Today was the first day of the qualifying rounds of the 2021 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, being held at Chambers Bay, with The Home Course serving as the companion course. There are 128 sides, or 256 players overall, playing in the championship, and they’ll play one round at Chambers Bay and one round at The Home Course to determine which 32 sides make it into the match-play bracket.
There are 11 players from Washington Golf territory who made it this far, after Local qualifying.
Sean Kato of Redmond, Wash. probably had the most interesting round today. He and his partner Jackson Lake are teammates on the Oregon State University men’s golf team, and the duo shot a 63 to earn medalist honors at a Local qualifier held at Oswego Lake Country Club back in October.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Chambers Bay – Lake had to withdraw because of a scheduling conflict. With the NCAA Championship being held next week in Arizona, several college players have opted out of the Four-Ball in order to prepare for that event, and Lake went with the team. Kato is just recovering from a injury, and did not travel with the team to Arizona.
So, Kato is here at the Four-Ball, playing solo, because the rules dictate that you must compete in the championship with the partner you qualified with. So, this means Kato doesn’t have a partner to ham-and-egg around the golf course.
No. It is either ham or egg for Sean – just his score alone.
And he didn’t do too badly today, coming in at 2-under-par at the par-71 Home Course.
“I got off to a bad start,” Kato said after his round. “This was my first tournament in a few months since getting injured. So once I got into the flow of the round it was pretty good and I started to hit it close. I hit a good one on seven, and made a good birdie on eight. Then out of nowhere I made a good birdie on 12, which was kind of stealing one, as well as 13.”
On what it was like playing solo, Kato said, “Overall I did a good job. Obviously it’s difficult not being able to be as aggressive on shots that I could have if I had a partner. I had to be a little more conservative when I was a little out of position and not try to make big numbers. I still made three bogeys, but alone I think I did a pretty good job.”
He’ll play Chambers Bay tomorrow, a course he knows well. Last year Kato won the Washington State Amateur, held at Chambers, firing rounds of 65-69-73 to win the title by a shot.
Although you want a partner in a Four-Ball format, Kato has the game to do this on his own. Along with last year’s state amateur title, he won the 2017 Washington State Junior Championship, and led his Redmond High School squad to the 2017 4A State Championship. He was selected for Team Washington in the Junior Americas Cup for three years, leading the team to the title in 2016.