Rafael Becker tops U.S. Amateur qualifying at Wichita Country Club

Rafael Becker didn’t have much time to hang around Wednesday after he played 36 holes in a U.S. Amateur qualifier at Wichita Country Club. An evening class in strategic management at Wichita State beckoned.

The 22-year-old Brazilian appeared to solidly understand that particular subject as it applied to golf.

Becker, who led WSU to its sixth consecutive Missouri Valley title in April, blistered one of his old practice sites for rounds of 67 and 63 to earn one of two spots in next month’s U.S. Amateur in Brookline, Mass. Taylor Moore, the Southeastern Conference co-freshman of the year at Arkansas, edged teammate Austin Cook in a playoff for the other berth.

Becker and Moore will be part of the 312-player field competing for the championship Aug. 12-18 at The Country Club, the historic course where amateur Francis Ouimet won the U.S. Open 100 years ago and where the United States edged Europe in a dramatic 1999 Ryder Cup. After two days of stroke play, the field will be reduced to 64 for match play.

Becker turned Wednesday’s stroke play into a runaway, playing the final 26 holes in 13 under. His 36-hole total of 12-under 130 total outdistanced Moore and Cook by four shots.

“I didn’t start out very well and kind of played bad the front nine,” said Becker, who was 1 over through nine holes in his morning round. “I kind of got things going in the middle of my last nine. I knew it was going to take a low number today with no wind, and the course was playing soft and easy.”

Becker, who started his morning round on the 10th hole, reeled off five birdies in his final eight holes to cap his 4-under 67. After a short break, Becker’s day got even better.

Becker made seven birdies and an eagle in the afternoon round, and needed just 23 putts. He chipped in for eagle on the par-5 16th and rolled in his final birdie at the par-3 17th to shoot the lowest competitive round at Wichita Country Club since the current course routing was established in 1998.

“The most important part for me besides my putting was my chipping,” said Becker, who fired a 62 in the first round of the Northeast Amateur last month en route to a fourth-place finish. “It’s something I’ve been working on.

“I left myself with a lot of easy, short putts, 4- and 5-footers that were inside the hole.”

Moore, 19, of Edmond, Okla., earned his second consecutive U.S. Amateur berth with rounds of 68 and 66. Still, he was tied with Cook, a Jonesboro, Ark., native who plans to room with Moore this fall while he completes his degree work at Arkansas.

Moore won a sudden-death playoff on the first extra hole, making a par on the 432-yard first while Cook three-putted from 45 feet for bogey.

“It’s like beating your brother in something,” said Moore, who helped the Razorbacks finish 10th in the NCAA Championships. “It was pretty weird playing somebody you’re close to.”

Cook will be the first alternate from the Wichita site. South Africa’s Calvin Pearson, who posted a 139 total, earned second alternate.

U.S. Amateur qualifier

At Wichita C.C., par 71

Qualifiers – Rafael Becker, Brazil, 67-63—130; Taylor Moore, Edmond, Okla., 68-66—134 (won playoff). First alternate – Austin Cook, Jonesboro, Ark., 69-65—134. Second alternate — Calvin Pearson, South Africa, 71-68—139.

Falley leads Kansas Women’s Amateur – Oklahoma State senior Lauren Falley carded a 70 on Wednesday to build a five-shot lead after two rounds of the Kansas Women’s Amateur at Auburn Hills.

Falley, a Topeka native, improved on her opening-round 71 to increase her advantage over second-place Gianna Misenhelter. Misenhelter, an Overland Park native who plays at Kansas State, shot a 72 and was at 146 after 36 holes.

In the open division for golfers 35 and older, Manhattan’s Barbara Gourlay shot a 77 for a 158 total and is one shot ahead of Hutchinson’s Letty Watt and Manhattan’s Sandy Preston heading into Thursday’s final round.