Vollertsen's Amateur bid falls short
By BRETT MARSHALL
Grant Vollertsen knows all too well the pitfalls of falling behind early in golf's match play competition.
So when the 31-year-old Garden City dentist fell behind Leawood's Chase Hanna in Friday's second round of matches at the 103rd Kansas Amateur Championship, he realized it would be a deep hole from which to climb.
Unfortunately, not even Vollertsen could climb high enough after trailing 5-down through six holes of the scheduled 18-hole match at Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills.
And while he made a gallant charge on the back nine to close to within two holes of the 18-year-old Hanna, who is headed to the University of Kansas to play for the Jayhawks, Vollertsen eventually came up on the short end of a 4 and 3 margin to the current Kansas and Missouri junior champion.
"He got off to a good start and I got off to a bad one and that's a bad combination," Vollertsen said in a telephone interview Friday afternoon. "It was just too deep a hole for me."
Whether or not it was nerves for Vollertsen, he wasn't sure, but he 3-putted twice in those early holes while Hanna blitzed him with three birdies in taking command through six holes.
"He's too good a player to make those kinds of mistakes," Vollertsen said of Hanna. "Getting two or three down is a lot, let alone five. I think when you're in that situation you do press a little bit and maybe that's what I did. It was a tough situation."
Vollertsen got one hole back when he nailed a 9-iron to within two feet at the eighth hole and he had a chance to win the ninth, but missed a 10-footer for birdie to make the turn 4-down. Then he made his charge, winning the 10th with a par when Hanna 3-putted for the only time in the match. He followed that up with a 10-foot birdie putt to win the 11th, closing the deficit to two holes.
"I felt I had some momentum but I really felt I need to get to 1-down to put some extra pressure on him," Vollertsen said.
The two halved the 12th hole with par-4s and Vollertsen missed what would prove to be his final golden opportunity when he failed to get it up and down for par on the 13th as both players bogeyed. Hanna two-putted for par on the 14th while Vollertsen bogeyed and the same thing occurred on the 15th green where the match ended.
"I knew I had to play well, and I just didn't get it done," Vollertsen said. "I felt like I hit a lot of good shots, but I just need to sharpen up the short game."
It was the first time Vollertsen had advanced in the match play portion of the Amateur in his third appearance. He shot 74-70--144 to easily qualify for the match play and opened the match play on Thursday with a sudden death win (20 holes) over another Jayhawk golfer, David Auer, of Wichita.
"Overall, I know I can play with those guys," Vollertsen said. "I just need to sharpen up those loose ends. You always want to go as far as you can and the experience I gained will really help. The more you do this and the better you do, the nerves are less and less. You expect more. I'm excited about the week and how it went — disappointed to lose, but know I lost to one of the best players in the field."
Hanna proved to be up to the task in Friday's afternoon matches where he pounded former champion Corey Novascone of Wichita, 5 and 4. Novascone won the title in 1996.
The tournament continues today with two rounds of matches — quarterfinals in the morning and semifinals in the afternoon. The championship match will be played at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday and is a scheduled 36-hole match.
The 2016 Amateur will be returning to Garden City and The Golf Club at Southwind in 2016, with the dates of July 18 to 24. The 2014 and 2015 tournaments are slated for Mission Hills Country Club in Mission Hills and Wichita Country Club.
Results in Scoreboard, Page D2.