Ovard defeats local favorite Jackson Van Paris to win the North & South Amateur

Davis Ovard is hard to miss. With brilliant red hair that fails admirably from being tucked completely under his cap, Ovard draws a double-take from people when he walks by.

Davis Ovard, also, can be easy to miss. Turn him sideways, and his slight frame could easily be hidden by any of the pine trees lining Pinehurst No. 2. And with a World Amateur Golf Ranking of 608th, his game hasn’t turned heads of many people. Not yet, anyway.

The hundreds in the gallery walking behind, ahead, and around the two players and their caddies weren’t there to see Davis Ovard on Saturday. Not in this championship match, not in this final of the 124th North & South Men’s Amateur. Not this week. Not this day. Not against this opponent.

This was supposed to be Jackson Van Paris’ day.

Davis Ovard defeats local favorite Van Paris to win the North & South Amateur
Jackson Van Paris/Photo by Sandhills Sentinel photographer Wendy Hodges.

Davis Ovard made them take notice.

“It was definitely hard hearing them go crazy every time he did something good, and you know, for me, it’s just not going to be the same,” Ovard said. “I tried to stay comfortable. I had my caddie rooting for me, so I wasn’t all alone out there.

“And my mom’s pretty loud, so that helps, too.”

But by the time he tapped in his par putt on the 17th hole, while he may not have had them fully on his side, Ovard had the gallery in appreciative applause, applause that lasted as he and Van Paris shook hands and said a few words to each other, applause that lasted as Ovard celebrated with his caddie Mark Epperly and as he thanked rules officials.

His 2&1 victory over local favorite – and now two-time North & South Runner-Up, Van Paris -could not be denied any longer.

“Very resilient. He was really impressive,” Van Paris said. “No matter where he was in the match, he stuck to his gameplan – hit it into the middle of the greens, and he drove it great. I was super impressed. All you can say is he didn’t make many mistakes and didn’t give me any openings. I’m happy for him.”

Ovard, a sophomore at Baylor who has not won a collegiate event, was 2-down in his semifinal match after the 14th hole on Saturday morning. He won three straight holes then to advance. Against Van Paris, he was 2-down after Van Paris won three of five holes, heading to the 8th hole with a gallery in full support.

“I tend to play better when I’m down,” Ovard said.

He won the 9th with a par after Van Paris couldn’t get up and down. He won the 10th with a par when Van Paris harshly lipped out a 5-foot attempt above the hole for par. That tied the match, and it gave Ovard time to allow his game to come to him.

“I knew that I was playing fine in the beginning,” he said. “I made a couple of little mistakes, but I was leaving my birdie putts short. I knew if I could keep giving myself chances, I would start making them.”

He had 20 feet up the hill on 12 for birdie. Made it. He had 18 feet up the hill on 13. Made it. He had 9 feet along a ridge and down the hill on 14 to save par.

Made it.

“Once I started making them on 12 and 13, that’s when I knew. I told myself, ‘I’m getting hot,’” Ovard said. “’This is good.’”

“I told myself on 14, ‘If I make par here, it’s probably going to win me the match.’”

Down two holes with four to play, Van Paris had to get aggressive. He knows as well as anyone that’s when trouble can strike on No. 2. His tee shot on the par-3 15th rolled off the left edge of the green. Van Paris, who has chipped in four times this week, had no magic left. His chip took a look at the hole and rolled on by and off the front of the green. Ovard led by three holes with three to play.

Van Paris managed to extend the match to 17 and hit a brilliant tee shot to 12 feet. But the putt slipped by, as did another Putter Boy trophy.

“Davis made three great putts from 12-14, and I got a little too aggressive on 15 being 2-down,” Van Paris said.

The Vanderbilt senior has built an impressive resume, a glowing one, and not just at Pinehurst. He’s ranked eighth in the world, has finished top 10 and been 15 under in a PGA Tour event and has a slew of significant victories all over the globe.

At Pinehurst, he’s been similarly brilliant, finishing as the runner-up here in 2021 and made a run to the semifinals a year ago. But, ultimately, Louis Dobbelaar, Karl Vilips and now Davis Ovard have gotten between Van Paris and the Putter Boy trophy.

Van Paris remained classy in defeat.

“It stings, but (Davis) definitely got some momentum, and hat’s off to him,” Van Paris said. “He took it and ran with it.”

Ovard may not live in Pinehurst like his fellow finalist, but he is plenty familiar with the Village and the courses that gave it its fame. He played in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship seven times. But even for a young man, a sophomore in college, those days feel like a long time ago.

As he stood on the putting green in front of Pinehurst’s clubhouse, his Putter Boy on the ground and the Lucy Richards statue it is patterned after just arm’s length away, Ovard looked over to it and then back down at the one that’s now his. His forever.

“It still doesn’t really feel real,” he said. “I was coming from behind a lot in all my matches, so I was tense a lot, but my caddie really helped me calm down. Really, I just tried to have fun. It worked out, but it was a lot, for sure.

“I haven’t won any tournament like this before. It’s definitely really cool. When I was younger, I thought I was going to win U.S. Kids a lot. But that didn’t work out.

“And heading into this week, I didn’t expect to win. I wanted to make match play, and if you make match play, everything resets, and you just have to beat one person at a time.

“I didn’t honestly think I’d be getting a trophy.”

Davis Ovard didn’t miss.

124TH NORTH & SOUTH MEN’S AMATEUR

Pinehurst No. 2

Round of 32

Thursday

No. 32 Michael Riebe d. No. 1 Kelly Chinn 3&1

No. 17 Nicholas Gross d. No. 16 Parker Bell, 3&2

No. 8 Andy Xu d. No. 25 Carson Bertagnole, 1up

No. 9 Jack Turner d. No. 24 Quinton Croker, 3&2

No. 29 Davis Ovard d. No. 4 Brycen Jones, 2up

No. 13 Pongsapak Laopakdee d. No. 20 Josh Duagnmanee, 2&1

No. 5 Luke Colton d. No. 28 Choen Trolio, 2&1

No. 12 Jase Summy d. No. 21 Ethan Evans, 1up

No. 2 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 31 Hunter Swanson, 3&2

No. 15 William Sides d. No. 18 Joshua Stewart, 2up

No. 7 Lotter Reed d. No. 26 Xihaun Chang, 1up

No. 23 Ian Gilligan d. No. 10 Thomas Curry, 3&2

No. 3 Garrett Risner d. No. 30 Anthony Delisanti, 1up

No. 10 James Imai d. No. 14 Ryan Voois, 3&1

No. 6 Ben Warian d. No. 27 Marshall Meisel, 4&3

No. 11 Joshua Bai d. No. 22 Ethan Wilson, 6&4

Friday                                                                               

Round of 16

No. 17 Nicholas Gross d. No. 32 Michael Riebe, 19 holes

No. 9 Jack Turner d. No. 8 Andy Xu, 2up

No. 29 Davis Ovard d. No. 13 Pongsapak Laopakdee, 2&1

No. 12 Jase Summy d. No. 5 Luke Colton, 19 holes

No. 2 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 15 William Sides, 2&1

No. 23 Ian Gilligan d. No. 7 Reed Lotter, 4&3

No. 3 Garret Risner d. No. 19 James Imai, 6&5

No. 6 Ben Warian d. No. 11 Joshua Bai, 19 holes

Friday

Quarterfinals

No. 9 Jack Turner d. No. 17 Nicholas Gross, 6&4

No. 29 Davis Ovard d. No. 12 Jase Summy, 20 holes

No. 2 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 23 Ian Gilligan, 1up

No. 6 Ben Warian d. No. 3 Garret Risner, 4&3

Saturday

Semifinals (AM)

No. 29 Davis Ovard d. No. 9 Jack Turner, 1up

No. 2 Jackson Van Paris d. No. 6 Ben Warian, 6&5

Championship match (PM)

No. 29 Davis Ovard d. No. 2 Jackson Van Paris, 2&1

Feature photo: Davis Ovard/Photo by Sandhills Sentinel photographer Wendy Hodges. 

~Written by Alex Podlogar.

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