoy played in the U.S. Senior Open. Parziale was the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.
The NFL player is Kyle Williams, a six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills who retired following the 2018 season. He is partnered with Greg Berthelot, who teamed with Williams to shoot 8-under in their qualifier.
The former baseball player is Erik Hanson, who pitched for four teams, including the Seattle Mariners, during his big league career and has since played extensively in USGA events. This is his 13th time in a USGA contest and he made the cut to match play in three of the four U.S. Mid-Amateur tournaments he has entered.
The oldest golfer is John Sajevic, who turned 63 earlier this month. The golfer from Fremont, Neb., is partnered with his son, Andrew, who is 28 and a three-time Nebraska State Amateur champion. They got into the tournament when defending champions Cole Hammer and Garrett Garber withdrew.
The youngest golfer is 15-year-old Aidan Tran of Fresno, Calif., who is teamed with future Oregon State University golfer Jackson Lake of Clovis, Calif. Tran, who tied for eighth at last year’s IMG Junior Worlds, holds the course record at Riverside Golf Course in Fresno with a score of 9-under.
Perhaps the golfer with the best-known name is Butler Melnyk of Saint Simons Island, Ga., who is teamed with former University of Georgia teammate Richard Scott. Melnyk’s father, Steve, was a long-time television analyst.
The most recent additions to the tournament have an Oregon angle. They are the father-and-son team of Larry and Nicholas Watts of Springfield. Nicholas was the Class 4A state champion for Marist Catholic this spring and his uncle is former Oregon State University coach Brian Watts.
Also in the tournament is Bryce Wortman, who won three Class 4A titles for Mazama and is paired with Sean Yu of Chinese Taipei, one of the international players in the field.
The golfers come from 40 states and the District of Columbia. Four are from Canada and one from Australia.
The local favorites are Bandon Dunes caddies Kyle Crawford and Kevin Rei.
Crawford, who graduated from Marshfield High School, attended Oregon State on an Evans Scholarship. He played in the first U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with then Bandon Dunes caddie Tim Tucker, who now is the caddie for Bryson DeChambeau.
Rei, who played for Chico State University, reached the round of 32 in the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links, which was also played at Old Macdonald.
For more information on the tournament and its participants, visit www.usga.org.