East Carolina University men’s golf team junior A.J. Beechler won the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) Amateur Series event at Pinehurst No. 6 by 3-strokes with an 11-under-par (72-68-65) on Sept. 27.
An ECUPirates press release said the GCAA series is a string of tournaments for men’s and women’s collegiate golfers around the country and the only contingency is that players are only allowed to compete if they were on an active roster last season or are scheduled to be on an active roster this year. The series started in August and will continue through November.
“I grew up playing at No. 6 and I've had good luck on the course in the past," Beechler said in an ECUPirates press release. "It was the most calm and nervous I've been in a tournament. Once I got to 8-under-par through 15 holes in the third round I was nervous, but I knew how to play the course so that helped me calm down."
The press release said Beechler was five strokes off the lead at the completion of the first round on Sept. 24, but responded with a 4-under-par (68) during his second round of 18 later that afternoon. He then moved within one stroke of the lead as they headed into the final round on Sept. 25.
Beechler began play on Sept. 25 on the back nine with an eagle on the par-5 10th hole. He went on to birdie three of the next five holes to move to 8-under-par before paring two of the final three to finish the final round at 7-under-par, according to the press release.
"I didn't check the leaderboard till after I hit my final tee shot on 18 and I saw that I was leading by a few which relieved me of any pressure," Beechler said.
This particular tournament at Pinehurst No. 6 was one head coach Andrew Sapp said he knew Beechler would be a strong favorite for.
Sapp said Beechler’s tournament win is definitely a bright spot in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the negativity surrounding it. Sapp said Beechler’s success is something that positively motivates and boosts all of his teammates.
“I knew he would be one of the favorites,” Sapp said. “The field was very strong, but it is A.J.’s home course and he has won the 4A State Championship there twice so he felt very comfortable on that golf course.”
Beechler finished his high school career with a long list of accolades. Beechler attended Pinecrest High School in Southern Pines, North Carolina. While he was there he led Pinecrest to three consecutive North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A state championships (2015,2016,2017).
Beechler is also a two-time News & Observer Boy’s Golf Player of the Year (2017,2018), two-time NCHSAA 4A individual medalist (2017, 2018) and a four-time all-conference selection.
In his freshman campaign, Beechler was only one of three players to compete in all 12 events. He recorded three top 10 finishes and carded a season-best five-under 211 at the General Hackler Championships. In his sophomore season, Beechler again played in all tournaments, shot par or better in 50% of his rounds and at the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate tournament he recorded the team’s lowest tournament score at four under par.
Beechler has been one of the leading golfers for ECU since he has stepped on campus and Sapp said he holds Beechler in very high regards.
“A.J. is a champion,” Sapp said. “He has won multiple high school state championships as well as other junior tournaments. He isn’t the type of player where you would say these are his strengths and these are his weaknesses. He does everything really well and when he putts great he scores great.”
Beechler’s father, August Beechler Sr., was in the Guinness Book of World Records at the age of 13 for shooting a 58 in a single round, according to ECUPirates. Beechler’s biography on the team page said Beechler Sr. also was the youngest player in golf history to qualify for a PGA Event at the age of 15.
Beechler’s mother, Lindsay Beechler, also has a few accomplishments as a coach. She was named the NCHSAA Women’s Golf Coach of the Year for the 2017-2018 season, according to Lindsay Beechler’s biography.
San Jose State head coach and President of the GCAA John Kennaday said in a press release that the GCAA will continue to provide tournament opportunities for collegiate golfers and that they want golfers to be able to compete in the unavailability of traditional competition. Beechler will compete from Oct. 9 to Oct. 11 in the CGA NC Four-Ball Championship in Greensboro.