It is Alabama golfer Mark Harrell's second career trip to participate in the U.S. Amateur. In 2005 he finished 217th in the stroke play.
"It's the second time I've been here," said Harrell, "and there is a mentality. It's not that I wasn't good enough (to make the cut to match play before) but just maybe the excitement of being here is kind of overwhelming almost. But once you get here, and this is my second time here, it's a little different. You realize that you are good enough to play out here and compete. I just took it one shot at a time and was able to hit some good shots, made some putts and fortunately played really well."
Harrell played Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., on Tuesday and was at the top of the leaderboard at the turn after his first nine holes. His round at Hazeltine included two birdies, 12 pars and four bogeys for a two-over-par 74. It gave him a two-round total of three-under-par 140. He played the Chaska Town Course on Monday in the opening round of stroke play and shot 66, five under.
His Alabama coach, Jay Seawell, who has been in Chaska following the play of the Tide's four golfers who were participating in the U.S. Amateur, warned that the Hazeltine course was more challenging and scores would be higher. After playing the Hazeltine course Tuesday, Harrell was in complete agreement.
"Most certainly," Harrell said of Hazeltine being the more challenging of the two courses that were used for stroke play. "This course plays much longer and the rough out here is much more detrimental. So you have to hit it very straight, which, fortunately, is one of my strengths and I think maybe one of the reasons I played well today."
All of the match play will be at Hazeltine, a note Harrell hopes will be in his favor having just played that course.
"It will be beneficial that I'll be back out here (playing Hazeltine) tomorrow," said Harrell. "I think it will help me playing the same course. I had a good round on it so I think mentally that has to help you."
Florida sophomore All-America Billy Horschel is the U.S. Amateur's medalist. He shot a U.S.G.A. record 60 in Monday's opening round on Chaska Town Course and followed it Tuesday with 78 (60-78/138) at Hazeltine to finish two strokes ahead of Harrell.
This is the third straight year Matthew Swan, 19, has participated in the U.S. Amateur. He advanced to match play in 2005 as well, making it to the third round before being eliminated 3 and 2 by eventual champion Edoardo Molinari. On Tuesday the Trinity High graduate and Alabama sophomore finished 56th in stroke play at four over par. He shot 70, one under par, on the Chaska Town Course with a round that included four birdies, 11 pars and three bogeys. On Monday he played Hazeltine and shot 77, making three birdies and eight pars in his opening round.
Two other current Tide golfers competed but did not make the cut. Thomas Hagler finished 157th in stroke play, shooting nine over par, 81, on the Hazeltine course Tuesday to go with the 71 he shot at Chaska on Monday. And newcomer Michael Thompson finished 275th. Thompson had to overcome an 85 opening round at Hazeltine Monday and followed it with a 75, four over par, at Chaska on Tuesday.
Match play begins Wednesday with 64 players. The Golf Channel will air play from Wednesday round from 3-5 p.m. CT. On Thursday, the field will be down to 32 and will play the second round of match play in the morning, and, in the afternoon, the remaining 16 golfers play a third round. The quarterfinal round, which includes eight players begins at 12:15 CT on Friday. On Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. CT the four players who advanced will play the semifinal round and at 7 a.m. and at noon CT Sunday, the final two players will play the final 36 holes.
The Crimson Tide has produced one U.S. Amateur Champion. Jerry Pate won the title in 1974.