McGowan makes charge at North and South

Jul. 05, 2013 @ 01:27 PM

The 113th North and South Amateur just became a home game.

Southern Pines native Michael McGowan carded his low round of the championship, firing a 3-under 68 to claim the No. 7 seed entering the match play portion of the event, which begins on Friday on Donald Ross’ famed Pinehurst No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort.

McGowan, the son of former PGA Tour and Champions Tour player Pat McGowan and the grandson of golf legend Peggy Kirk Bell, finished tied for fourth at 5-under par after Thursday’s final round of stroke play. He will play 10th-seeded Andrew Bailey of Cleveland State, who also played the opening three rounds in 5-under 208.

Purdue’s Adam Schenk, one of the hottest amateur golfers in the country after winning the Indiana Amateur last month, was the medalist after a 4-under 67 left him three shots clear of the field at 10-under 203.

But while others have gone lower than McGowan, perhaps no one remaining in the field will have had more North and South experience than the University of North Carolina senior. McGowan’s been such a staple of the area golf scene he’s lost count how many combined North and South Junior and North and South Amateurs he’s appeared in.

“I tell people it’s five to eight, or something like that,” he said.

Not only, though, will he have experience on his side, McGowan may have a loyal following, too.

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And while some may feel pressure about potentially forging the first grandmother-grandson pair to win the North and South – Bell won the North and South Women’s Amateur in 1949 – McGowan said he would welcome a local gallery.

“Maybe if I get a group of people out, the guy I’m playing will think about it a little bit,” he said. “If I have a big crowd there and he has no one, who knows?”

Still, it might be a tall order for McGowan, who is coming off a win at the Carolinas Golf Association’s recent Coastland Invitational. Schenk has been a birdie machine on the 7,109-yard, par-71 No. 4, and the Purdue senior has finished in the top eight in his last five appearances.

“I’ve been playing well all summer,” he said. “But match play is totally different. It’s definitely a different strategy than the last three days. That’s all erased. Everybody is back on the same playing field.”

McGowan likes that.

“I’m very happy because you get a clean slate,” McGowan said. “As long as you’re in that top 16, stroke play doesn’t matter. If you were 10-under, you got in. If you were 3-under, you got in.”

Corey Conners, the Canadian and Kent State star who held the first-round lead and a share of the 36-hole lead, tied for second with Duke recruit Adam Wood at 7-under 206.

“This has been the goal all along,” Conners said. “Get here, and now anything can happen.”

Prep phenom Ben Griffin, who has won two 4-A North Carolina state championships in his first three high school seasons and committed to play for North Carolina in February 2012, was also tied for fourth at 5-under and earned the No. 5 seed. Griffin narrowly missed a top 16 a year ago when he lost in a playoff at Pinehurst No. 8.

The round of 16 and quarterfinals will be played on No. 2 on Friday, with the semifinals and the championship match decided on Saturday.

McGowan would be the first Moore County native to win the North and South since Jack Fields in 2011. Before that, a local player had not won the prestigious amateur championship since 1993 when Southern Pines’ Kelly Mitchum prevailed.

“I love the opportunity to go out and play, especially on my home turf,” McGowan said. “I’m going to try to bring it back home.”

And if he does, you can bet Ma Bell will be on hand to witness it.

“She thinks I’m the best golfer who ever played the game,” McGowan said. “I look up to her more than anyone. It would be really cool to get her out here and have her be a part of it, especially with the Opens coming up.”

113TH NORTH AND SOUTH AMATEUR

PINEHURST NO. 2

MATCH PLAY

ROUND OF 16

FRIDAY

No. 1 Adam Schenk vs. No. 16 Andrew Dorn 7:30 a.m.

No. 8 Richard Fountain vs. No. 9 Mickey Moyers 7:38 a.m.

No. 4 Jade Scott vs. No. 13 Max Greyserman 7:46 a.m.

No. 5 Ben Griffin vs. No. 12 Seth Reeves 7:54 a.m.

No. 2 Adam Wood vs. No. 15 Zachary Bauchou 8:02 a.m.

No. 7 Michael McGowan vs. No. 10 Andrew Bailey 8:10 a.m.

No. 3 Corey Conners vs. No. 14 Garrett King 8:18 a.m.

No. 6 Grayson Murray vs. No. 11 Sam Love 8:26 a.m.