Valois just misses U.S. Amateur spot
The grind was over and all Brad Valois could do now was wait.
With three spots up for grabs at Monday's U.S. Amateur Championship Section Qualifying Tournament at Metacomet Country Club, which just happens to be the former Toll Gate High School star's home course, Valois was tied for third with a couple low scores still on the course. He sat in a chair on the patio, made some phone calls, sent some text messages and chatted with various people who wanted to see if Valois would be headed to his fifth U.S. Amateur Championship.
After a while, the sitting and waiting was too much. Valois went inside the clubhouse, deciding it'd be better to wait out his fortunes sitting at the bar with fellow members instead of on a white patio chair.
When he heard the news that Ryan Riley of North Easton, Mass., had come in with a low score, Valois ordered a drink and moved on.
In the past Valois wouldn't have taken the news so kindly, especially because of how he played. The lefty was hoping for a smooth two round total of 5-under par. Instead he struggled with distance control and didn't throw darts at flagsticks like he usually does at the Donald Ross course, firing a 2-under 68-70-138, a good score, but not U.S. Amateur good.
“I wasn't playing good at all [Monday],” said Valois shortly before losing in a playoff to Ben Spitz for the title of the site's first alternate. “I made some putts to stay in it but unfortunately it wasn't enough.
Former URI No. 1 golfer Branden Chicorka, who's from Enfield, Conn., was the medalist Monday, shooting a 5-under 65 in the morning and finishing with a 69 in the afternoon. Riley went 69-67-136 and came in with his score after Valois. Third was Jamison Randall, the former Cumberland High School all-stater who plays at Old Dominion. Randall shot 71 in the morning but played brilliantly in the windy afternoon 18, tying Riley for the low round with a 67 for a total of 139, one shot better than Valois and Spitz (68-71-139).
The top three will play two qualifying stroke play rounds August 12 and 13 – one at Charles River Country Club in Newton, Mass. and the other at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. The top 64 scorers will move on to match play at The Country Club on August 14, ending with a 36-hole championship match on August 18.
If anyone wasn't surprised at 2-under not getting to the big tourney, it was Valois, who's qualified for the Amateur four times and knows how many birdies are on the course at Metacomet.
“I had 5-under I knew had to get in and I just had to play well,” Valois said. “Unfortunately, I played awful.”
His standards are different than most.
The morning 18 was the best chance at scoring. Metacomet is short in length and relies on wind and its greens to protect it from low-60’s scores. The greens weren't rolling U.S. Open fast and the winds weren't blowing hard, but Valois wasn't able to stick shots to kick-in range, something his caddie, fellow member and 2005 RIGA Stroke Play champion Eugene DiSarro, said Valois usually does four or five times a round.
Instead, Valois relied on DiSarro's help reading the tricky greens as he tried to roll in birdie putts from uncomfortable distances.
DiSarro earned his money on the bag. In the two rounds, Valois made nine birdie putts, but it was where he didn't birdie that was the difference.
He had eight bogeys on his card, five from the afternoon session where he started on the 225-yard par 3 10th and bogeyed three of the first five before making birdies on 15, 17 and 18 to get back to even.
“I knew had to make more birdies,” Valois said, “to get back in it.”
Starting his final nine with the wind blowing directly in his face off the tee on the par-4 first hole, Valois couldn't get up-and-down before getting the shot back with a birdie on the short par-five second hole. He parred three through six before making a bogey on the 161-yard par 3 seventh, the shortest hole on the course, and failed to birdie the 463-yard par-5 ninth hole, hitting his second shot over the green after going over in his morning round.
“That was a killer,” Valois said, “Those are short par fives, just mediocrely hard par fours, and to make par on both of those against this field is not going to get it done.”
Had Valois birdied nine twice, he'd be headed to his fifth amateur. Had he birdied once, he would have been in a playoff with Randall for the third spot and with his experience against a player trying to qualify for the first time, Valois would have been the favorite.
Instead, it's a disappointing finish for the 2013 RI Amateur champ, who looked like he had just lost a $10 Nassau and not a shot to play in the most prestigious amateur championship in the country.
“I've been playing golf long enough to know how to handle these things,” Valois said. “I just didn't perform very well [Monday].”