Second Best Again

Drew Stoltz, who grew up in Fort Collins, and Drew Kittleson set record by qualifying for their second championship match in U.S. Four-Ball, but they fall just short of title again as Cal teammates prevail

By Gary Baines – 5/24/2023

The two Drews — Stoltz and Kittleson — accomplished something around midday on Wednesday that no one else has done. But the national golf championship that they’ve been ever so close to last spring and this one remained just out of reach.

Stoltz, who grew up in Fort Collins and won the 2001 5A Colorado state high school individual title and the 2004 CGA Amateur, and fellow Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Kittleson became the first team to advance twice to the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, thanks to their 2-up semifinal victory over Carter Loflin of Duluth, Ga., and Wells Williams of West Point, Mass.

But after narrowly missing out on winning the title last year — they lost in 19 holes to Chad Wilfong and Davis Womble — they again fell short on Wednesday after a remarkable run over the course of five days in Kiawah Island, S.C.

On a Wednesday that Stoltz and Kittleson faced both of the stroke-play medal-winning teams, they won the last two holes in the semifinals to prevail over Loflin and Williams, earning themselves a final matchup with University of California teammates Aaron Du and Sampson Zheng, the top seeds. 

Stoltz and Kittleson birdied the second hole to take a 1-up lead, but they didn’t again have the upper hand after Du and Zheng birdied holes 4 and 5 for wins. Stoltz drained a 7-foot birdie putt on 9 to tie things, but winning birdies by the Cal players on Nos. 11 and 13 gave them a 2-up advantage. Stoltz cut that deficit in half with a 10-foot birdie on 15, but Zheng turned the tables with a 12-foot birdie on 16 that put the lead back to 2 up. A tie with birdies on 17 ended the match, with the Cal teammates prevailing 2 and 1.

“Last year we were close,” Stoltz said. “At this point after two (finals) would you rather just dip out in stroke play or would you rather get your hopes up and then come up short again? But we had a helluva week. (Kittleson) is one of my best friends on the planet. There’s no other dude I’d want to go to war with. He hit some unbelievable shots, and yeah, maybe today was just a case of running out of gas. But for whatever reason the (putts) didn’t fall for us.”

Stoltz and Kittleson finished 4 under par for 17 holes in the final, while Du and Zheng were 6 under. The Cal teammates posted three best-ball 2s on their card.

Stoltz and Kittleson, both thirtysomething reinstated amateurs, capped off a week in which their last four matches went 22 holes, 18 holes (1 up win after being 3 down), 18 holes (2 up win after Kittleson earned a conceded eagle on 17) and 17 holes.

In Tuesday and Wednesday combined, the two played a whopping 75 holes.

The two needed a 4-foot birdie from Kittleson on No. 18 early Wednesday morning to earn the victory in a quarterfinal that was suspended due to darkness on Tuesday night. Then it was 35 additional holes in the semis and finals. All that came after they played 39 holes on Tuesday.

Sampson Zheng (right) congratulates Aaron Du on his tee shot on No. 17, where the Cal teammates clinched the title-winning victory. (Photo: Chris Keane/USGA)

Suffice it to say that Stoltz — co-host of “Gravy and the Sleeze” on Sirius XM’s PGA Tour Radio and the “Golf Subpar” podcast — and Kittleson, a 2008 U.S. Amateur finalist who played his college golf at Florida State with Brooks Koepka, have had their fill of golf.

Meanwhile, Du and Zhang never had to play the 18th hole in a match this week.

With their win, Du and Zhang landed berths in the U.S. Amateur that Cherry Hills Country Club will host in August. The runner-up finish earned Stoltz and Kittleson exemptions into the next three U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships.

The 2023 Four-Ball featured a couple of outstanding performances for teams with strong Colorado connections. Besides Stoltz and Kittleson returning to the title match, Colorado residents Hunter Swanson and Max Lange advanced to the quarterfinals.

In the seven previous times the event has been contested, just two teams with strong Colorado ties have made it as far as the final eight: 

— In 2016 Coloradan Alex Buecking and partner Jason Enloe exited in the quarterfinals.

— And in 2022, Stoltz and Kittleson were nationals runners-up.

Results of teams with strong Colorado connections at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in Kiawah Island, S.C.:


Final (Wednesday)

Aaron Du, China, and Sampson Zheng, China def. Former Fort Collins resident Drew Stoltz and Drew Kittleson, Scottsdale, Ariz., 2 and 1

Semifinals (Wednesday)

Former Fort Collins resident Drew Stoltz and Drew Kittleson, Scottsdale, Ariz., def. Carter Loflin, Duluth, Ga., and Wells Williams, West Point, Mass., 2 up

Quarterfinals (Tuesday)

Tyler Goecke, Xenia, Ohio, and Bryce Haney, Huber Heights, Ohio, def. Hunter Swanson, Denver, and Max Lange, Golden, 1 up

Former Fort Collins resident Drew Stoltz and Drew Kittleson, Scottsdale, Ariz., def. Blades Brown, Nashville, and Jackson Herrington, Dickson, Tenn., 1 up

Round of 16 (Tuesday)

Hunter Swanson, Denver, and Max Lange, Golden, def. Corey Matthey, Scottsdale, Ariz.,  and Samuel Storey, England, 5 and 3

Former Fort Collins resident Drew Stoltz and Drew Kittleson, Scottsdale, Ariz., def. Marc France, Plantation, Fla. and Carl Santos-Ocampo, Naples, Fla., 22 holes

Round of 32 (Monday)

Hunter Swanson, Denver, and Max Lange, Golden, def. Chip Brooke and Marc Dull, 5 and 3

Former Fort Collins resident Drew Stoltz and Drew Kittleson, Scottsdale, Ariz., def. William Peel IV and Colin St. Maxens, 5 and 3 

STROKE PLAY (Saturday and Sunday)

Advanced to Match Play

22. Former Coloradan Drew Stoltz/Drew Kittleson 67-65—132

27. Hunter Swanson, Denver/Maxwell Lange, Golden 65-68–133

Failed to Advance to Match Play

57. Michael Harrington, CO Springs/Dylan Wonnacott, Loveland 66-71–137

57. Brendan Connolly, Centennial/Benjamin Dubois, Denver 72-65–137

For all the results from Kiawah Island, CLICK HERE.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates