EAST GREENWICH --- Jamison Randall has already proven in his young career that he’s a golfer with unlimited potential.
On Thursday afternoon at the R.I. Amateur Championship, he also proved he has the heart that goes with it.
Randall wasn’t able to advance to today’s quarterfinal matches, but the recent Cumberland High grad gave two-time champion Brad Valois all he could handle during match play of the Round of 16 at the Potowomut Country Club.
Trailing 4-up after nine holes, Randall regrouped and refocused and evened the match at hole No. 15 before eventually losing on a third playoff hole. The 24-year-old Valois, who captured back-to-back titles in 2006-07, earned himself at least another day by sinking a par putt from about three feet on 163-yard third hole.
“I always look forward to playing good players because they bring out the best in me,” Randall said. “I think that’s certainly what Brad did, especially on the back nine.”
Randall, who defeated Metacomet’s Darren Corrente, 2-and-1, in the Round of 32 in his morning round, found himself in a big deficit just four holes into his match with Valois. The 2006 New England Amateur champion already was 3-up by the fourth hole with birdies on No. 1 and No. 2 and a par on the fourth.
Randall, who scored a 3-over 38 on the front side, dropped four shots behind Valois on the 445-yard ninth when he drove his ball into the wooded section to the right side of the fairway. His next shot hit the trees and went about 50 yards and his next landed into a bunker.
The 17-year-old golfer often ran into some bad luck during his opening nine. On the 429-yard fifth, Randall hit his approach shot into the left bunker. He had what looked like a perfect chip from the sand that fell just a foot from the hole. The ball stayed there momentarily and then rolled down off the green about 13 feet from the cup. The two players halved the hole with bogeys.
“I thought I hit an absolute perfect shot, and I did,” Randall said. “I hit it just like I wanted. I could have sworn it was going to stop and then it just rolled off the green. I can’t say I did anything wrong with that shot. I hit it well.”
Randall’s luck turned for the better on the back nine, beginning with the tenth where the former Clipper standout was finally able to get his first point. Valois ran into a little trouble when his second shot after a decent drive to the left of the fairway hit a tree and dropped just about 50 yards. His third shot went into a bunker and then he finally landed his ball on the green and two-putted for a bogey 6.
Randall took advantage of the opportunity with a par on the hole, benefitting from a nearly 300-yard drive. He gained another stroke on the 11th with another 300-plus drive and an approach shot that landed just three feet from the hole, which he sank for a birdie to Valois’s par.
“After nine holes I was pretty devastated, but then on ten I said I need to step it up,” Randall said. “That’s exactly what I did. I got momentum. I kind of put the foot on the neck a little bit and brought it back to even and that was pretty much it.”
Randall gained another stroke on Valois with a birdie on the 14th. After hitting another 300-yard bomb, he hit his approach shot to within 13 feet of the hole and sank the long birdie putt. The match was all squared after 15 with Randall mustering a par 5 on the 527-yard hole.
Valois went back 1-up on the 159-yard 16th after Randall three-putted for bogey. But the Cumberland native was able to capitalize on the 17th with a par. Both players hit their drives to the left of the fairway of the 391-yard hole. Randall had the better lie with his ball in the opposing fairway. He hit his next shot over the trees and onto the green and two-putted for a four. Valois tee shot rested under a tree, which forced him to hit a low shot that went to the left of the hole. He hit a nice lob shot onto the green, but two-putted for a bogey.
The two players parred the 18th to force the playoffs.
“I played a lot better on the back than I did on the front,” Randall said. “I kind of hacked around on the front a little bit. Nothing fell in and I just couldn’t get anything together. I was a little tentative with my putting. Then on the back things just started falling, things just started going my way and I started to come back.”
Randall hit a clutch eight-foot par putt on the second playoff hole to continue play. That came after a 40-foot putt didn’t quite get the distance he anticipated.
“That was brought about by a poor first putt,” Randall said. “I actually had a similar putt during the match on the second hole where I left it way short and made the putt. I didn’t really learn from it, but I just didn’t execute like I should have. Obviously I knew I had to make the putt, and I ended up making it.”
On the third playoff hole, Randall’s tee shot went to the left of the green between two bunkers. His chip barely made it to the green. That set up the perfect opportunity for Valois to win the match, considering his drive landed about eight feet above the hole. Randall two-putted and so did Valois to advance to the semifinals.
Randall admitted he never felt intimidated going against a player as accomplished as Valois.
“I don’t think there was ever really a point where my thought shifted to, ‘You know what I think I’m going to beat this guy.’ I think that with my ‘A’ game I can beat anybody,” he said. “There really was never a point where my thought shifted to that. It was always at that point.”
In his match with Corrente, Randall advanced to the Round of 16 with three straight pars from holes 15 to 17. He’s now preparing for another big tournament with the New England Amateur Championship from July 18-20 at Metacomet.
“I am definitely happy with my performance today,” Randall said, “but I am really looking forward to next week.”