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LMU’s Elmes leaves field behind in U.S. Amateur sectional

EAGLE POINT — Riley Elmes got an invitation to go low.

He couldn’t RSVP fast enough.

Elmes, from Lake Oswego and a senior-to-be at Loyola Marymount University, scorched Eagle Point Golf Club in the early going en route to victory in U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying Tuesday.

Elmes played his first nine holes in 6-under-par 30 and barely cooled off despite triple-digit temperatures. He finished the two rounds — 36 sweltering holes — at 12-under 132 to secure one of two berths in the national championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links Aug. 13-19.

The other to advance was Shawn Lu, a Honolulu native entering his junior year at Oregon State, where he’s been a regular on the golf team for two years. Lu came in at 9-under 135, fashioning a 5-under 31 on his final nine to finish with a flourish.

Fifty-nine players completed both rounds.

Tom Parker, of Christchurch, New Zealand, shot 137 and was first alternate, while second-alternate status went to Scotty Kennon, of Bandon, at 139.

Joshua Wu and Reese Fisher led a handful of players with local ties.

Wu, who plays for Air Force, was one shot off the alternate line at 140. An eagle-3 on his final hole in the first round, No. 9 on the course proper, gave him a 67 and put him in second behind Elmes.

Fisher, who plays for Weber State, shot a 142, finishing off the day with a 68.

Players found the setup of the course to their liking: fairways with roll, greens smooth for putting and soft enough to hold approach shots even with long irons, and a bit of a breeze that came in handy at their backs.

Elmes took that as an invitation to have his way.

He went out in the second group of the morning and turned heads by rattling off birdies, including on the first two holes and the last two holes of his first nine.

“The greens were very receptive,” said Elmes, who completed a stellar year at Loyola, in Los Angeles, this past year. He had seven top-five finishes and a scoring average of 71.36, earning an at-large berth to the NCAA regionals.

“Wherever you hit the ball, that’s where it was going stay,” he said. “So especially for long irons coming into the par 5s, it was very easy to put it on and make birdies with two putts. I think that was the key to having a low score out there today.”

Despite the fast start, he didn’t consider getting conservative to protect against trouble.

“I don’t think that should ever be anyone’s plan if you have a lead because you’re changing your mindset,” said Elmes, who tied for the Class 6A state championship in 2015. “I was hitting the ball pretty well, so that’s always that green light to go for flags.”

Lu started early on No. 10 and took note of Elmes’ handiwork.

“Yeah, I definitely saw that. It just basically spelled out ‘gettable,’” he said, referring to the course.

Elmes shot 65 in the first round, then made three birdies on his next nine to keep it going.

The only glitch came on the par-3 No. 3 hole, where he made double-bogey.

He missed the green right — one of only two or three greens he didn’t hit in regulation — then couldn’t couldn’t escape on his first try from the bunker he found himself in.

“I just knew I had five out of six pretty easy holes coming in,” said Elmes, “so there was no need to worry.”

To prove it, he birdied four of them, making a 10-foot putt on his final hole, No. 9, to get to a dozen under.

At the start of the summer, Elmes’ game wasn’t sharp.

“I was just kind of figuring things out,” he said. “I didn’t really know what my ball was doing. Now, I definitely know what my ball is doing.”

In addition to the U.S. Amateur, he’ll play in the Canadian Am, the Western Am and the Pacific Coast Am.

Lu competed in all 11 tournaments for the Beavers as a sophomore and had a scoring average of 72.35

His blistering final nine holes led to a second-round 65, tying Elmes for the day’s best score.

In addition to favorable course conditions, the pins stayed the same for the afternoon round.

“So you kind of learned already what do do,” said Lu.

He trailed Elmes by five shots to start Round 2, then compounded matters with a bogey on his second hole. Lu responded with birdies on eight of his final 15 holes.

“I just knew there were a lot of holes left,” he said. “There was a lot of golf to be played. Over 18 holes, anything could happen. I just kept my head down and kept playing golf.”

Among other players of local interest, Matt Hedges, of Grants Pass, shot 146; Eugene’s Chris Polski, the 2015 men’s regular division winner in the Southern Oregon Golf Championships, also had a 146; Jake Quast, of Medford, shot 158; and George Lavalley, of Medford, had 170.

Tommy Smith, a three-time SOGC winner who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, withdrew after the first round.

Top 20

1, Riley Elmes, Lake Oswego, 67-65—132; 2, Shawn Lun, Honolulu, 70-65—135; 3, Tom Parker, Christchurch, New Zealand, 69-68—137; T-4, Scotty Kennon, Bandon, 68-71—139; Edwin Yi, Eugene, 69-70—139; T-6, Ben Wanichek, Eugene, 70-70—140; Joshua Wu, 67-73—140; 8, Jacob Tarkany, Scottsdale, Ariz., 68-73—141; 9, Reese Fisher, Medford, 74-68—142.

T-10, Hunter Westcott, Portland, 69-74—143; Noah Goldman, Albany, 71-72—143; Will Strauss, San Diego, 71-72—143; T-13, Craig Ronne, Klamath Falls, 71-73—144; Austin Spicer, Gresham, 69-75—144; Jack Pennington, Eugene, 72-72—144; T-16, Alec Berrey, Corvallis, 75-70—145; Justin Kadin, Corvallis, 70-75—145; Bryce Wortman, Crewswell, 71-74—145; Jacob Larson, Vancouver, Wash., 73-72—145; T-20, Matthew Hedges, Grants Pass, 70-76—146; Matthew Werner, West Linn, 73, 73—146; Chris Polski, Eugene, 70-76—146; Max Holm, Walnut Creek, Calif., 72-74—146; Samuel Pyon, Happy Valley, 73-73—146.

Others

Jake Quast, Medford, 78-80—158; George Lavalley, Medford, 93-77—170.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or email ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.

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