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Wu earns spot in U.S. Amateur

EAGLE POINT — Golfers entered in the U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Eagle Point Golf Club got some fantastic news on the eve of the sectional, and Medford’s Dylan Wu took full advantage Thursday afternoon on familiar terrain.

The local qualifier was due to automatically advance only one golfer and allow for two alternates leading up to the event, but that total got pushed to two automatic qualifiers on Wednesday night to double the player’s chances.

All that played into Wu’s hands … at least eventually.

Conner Kumpula of Albany took early control of the 36-hole qualifier with a sensational 5-under-par 67 in his first 18 holes, then finished in plenty of time with an even-par final 18 to sit comfortably and await his fate with a 139 total.

Wu was among a handful of players in position to challenge Kumpula after their own solid starts, but increasing winds and greens that grew harder under an unfiltered sun kept any challengers from knocking Kumpula off his perch.

Still, with that second spot up for grabs, it made things very interesting as a host of players gathered by the scoreboard to await the total for Wu, who was in the final group of the day to tee off and had finished his first round at 2-under-par 70.

When Wu finally turned the corner and had a smile on his face — unlike several others who previously turned in their scorecards during the tense wait — everyone knew that the No. 2 spot to play in the U.S. Amateur, set for Aug. 17-23, was all sewn up.

A repeat state champion at St. Mary’s High and current Northwestern University golfer, Wu posted a 73 on his final 18 holes to finish with a 36-hole tally of 1-under 143 and edge out a group of five golfers at 145 for the final automatic berth.

“Having a chance to make it to such a prestigious event definitely gives me confidence,” said Wu. “I feel grateful that I got to play well today and got the spot.”

Joshua Gliege of Eagle, Idaho, won the five-man playoff to finish as the first alternate, while Nigel Lett of Beaverton was second alternate. Also at 145 and among the playoff contenders were Cody Stoffel of Grants Pass, Justin Kadin of Corvallis and Peter Griffith of Westlake Village, California.

Ex-Rogue River High standout and current Oregon State golfer Kevin Murphy was hampered by a rough start that saw him reach 7-over-par through his first eight holes and lose use of his 3 iron after it got bent in a freak scenario that left him scratching his head after his two rounds. Murphy recalled possibly hitting a root on the 12th hole (his third of the day after starting on the back nine) and then had to take a step back on the fourth hole (12th overall) when things just didn’t look right standing over his approach shot.

“I don’t really know how it happened,” Murphy later explained. “I just looked down and the face (of the club) was flat.”

Even with the rough start, Murphy still finished tied for eighth at 146 — one shot outside the alternates playoffs — after posting a 69 on the final 18. Murphy played his final 27 holes at 5 under and was one of only three players to shoot under par during the second round.

None of those issues surrounded Kumpula, a junior teammate of Murphy’s at Oregon State. He kicked things into high gear with two birdies and an eagle on the back nine to finish as the first-round leader.

“I started out pretty rough, I was a little shaky,” admitted the 20-year-old Kumpula. “Then I just leveled myself out and started taking it one shot at a time and I put them close enough and they started to fall.”

“I knew if I just played my game, I’ve got it in me to shoot a good score,” he added.

Kumpula dropped two shots among his first four holes in the second round but back-to-back birdies on hole Nos. 15-16 (he started on the back nine) righted the ship and allowed him to secure his first chance to play in the U.S. Amateur.

“It’s awesome,” Kumpula said of Thursday’s win. “I’ve been trying at it for a while and now we’ll go and see what we can do there.”

Wu will also be making his first appearance in the U.S. Amateur after finishing one stroke out of contention in last year’s qualifier. Four days shy of his 19th birthday, Wu considered his qualification as an early gift to himself — albeit one that wasn’t easy to come by.

“This is probably the toughest I’ve played the course with the conditions we had, especially in the afternoon with all that wind,” he said. “But the greens were in fantastic shape and the fairways were great. This is the best course in the valley right now with its conditions and was definitely deserving of hosting this U.S. Amateur Qualifier.”

Wu was at 3 under in the first round until getting derailed late with a double bogey on the 17th hole after he airmailed a wedge from 95 yards out. He responded with a birdie on the 18th, highlighted by a 4 iron into the wind from about 210 yards that settled nine feet from the hole.

“That definitely gave me confidence for the second round,” he said.

While he was within striking distance of Kumpula, Wu could never make up the difference under the trying conditions.

“I had a lot of opportunities to make a lot of putts and they were just lipping out and burning edges,” said Wu. “I just told myself to be patient and make pars and the birdies will come. Luckily it was somehow good enough to limp into the clubhouse and withstand everything.”

Among other locals attempting to qualify, Ashland’s Matt Hedges finished tied for 20th at 153 after rounds of 77 and 76 and recent Cascade Christian High graduate Jake Quast, who helped lead the Challengers to their first state title, finished tied for 24th at 154 (79-75). The field was trimmed to 39 players after 10 entrants withdrew or failed to show up Thursday.

U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifier

At Eagle Point Golf Club

1, Conner Kumpula, Albany, 67-72—139; 2, Dylan Wu, Medford, 70-73—143; T3, Joshua Gliege, Eagle, Idaho, 71-74—145, and Nigel Lett, Beaverton, 73-72—145, and Justin Kadin, Corvallis, 72-73—145, and Cody Stoffel, Grants Pass, 73-72—145, and Peter Griffith, Westlake Village, Calif., 74-71—145; T8, Kevin Murphy, Corvallis, 77-69—146, and Ross Kukula, Seattle, 74-72—146, and Zach Foushee, West Linn, 74-72—146.

11, Justin Wiles, Klamath Falls, 76-71—147; 12, Adam Ruben, Lake Oswego, 73-75—148; T13, Ryan Melnychuk, Grants Pass, 75-74—149, and Jacob Henderson, Eugene, 74-75—149; 15, Dylan Cramer, Bend, 74-76—150; 16, Gerrit Chambers, Brush Prairie, Wash., 77-74—151; T17, Austin Spicer, Gresham, 72-80—152, and Ryan Kukula, Salem, 73-79—152, and Trey Johnson, Tualatin, 75-77—152; T20, Matt Hedges, Ashland, 77-76—153, and Ty Chambers, Brush Prairie, Wash., 75-78—153, and Grahm Schmaltz, Bend, 76-77—153, and Matthew Corley, Pendleton, 76-77—153.

T24, Jake Quast, Ashland, 79-75—154, and Collin Fuller, Salem, 75-79—154, and Chris Polski, Eugene, 78-76—154, and Tyler O’Dell, Canby, 79-75—154; T28, Michiel Eyre, Salem, 75-80—155, and Ryan Decastilhos, Bend, 80-75—155; T30, Noah Yano, Happy Valley, 74-82—156, and Sean Fitzpatrick, Port Orchard, Wash., 80-76—156; 32, Max Carter, Lake Oswego, 79-78—157; 33, Jerry Johnson, Klamath Falls, 76-82—158; 34, Hunter Wescott, Portland, 80-79—159; T35, Dylan Johnson, Tualatin, 79-83—162, and Arlo Mallery, Eugene, 83-79—162; 37, Cody Gardner, Albany, 84-79—163; 38, Greg Spencer, Renton, Wash., 80-84—164; 39, Jamie Olsen, Salem, 84-86—170.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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Dylan Wu tees off on the 17th hole during the U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Eagle Point Golf Club on Thursday. PHOTOS BY ANDY ATKINSON
Conner Kumpula chips onto the 18th green during the U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Eagle Point Golf Club.