Until this week, no Mississippian has ever reached the quarterfinals of the men’s U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.
Friday afternoon, in Pinehurst, North Carolina, two young Mississippians –17-year-old Cohen Trolio of West Point and 21-year-old Andy Ogletree of Little Rock (near Meridian) – will tee it up among the final eight golfers.
Trolio plays Kentuckian Austin Squires, a recent graduate of Cincinnati, in the first quarterfinal match at 1:30 p.m. Ogletree, a senior at Georgia Tech, plays Spencer Ralston of Gainesville, Georgia, in the second match at 1:45.
Should Trolio and Ogletree win today they would play in Saturday’s semifinals. Some perspective is necessary here: A total of 7,191 golfers worldwide tried to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. Of those, 256 made it to Pinehurst, 64 qualified for match play and now they are down to eight. Two are Mississippians.
Trolio, a high school senior committed to play college golf at LSU, rode a wave of birdies into the quarterfinals. Trolio birded six of 14 holes at famed Pinehurst No. 2 en route to a 5 and 4 victory over much more experienced Alex Fitzpatrick of England. Ogletree, who played his junior golf at Northwood CC in Meridian, defeated Californian Blake Hathcoat, also 5 and 4, to reach the quarters.
“Man, how amazing is this for Mississippi golf?” said former PGA Tour champion Jim Gallagher Jr., of Greenwood, now a Golf Channel commentator. “Since I moved here 30 years ago, it’s unbelievable how junior golf has changed in this state. We’ve got better courses, better instruction and what you’re seeing at Pinehurst is all the proof you need.”
Trolio, son of much-sought-after Old Waverly golf instructor V.J. Trolio, is the youngest player remaining. His father is caddying for him.
Gallagher has played golf with Cohen Trolio and watched him grow for the last 11 years.
“His ball-striking is just phenomenal,” Gallagher said. “If he putts well, there’s no telling how far he can go in this game because very few people can hit it like he does.”
This is Trolio’s first venture onto the national golf stage, his first time to play televised (FS1 Network) golf.
“I did a good job of sticking to my expectations and not letting the whole, ‘This is a big USGA event” take over my brain,” Trolio said.
His dad helps.
“He helps me a bunch,” Cohen Trolio said of his father. “He’s my man. He’s got my back. As long as you separate the difference between being a dad and a caddie and a swing coach you’re all good.”
Ogletree, a notoriously long hitter, was All-Atlantic Coast Conference at Georgia Tech this past spring. Long-time meridian Northwood Country Club pro Jimmy Gamblin, who now lives in Oxford, taught Ogletree beginning at age 6.
“Andy’s biggest thing is his desire to excel,” Gamblin said. “Even when he was little, he practiced with a purpose. He wanted to be the best he can be. I’ll guarantee you, he believes he can win.”
“My game has gotten a lot better since I got (to Tech),” Ogletree said. “I had some incredible rounds because I could hit it pretty good but I wasn’t an all-around player. I’ve learned and gotten better with my short game, and my scoring average has gone down a stroke a year.”
Trolio turned 17 just last week and played a round with Gallagher at Mossy Oak in West Point.
“I’ve never seen that kid, or just about any kid, hit a golf ball like he did that day,” Gallagher, a former Ryder Cup hero and six-time PGA Tour champion, said. “I told him, ‘From now on, you’re going to have to give me two shots a side.’”