Kulacz, Arnold qualify for US Amateur
BY Anthony Powter | US Mens Amateur Tour | 2007 US Amateur Championship | 02 Aug 2007
Rick Kulacz departed Australia two months ago eager to make his mark in the tough American major amateur circuit and build upon his recent Australian successes.
In the previous six months Kulacz had bagged two significant wins back home with the Federal Amateur and the NSW Open, capped with winning the Dunes Medal and the 2007 South Australian Invitational.
Kulacz was 35th in the R&A world amateur ranking and ready to test his game against the world’s best amateurs on the tough American circuit.
Making the quarter finals of the British Amateur proved that his game on foreign shores was there, yet his early results in the US were disappointing, particularly in the Dogwood Invitational and the Players Amateur, where twelve months earlier he’d finished well.
“I felt that my game was definitely better than it has been and I wanted to put it under the pump for a change, because the trip so far had not been that rewarding for myself,” were his comments after the Porter Cup last Saturday.
On Monday at Bon Vivant Country Club, some fifty minutes south of Chicago and venue for one of the numerous US Amateur qualifying venues, things then changed for Kulacz.
After 36 grueling holes, Kulacz finished the top qualifier and with that was heading to the US Amateur Championship proper at the Olympic Club in San Francisco later this month with rounds of 70, 68.
In one of his best performances to date in the US, Kulacz played a virtually unknown layout to perfection, out performing many of his fancied American counterparts who were familiar with the course and conditions.
“We arrived the day after Porter Cup and drove about two hours to get to the place, so we didn’t even have a practice round,” remarked Kulacz this afternoon after his first round 70 to be T16 at the Western Amateur being played in Michigan.
“We just bought yardage books and played the course blind in the morning. Conditions were great all day and the course was 7500 yards off the back, but the fairways were rock hard so you got plenty of roll. The problem was more with the fairways as their width was ridiculous.”
Despite playing the course “blind”, Kulacz was able to control his game and emotions to keep the large numbers off his card, which ultimately would be to his benefit.
“I had so many flyers from out of the rough, you just had to try and manage, it was extremely draining and at time frustrating,” commented the 22-year-old.
Kulacz made the turn of the first eighteen tied second. A round the result of consistent putting on greens that were to all players surprisingly slow given the nature of the event, which is considered one of the toughest for foreign players to compete in.
“The greens were really slow so it was a bit of a shock out there,” commented Kulacz. “I played well in the morning to shoot 70. I just had one mishap on a short par five where I made bogey. I was feeling good about where I’d played to be tied second after eighteen.”
Kulacz is no stranger to being in the breech in a big event scenarios, his efforts both in the Federal Amateur last October and more so with the 2006 NSW Open, where he won in a playoff from professional Tony McFadyean, are testament that he performs in pressure situations.
The door had opened to make the US Amateur and the situation was no different to these previous pressures back in Australia, yet Kulaks kept his composure and now is heading to one of his biggest challenges later in the month in San Francisco.
“After lunch, I knew another good round would get me through. In the afternoon I came out pumped and birdied three holes in a row from the second as well as the fifth, which really set my round up.”
“I then followed it with birdie on 11. I just really played for pars on the back nine. I knew 6 under would be enough so I just didn’t do anything outrageous out there.”
Kulacz joins Jamie Arnold who also qualified in Chicago, as the two latest Australians so far that are bound for the US Amateur.
The US Amateur is an event dominated traditionally by the Americans, yet in the last three out of four years, has been won by foreigners, starting with our own Nick Flanagan in 2003. The momentum has swung the foreigners way, and in Kulacz as well as Arnold’s case, you would like to see this trend continue when the US Amateur starts 20 August, at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.