It was late in the summer of 2008, and nobody in the golf world outside of Baton Rouge, La., knew who Patrick Reed was. I had just been hired by the USGA as a new member of their Media Operations staff, and the first National Championship they sent me to work was the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
One of my most vivid memories of the week took place on the second day of stroke play, when the field is trimmed to the low 64 scores so that they can set up the match play brackets. Late in the afternoon, I went over to the large, hand-written scoreboard near the practice putting green – the one that has every player’s name and scorecard on it and gets filled in by a volunteer as the players finish. I went there to try and get a feel for what the cut was going to be and to see if some of the bigger names in amateur golf at the time might be advancing.
When I got there, I noticed a young player staring at the board intensely, trying to figure out what the number was going to be. I remember him being very nervous about it, as was his mom who was standing right next to him. I asked him how he had played.
“I played better yesterday than I did today,” he said. “I’m just hoping and praying that I make it to match play.”
I looked over at his bag tags – they showed the last name “Reed.” I then checked the scoreboard, and saw that it was Patrick, a recent high school graduate from Louisiana. I knew nothing about him.
Reed had reason to be concerned as he stood at plus 4, right near the cutline. When I went back to the board an hour later, he and his mom Jeanette were still standing there, calculating how many players might end up in a tie, and having to go to a playoff for the final match play spots.
Reed ended up making match play right on the number, along with a bunch of other players. By one stroke, he avoided a massive 26-for-2 playoff that was going to be held the next morning.
In his first match, Reed defeated Dan Woltman of Beaver Dam, Wisc. – the third=seeded player who had outscored Reed by seven shots in stroke play – winning the match in 19 holes and advancing under the pressure, showing very early signs that he had what it took to win in match play golf.
Later that afternoon, Reed got past Brady Exber of Las Vegas, Nev., 4 and 3, to reach the Round of 16. Because of our conversation by the scoreboard, I had taken an interest in Reed’s results and had sought him out to wish him well that afternoon, prior to his next match. His demeanor seemed no different than the other outstanding young amateur golfers that were in the field, but I recall a very “sure of himself” and confident persona. He had a small support group of family there, and his dad Bill was on his bag caddying for him.
The next day, the still unknown Reed showed his grit and determination by grinding out a win over Brandon Detweiler of Akron, Penn. in 23 holes, playing five extra holes in a match in which every swing and stroke held his fate on the line. Detweiler had previously dispatched of future PGA Tour pro Brian Harman in the Round of 32.
Then, after Reed went out in the quarterfinals and took care of Canadian Graham Hill 5 and 4, we brought him into the USGA interview room, so that he could answer questions from the media. It was my job to moderate the interview.
In that instance, Patrick showed no signs of any ill will towards his father Bill, and in fact was very thankful and appreciative. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
DAVE FANUCCHI: I ran into you on Tuesday at the scoreboard and you were on the number at plus four for stroke play, and you were counting guys to see if you were even going to get into match play. Now you're two wins from the U.S. Amateur championship. Talk about that - getting in right underneath the number.
PATRICK REED: Yeah, that was nerve wracking, especially after going out the first round and putting a decent round of 1-over, being in fine position, but then actually coming out and playing not so great around the next day and having to sit there and worry about that cut keep moving up. I'm just thanking God that he actually let me make the cut and get into the match play.
DAVE FANUCCHI: Talk about your feelings getting to this point then, a semifinalist, you're 18 years old, going to be a freshman at the University of Georgia, could you even envision yourself in this position on Monday?
PATRICK REED: I'm speechless about it. I've just been taking one hole at a time, just been hoofing along with my dad who is on the bag, just hitting great shots and just having fun out there. And whatever happens, happens. It's led us this far and so hopefully it continues.
Reed would face the No. 1 ranked amateur player in the world the next day in New Zealander Danny Lee. And it was Lee who finally ended the young Reed’s run, in a match where the winner would likely earn an invitation to the 2009 Masters. Lee defeated Reed 3 and 2, and went on to win the Championship with a 5 and 4 win in the 36-hole final over Drew Kittleson.
After being eliminated, we brought Reed back into the media room again to chat with the press. This was after his father Bill – who had been caddying for Patrick all week – had to hand the bag off to another caddie, because he had developed blisters on his feet. Reed talked about his father’s help and support.
DAVE FANUCCHI: Sum up your week. Again as we talked yesterday, you were right on the cut line at plus four just to get into match play, so you have to be pretty proud of yourself to get this far.
PATRICK REED: Oh, yeah, especially when it's my first time making match play in this tournament. And I was playing, I really wasn't hitting the ball that well at all for the whole first two days and then started getting better every day. I just love to see myself improve every day, a little bit every day and especially today the way I hit the ball. I hit every fairway almost and may have hit almost every green and made him actually look at my golf ball at times, because he was hitting his drivers a tad farther than me all day. He just didn't crack. And when he did, I took advantage of it, but then he made a clutch putt on 15 to go 2-up with 3 to play, and I just couldn't catch him.
DAVE FANUCCHI: Talk about your father, what he's meant to you this week on the bag and I guess he ran out of gas around the back nine here, and you actually had an opponent of yours earlier in the week Brady Exber jump on the bag to finish caddying for you the rest of the round.
PATRICK REED: Right. Well, I love having my dad on the bag. Last year, we didn't have a great year on the bag together and this year we had a great time. And if it wasn't for the blisters, he would have been there all the way through 16. He tried as hard as he could and just couldn't make it. I didn't want him to force it, so luckily Brady, great guy, great gentleman, actually offered to help us out. He offered to come caddie for me for the last couple holes and he was itching to get on the bag. And my dad was just like, you know, my heels are just killing me, I'm like, all right, so enough was enough and we got someone else in there. Without my dad though on the bag this whole week, there's no way I would have gotten all the way here to the semis.
Who knew back then, that it would be Reed who would go on to have the most stellar professional career of anyone in the field.
And this field was incredible. No fewer than 27 players that made their way to Pinehurst that week as amateurs, have gone on to play the PGA Tour. The list includes quarterfinalists Reed and Lee, as well as Derek Fathauer and Morgan Hoffmann; Sweet 16 participants Rickie Fowler, Sihwan Kim, Andrew Landry and Kevin Tway; Round of 32 advancers Billy Horschel, Brian Harman, Kyle Stanley, Peter Uihlein, Wesley Bryan and Nick Taylor; Match Play qualifiers Adam Hadwin, Jhonattan Vegas, Jamie Lovemark, Sam Saunders and Scott Langley; and stroke players Byeong-hun An, Robert Streb, Chesson Hadley, Bud Cauley, Jon Peterson, Andrew Putnam, Bronson Burgoon and Blayne Barber.
In the end, Fowler is the most popular, and Horschel has captured a FedEx Cup, but it was Reed who emerged as the first in the group to win a major, unless you still count the U.S. Amateur as one. Only he knows what went awry between he and his parents – something that many golf fans are wondering, after watching him win a green jacket. Who is Patrick Reed? Still a very valid question. Not even Bill and Jeanette know the answer to that anymore.
But the teenager I met back in the summer of 2008 was just your average, semi-cocky golfer who thought he could beat anybody. Most of the players that are good enough at that age to make the field of a U.S. Amateur, need to be pretty confident about what they are doing. So, his attitude didn’t surprise me. But standing over by the scoreboard that day, I had no idea that I was talking to a future Masters champion.
Dave Fanucchi is the author of the book “Miracle on Grass - How Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda led Team USA to a Shocking Upset over Cuba, Capturing the only Olympic Gold Medal in USA Baseball History” for sale on Amazon.com. He is currently the Journalism Teacher at M.L. Wisdom High School in Houston.