Eckroat leads qualifying for U.S. Amateur

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Austin Eckroat of Edmond shot rounds of 5-under 67 followed by a 1-over 73 for a 4-under total to lead three qualifiers who earned spots in the 2015 U.S. Amateur during qualifying Monday at the Golf Club of Oklahoma.

Also qualifying from the field of 76 were Jake Istnick of Dallas (67-74 – 141) and Stuart Smallwood of Paris, Texas (72-69 – 141). Alternate spots went to Kory Bowman of Springfield, Mo., (72-70 – 142) and Brendon Jelley of Tulsa (71-71 – 142).

The 2015 U.S. Amateur will be held Aug. 17-23 at Olympia Fields Country Club near Chicago.

For Eckroat, winning the qualifier was his third significant victory of the summer and made amends for the recent U.S. Junior Amateur Championship qualifier at Karsten Creek, where he shot 80-77 in a fierce wind and missed qualifying by a shot. Though he is an alternate, his odds are long of being added to the field.

 There was a strong breeze particularly for the afternoon round Monday on another Tom Fazio-designed course with plenty of trouble off the tee, but this time the Edmond North rising junior was bombing drives down the center.

"At Karsten Creek, my driving was terrible and I was in the trees at least six times," Eckroat said. "Today was much better. I only missed about three fairways in the first round and hit it solid in the afternoon as well."

 A recent visit to his swing coach Cameron McCormick, who also works with Jordan Spieth, heled straighten out the 2014 Class 6A state champion’s long game. Now he’ll head to Olympia Fields with the goal of earning a berth in the 2016 Masters, which goes to the winner and runner-up.

In May, Eckroat shattered scoring records in winning the Scott Robertson Memorial in Roanake, Va. He then won the OGA Junior Boys Championship at Kickingbird Golf Course in Edmond with a 3 and 1 victory over Rhett Bechtel of Edmond. Eckroat is committed to Oklahoma State University.

Jelley, who was a starter for Oklahoma State as a redshirt freshman this year, needed one more birdie to get into a playoff for the third qualifying spot, but missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th hole. He will be defending his Oklahoma State Amateur championship later this month at Oak Tree National. 

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Ken MacLeod

Publisher Golf Oklahoma | Oklahoma's No. 1 Golf Source

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