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MEN'S GOLF: Former John Hardin star Clements qualifies for U.S. Am (07/31)

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By Greg Crews

 

By GREG CREWS gcrews@thenewsenterprise.com BARDSTOWN — Memories of the final nine holes at The Fox Club in Palm City, Fla., were in the back of Karsten Clements’ mind Monday as he entered the homestretch of the U.S. Amateur Championship Qualifier at Bardstown Country Club’s Maywood Golf Course. At Fox Club last year, the John Hardin High School graduate and University of Louisville junior was on pace to qualify for the 107th U.S. Amateur Championship but came up short on the final nine holes of the 36-hole event. It was a different story Monday. Playing back-to-back rounds, Clements started his day off with a six-under 66 and followed it up with a one-under 71 to tie for first place out of a field of 50 and earn 1-of-2 spots in the 108th U.S. Amateur Championship. “Last year on the back nine of the second round, if I would have stayed at three-over par I would have qualified, but I took a seven or eight on No. 10,” Clements said. “With that in the back of my mind (Monday), I just knew to play hard but not force the issue.” For his efforts, Clements and tournament co-medalist Ben Fuqua will get the chance to compete against 310 other golfers for a prestigious title on one of golf’s holy grounds — Pinehurst (N.C). “Obviously, it’s the biggest tournament I have played in except for maybe the NCAA Championships,” Clements said. “Everyone knows Pinehurst from the U.S. Opens being there. … It’s going to be neat getting to play there.” The tournament, which runs Aug. 18-24 on Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4, begins with 36 holes of stroke play. Then, the top 64 players will complete in match play for the title, with the championship being decided over a 36-hole match. In all, the champion will have played nine rounds in a week. While Clements admits the field, the course and the format are all a bit daunting, he doesn’t think he has to be worried about being overwhelmed. “I just have to go over there and play smart,” he said. “They say at the British Open, 50 percent of the field plays their way out of the tournament on the first day because they are just happy to be there. I’m happy to get to play in this, but I am going to see how far I can go. Who knows what’s going to happen.” If Clements plays like he did Monday at Maywood, he certainly won’t have to worry about playing himself out. Clements opened his round with a bogey on the first hole but got back on track with a birdie on the second before shooting up the leaderboard with birdies on Nos. 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. He also birdied No. 13 to get to six-under. After finishing his first round with five straight pars, Clements took a 20-minute break, then went back to work. He birdied the first and fourth holes, bogeyed the seventh and birdied the eighth to make the turn at two-under. On the 15th, he hit out of bounds but managed to escape with a bogey. “I got up-and-down for bogey, and that was good,” Clements said. “I thought that late in the round, a double bogey would be rough. It would be hard to come back from. But I rolled in a 12-foot putt and walked off with a bogey.” Clements finished the day with a 137 (seven-under) to tie with Fuqua of Danville, who shot 64-73. “It’s really something,” Clements said of his round. “I came back from the NCAA and played really bad in the (Kentucky State) Amateur. I needed to get away from the game a little bit. “I took a little while off and I think I came into this week kind of prepared.” Greg Crews can be reached at 505-1754