Date: August 19, 2015
Author: Tom Fee, Golf WA

Coletta leads medalist race at US Amateur

Brett Coletta fired the round of his brief international career today to stand poised to become the US Amateur medallist.

Coletta, a member of Melbourne club Woodlands, shot a superb four-under-par 66 on the tough North Course at Olympia Fields to take the outright lead late in the second and final round of strokeplay.

If the Golf Australia national squad member’s total of seven-under-par 133 – after his opening 67 on the South Course yesterday – holds up, he’ll take the No.1 seed tag into the matchplay phase of the world’s biggest amateur event, just south of Chicago.

Coletta is one of three Aussies likely to make what is shaping as a three over cut to make the top 64 that advance to the knockout rounds.

Fellow Victorian Ryan Ruffels added a 72 to his opening 66 to sit T10 late in day two, while Queenslander Maverick Antcliff played a spectacular back nine to roar through the field.

The Beaudesert youngster, a student of the Georgia Regents University in Augusta for the past few years, fired five back-nine birdies on the South Course en route to a 65 that lifted him from two over yesterday all the way through to tied seventh at three under after two rounds.

Thee more Australians will be in action tomorrow morning when round 2 resumes with the projected cut at 3-over.

Curtis Luck (+6), Austin Bautista (+6) and Troy Moses (+7) will be hoping for a birdie blitz over their final nine holes to vault them into the matchplay, while Lucas Herbert (+4), Cameron Davis (+9) and Antonio Murdaca (+11) had their fate sealed at the completion of their second round.

Ruffels started his round in a tie for second place and will have a match play seeding in the low teens after struggling on the South Course.

“I'm in the match play, which is always nice. But I didn't play well today and struggled to get anything going.”

Ruffels was “annoyed” to go birdie-free on the South Course, but the 17 year old can leave it all behind him with the matchplay exclusively on the North Course where he excelled.

“I think (the North Course) suits my game a little bit better. I feel like I'm maybe one of the longer hitters, and that's a pretty demanding course off the tee in terms of length, so that's an advantage to me, and I've got some good vibes out there.”

But the day belonged to Coletta, who matched Ruffels’ opening round of 66 on the North Course in stormy conditions.

An opening birdie on the tough 561m par-five first showed a sign of what was to come as Coletta proved his growing self-belief with four more birdies and just one bogey – his only blemish in two stellar days.

But sitting in the press conference while holding a four stroke clubhouse lead, Coletta showed he had bigger things on his mind than the US Amateur medal.

The Woodlands golfer openly admitted he “hasn’t really had a big win” and was giddy when talking about his first US Amateur experience.

“This is the tournament to — this is like the biggest experience you're going to get, and it's hyped up to be what it is. So I've come here, and all the stands are up, all you guys out here, the TV cameras will be out tomorrow. That's what it really hits. This is a great experience for me, coming to play this event, and to play well is even better.”

But to potentially win the US Amateur medal? Just “a bonus” to his real ambition.

“My goal this week was to get into match play, and at this point it looks like I'm going to get in.”

Coletta was more than just looking likely to qualify with a 10 shot buffer between his closing score the projected cut, but his choice of language was telling.

Any reflection on an outstanding strokeplay performance can wait for the 19-year-old. Instead it is that tomorrow looms large, and Coletta will be need to be at his best with the top seeding acting as a target on his back.

Fortunately, it will be a hard target to hit. Coletta is at the top of his game and making a mockery of a testing Olympia Fields layout that is bringing golf’s best Amateurs to their knees.

“I'm hitting my driver unbelievably,” admitted the 19-year-old.

“Having that extra distance and hitting it straight, and being able to hit those short irons in really helps. I mean, these greens here are really tough, tough to read, and you've got the pin positions out there that are quite tucked. I thought I played really well and really solid.”

Yet the word from the field this week has Olympia Fields’ greens secondary in difficulty to its formidable rough, growing longer by the day and punishing even the slightest mistake.

It’s even earned its own moniker as the Cabbage over the years, yet Coletta gave it no mention in his description of the course, making one wonder if he’s even noticed it during the last two days.

Although two outstanding rounds can sometimes be enough to win a 72 hole tournament, there is no such luxury at the week long US Amateur.

311 golfers currently sit below Coletta on the leadboard, but tomorrow he will just be one of the 64 golfers who are just happy to make the matchplay.

A top seeding is nice to have, but it’s even more important to is know you have the game to compete, and the belief you deserve to still be in Chicago come the weekend.

A medal might look nice on the mantelpiece, but an invitation in the mail from Augusta National will signify the real “big win” that Coletta, and the rest of the field, is chasing.