Bend golfer wins at U.S. Amateur

Jesse Heinly advances at prestigious national tournament

By Zack Hall / The Bulletin / @cogolfguy

Next up

U.S. Amateur Championship, Round of 32: Jesse Heinly vs. Corey Conners

When: 6:05 a.m. PDT today

TV: Round of 16, 3:30 p.m., Golf Channel

Jesse Heinly began Wednesday needing to beat long odds just to make match play at the U.S. Amateur Championship.

The 22-year-old from Bend ended up doing far more than that.

Heinly survived a 17-player playoff for four berths into match play, then upset No. 2 seed Taylor Moore, of Edmond, Oklahoma, 3 and 2, in the first round of match play at the Highlands Course at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia.

Not a bad day for a guy who entered the U.S. Amateur — where the winner gains entrance in the Masters, U.S. Open and the British Open — ranked as the No. 940 amateur golfer in the world.

“Yeah, it’s been a pretty good day,” Heinly, the tournament’s No. 63 seed, said Wednesday evening by phone. “A pretty long day, too.”

Heinly’s long day started with 16 other golfers, all of whom had shot 2 over par through two rounds of stroke-play qualifying, trying to advance into the round of 64.

The deadlocked players were grouped in three foursomes and a fivesome, and Heinly was one of six golfers that birdied the par-5 first hole at Atlanta Athletic Club’s Riverside Course.

Then, playing the 191-yard, par-3 eighth hole, Heinly played it safe and made par. That was all he needed after two golfers made bogey, sending Heinly and three others into single-elimination match play.

“I went to the range and warmed up like I normally would,” Heinly said of the unusually large sudden-death playoff. “It’s one of those things that if you make birdie on the first hole, great, you make it. If not, it happens. It’s one hole, do or die. You have to get lucky.”

That put him in a first-round match with Moore, a rising junior at the University of Arkansas who was one of two golfers to card 8 under in stroke-play qualifying.

The two went back and forth on the front nine, though Heinly never trailed. The Summit High School graduate broke the logjam after Moore found water on the par-4 11th hole, and Heinly extended his lead to two holes with a birdie on the par-5 12th.

With a tough side-hill lie in the rough on the par-4 13th hole, Heinly hit the shot of the match when he stuck his approach to within 8 feet of the hole, leading to a birdie and a three-hole advantage.

Heinly did flirt with disaster when he shanked his tee shot on the par-3 15th hole, an embarrassing shot that was shown live on the Golf Channel, leading to a bogey.

“I had a feeling that was going to happen one time on this trip, and it happened to be the first shot I get on TV,” said Heinly of his shot on 15.

But he showed resiliency on the difficult uphill par-4 16th when he hit two solid shots to get to the green and made par, ending the match.

Moore, who was the co-medalist after two rounds of stroke-play qualifying, was the Southeastern Conference co-freshman of the year in 2012-13 and was among the most highly touted high school golfers in the country (Golfweek Magazine ranked him the nation’s No. 2 player in the class of 2012).

And it does not figure to get much easier.

Up next for Heinly in today’s round of 32 is 31-seeded Corey Conners, a Canadian who plays college golf at Kent State and is ranked the No. 44 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

But Heinly said he is not intimidated by the resumes of his competitors.

“They don’t even know who I am, and I am not really supposed to be in match play based on my ranking,” Heinly said. “It’s another kid who I have to play golf with, and when I play well I can play as well as any of these guys.”

Heinly tees off against Conners at 6:05 a.m. PDT. If he wins, he will play in the round of 16 this afternoon. Live television coverage of the Round of 16 begins at 3:30 p.m. on the Golf Channel.

The championship match is scheduled for Sunday.

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, zhall@bendbulletin.com.