Tuesday at the University of Maryland Golf Course, Fairfax’s Ji Soo Park found himself in the same threesome as his coach at the University of Virginia, Bowen Sargent, as they tried to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.
Firing his second straight 3-under-par 68, Sargent made it. But Park (140) did not, earning alternate status. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the first time Sargent was in the situation. Two years ago, when he qualified for the Amateur in Charlottesville, he was paired with another UVa. player, Kyle Stough.
“I kept telling myself there’s a lot of similarities,” Sargent said. “I treated [Park] like any other person, probably complimented him more than I would another player. I was pulling for him.”
In addition to Sargent, others who qualified were Patrick Bailey, Jr. (136), an Episcopal graduate who now plays at North Carolina, recent George Mason grad Josh Apple (137), and longtime Washington-area amateur Rusty Pies (137), who made it for the second straight year.
None of them had mixed emotions like Sargent, who qualified for the fourth time, including twice (1990, 1991) when he was an All-American at North Carolina State before turning pro.
“[Park] played good enough to make it,” Sargent said. “It just didn’t happen.”
It’s been an eventful week for Sargent. On Sunday he watched recent Virginia grad Ben Kohles become the first player in history to win on the Web.com Tour in his first professional start. As Sargent played the 18th hole on Tuesday, he drew inspiration from the 2012 graduate, who won on Sunday with a birdie putt on the first playoff hole.
“I was telling myself, ‘Be like Ben. Be like Ben,’” Sargent said. “Damned if I didn’t do it.”
For both Sargent and Park, Tuesday’s round turned at No. 11, where both made bogey. While Sargent reacted well, making four birdies on the last seven holes, Park never recovered. Prior to his bogey, Park, a Chantilly graduate, had made four straight birdies.
“I didn’t play well after that,” Park said. “The greens were hard and I couldn’t control my iron shots. They just bounced off.”
Sargent, however, banked on his experience as a four-time qualifier. He also was anxious to atone for last year when he had a chance to qualify with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Four Streams, but missed it, then failed to take his time on a tap-in par, and missed it, falling a stroke shy of a playoff for the final slot.
“That bogey on 11 kind of kicked me in the rear a little bit,” Sargent said of Tuesday’s round.
At the Amateur, Aug 13-19, at Cherry Hills (Colo.), Sargent will be joined by two of his players. Sophomore Denny McCarthy (Burtonsville) and incoming freshman Nick McLaughlin had earlier qualified.
In addition, it will be the second trip to Cherry Hills for Sargent, who did it 22 years ago, the first time he qualified.