Basalt golfer Knous bound for U.S. Amateur | AspenTimes.com

Basalt golfer Knous bound for U.S. Amateur

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Published: Contributed photo

AURORA, Colo. – Jim Knous lined up a 50-foot birdie putt, swung his putter and watched as the ball picked up speed, hit the back of the cup, popped into the air and fell into the hole.

“When you have big rounds, you need some luck,” Knous said of his good fortune at No. 12 during Monday’s 36-hole U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifier at Aurora’s Heritage Eagle Bend Golf Club.

The Basalt resident did not need much help in the opening round. He methodically took command of both the course and his opposition, recording an eagle and seven birdies during a bogey-free 9-under par 63 – good for a new course record.

By virtue of his 2-under 70 in the afternoon, Knous secured a three-shot victory and, more important, a spot in the prestigious U.S. Amateur, which begins Aug. 22 at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

“This was one of my top goals for the summer. I wanted to test myself,” the Colorado School of Mines senior said Thursday. “I’ve been thinking about the possibility of going pro next year after my eligibility is up … so I was thinking hopefully I’d make the Amateur and find out how I stack up against the best amateurs in the country.

“This was something I needed to do. … I had been practicing for a couple weeks in a row and knew my game was in good condition. I was feeling it. It was probably the best day to have a good day like that.”

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Knous’ resume now includes two course records. Less than a year ago, during the Colorado Golf Association Stroke Play Championship at Boulder Country Club, he fired a

10-under round of 60 to top a previous record shared by three-time U.S. Open Winner Hale Irwin.

“Man, it was thrilling beyond belief to be a part of that thing,” Steve Knous, Jim’s father and caddy that afternoon, told The Aspen Times.

“This is as good as it gets. I thought he was playing well enough to shoot 65, but 60? That’s got to be the baseball equivalent of a perfect game.”

Knous was nearly perfect Monday. He split the fairway with his opening drive at No. 1, stuck his approach from 80 yards to about 2 feet and converted the first of his three front-nine birdies.

After a par at 10, Knous began a torrid stretch that included three consecutive birdies and an eagle at the short par-5 14th; he reached the green in two, then drained a 12-foot putt.

“I was just feeling it on those holes,” Knous said. “I always try to play each hole one shot at a time, and those shots just happened to be better than the rest.”

Knous made birdie at 16, then saved par on 18 to secure his place in the record books.

He struggled at times during the second round, but recorded six birdies and mounted a back-nine charge to nab one of three available spots in the U.S. Amateur.

Wyndham Clark of Greenwood Village and Montrose’s Drew Trujillo shared second place with 8-under 136s.

“I started off badly and was 2-over at one point. I knew I had to get some strokes back,” Knous said. “I was thinking in my head that 8- or 9-under would be the last qualifying spot, so I wanted to be at least at 10- or 11-under to make sure I made it.

“I had a good head start.”

He was eager to share the news with his father, who could not make the trip.

“He was freaking out, yelling at me, ‘You’re going to Wisconsin, baby!’ Stuff like that,” Knous said with a chuckle. “It’s going to be a really good experience I think.”

He is hoping for a repeat performance in Wisconsin, where much will be on the line. With his U.S. Amateur victory in 2010, Oklahoma State University All-American Peter Uihlein received exemptions to the Masters and the U.S. and British opens.

“I really haven’t been thinking about that. I’m just going to keep practicing the next couple weeks, hit it hard and see if I can do something out there,” Knous said.

“I’m not really nervous yet, but I know that once I show up on that first tee I’ll be trembling. I hope that first one goes straight.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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