Brandon Wu didn’t waste much time adjusting to the Sandhills of North Carolina.
Wu, 22, of Scarsdale, N.Y., completed play in the Pan American Games on Sunday in Lima, Peru, finishing in fourth place individually and helping the mixed USA Team to a gold medal in the four-day event. He flew from Lima through Miami, Fla., to Pinehurst, N.C., arriving in mid-morning on Monday, and shot five-under-par 65 on Course No.4 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club for the Day 1 lead in stroke play of the 119th US Amateur Championship.
Wu, who received his Stanford University diploma behind the 18th green at Pebble Beach after finishing in a tie for 35th place in the 2019 US Open, set the competitive course record on Course No.4, which reopened in 2018 after a renovation by Gil Hanse. Wu holds a one-stroke lead over Trevor Werbylo, 21, of Tucson, Ariz., a junior at the University of Arizona, and Palmer Jackson, 18, of Murrysville, Pa., an incoming freshman at the University of Notre Dame, who both shot four-under 66.
“I tried to manage my sleep as well as I could,” said Wu, who is No.8 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “I slept great on the two flights up here and then took a quick nap before I teed off for about two hours. I actually felt pretty good.”
Wu closed with a flourish, making three consecutive birdies and an eagle on holes 14-17 to go from even par to five under. Wu, who helped the Cardinal to the NCAA team title in May, made a routine par-4 on No.18 for the solo lead.
Wu was one of 27 players to better par in Monday’s opening round, but only four of those under-par scores were recorded on Pinehurst No. 2, site of three US Opens and the 2024 US Open. At par-70, Course No.2 played to a 77.06 stroke average, while Course No.4 played to a 73.14 stroke average.
“No.2 is more narrow and has more diabolical greens,” said Travis Vick, 19, of Houston and an incoming freshman at the University of Texas who is competing in his third US Amateur. “[On Tuesday] I play in the afternoon and I heard there’s going to be a lot of wind, so it will be quite the test.”
RIGHT: Vick is competing in his third US Amateur. PHOTO: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images.
Werbylo is the nephew of former LPGA Tour player Cindy Rarick, and he also has Arizona assistant coach Chris Nallen as his caddie. Nallen was a semi-finalist in the 2004 US Amateur and a member of the 2003 USA Walker Cup Team.
“On the first nine holes, I wasn’t hitting the ball very well, especially off the tee,” said Werbylo, who is competing in his first US Amateur. “But I figured something out to get the ball in the fairway on my second nine. I know if you’re not hitting fairways out here eventually it’s going to catch up to you.”
Jackson, who won the Pennsylvania Class 3A state golf championship and helped his Franklin Regional High baseball team advance to the state quarterfinals, reached the Round of 16 in last month’s US Junior Amateur at Inverness, defeating defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen in the Round of 32.
Brad Dalke, of Norman, Okla., the runner-up in the 2016 US Amateur at Oakland Hills, was among four players at three-under 67. The best scores on Course No.2 were two-under 68s by William Walker III, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Van Holmgren, of Plymouth, Minn.; and Julien Sale, of France. That two-under total was matched by eight players on Course No.4, including 2018 semi-finalist Isaiah Salinda, of South San Francisco, Calif., who like Wu graduated from Stanford this spring.