An eerie silence hung over the eighth hole of the Kirkbrae Country Club golf course. There wasn’t much to talk about as Chuck Isgar ’20.5 studied the contours and tilts of the green before lining up a 30-foot putt, but his partner, Drew Powell ’21, did offer up one piece of advice: “Go do it.”
So in front of a small audience consisting of three golfers and a couple of officials, Isgar attempted a shot for birdie that would send the two to the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
Thirty-three and a half hours earlier, Powell and Isgar teed off at the qualifying tournament with a goal of punching their tickets to the United States Golf Association event. The Four-Ball Championship has a unique format in which two golfers team up, play the entire course simultaneously and count the lowest score on each hole. Each team is only allowed one opportunity to qualify, and if they do not succeed in that attempt, they must wait until the next year to try again.
At the qualifier hosted in Lincoln, Rhode Island, only the top two pairs earned berths to the national championship, out of 40 teams vying for the coveted spots.
Though they didn’t enter the tournament with a set strategy, the duo knew they could rely on their complementary playing styles to piece together a solid score. Powell has an edge in driving the ball while Isgar comes up clutch in must-make putts. When one made par, the other could be a bit more aggressive and go for trickier shots.
That collaboration proved successful through 15 holes. The Bears had momentum and a five-under-par score of 66 after Powell started the day with a birdie on the second hole and shaved off another stroke by sinking a 40-foot putt on the sixth. But dark clouds and sirens halted Powell and Isgar’s play with only three holes left, and the pair was carted off the course to watch the rain. They wouldn’t have a shot at completing the course until the following afternoon.
Perhaps it was Isgar’s decision to re-wear the (now lucky) neon green golf shirt he had sported the day before that kept them in contention on the second day as the team had a slow start. A par on 16 left both a touch disappointed, and recording a bogey on 17 — the only hole of the tournament where both went over par — nearly took them out of the running altogether. A chance at staying near the top of the field came down to Isgar making a six-foot putt for birdie on the last hole of the course. Holding true to the team’s plan of playing off each other’s strengths, Isgar tapped the ball exactly where it needed to go and sealed their score at five under par.
With signed score sheets and a small sense of relief, the two headed to the clubhouse to await their fate. As hours ticked away and team after team came in, Powell and Isgar’s 66 kept them in second place. Their coaches and teammates flooded their phones with congratulatory messages while their competitors told them how much fun they would have in Oregon during the Four-Ball Championship.
But the Bears knew it wasn’t over until the last golfers left the green. Three hours later, another pair posted a 66. Powell and Isgar would have to face off against another team for a chance at the championships.
“When we realized we were in a playoff, we were in total shock because we thought we were in at that point,” Powell said. “We had to get our wits together.”
The teams went back to the start of the course for the sudden-death style round, but pars from both pairs meant they had to keep playing. The pressure-packed playoff continued on the eighth hole where things seemed to lean in the Bears’ favor from the fairway. Isgar yelled at his shot to “be good” as he hit the ball, but he couldn’t see where it landed. It turned up 30 feet from the pin, and the perfect putting opportunity was born.
Powell made par. Both golfers on the opposing team made par. Isgar had the last shot, the one final chance at solidifying a place in the Four-Ball Championship, and he wasn’t going to play it safe.
“Everyone wants to be the hero,” he said. “I love being over the ball when it counts and when it means something. This was certainly no exception.”
Standing 30 feet from a spot in a USGA event and a trip to the renowned Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Isgar gave it his best shot. And then, he watched it roll.
“About halfway there, I knew that ball had a good chance of going in. About three-quarters of the way there, it looked really good,” he recalled. “And then it dropped in.”
As far as Isgar remembers, the ten seconds after the ball plunked into the cup are a blur, but Powell was able to fill in the details, calling his teammate’s celebration “dramatic.”
“Probably everyone throughout the golf course, maybe the whole city of Lincoln could hear me scream when it went in,” Isgar said. “It was a good moment.”
In eight months, Powell and Isgar will represent Brown golf on “the biggest stage,” said Head Coach Michael Hughes, adding that this will help the team recruit as the duo brings national exposure to the program.
Maybe the storybook ending was a result of the lucky green shirt or the fact that Isgar needed to make that putt to get back to campus in time for a 6 p.m. lab. Regardless of how they claimed the spot, the two teammates, friends and roommates will attend their first USGA event together. And when the moment was over and he had calmed down and stopped celebrating, Isgar still made it back to Providence by 6:02.