Canton's James Piot looks to join summer Sparty party at U.S. Amateur
It's not like James Piot needs any motivation entering this week's U.S. Amateur.
The Michigan State stud golfer has been thinking about it for almost a full year, after he finished runner-up in stroke play in 2020, only to be eliminated in his second match.
He gets his crack at redemption starting Monday, at historic Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania — just two days after Michigan State sophomore-to-be Valentina Rossi made the semifinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur, before falling on the 18th hole.
"That's awesome," Piot said Friday, hours arriving at the club for the first time, making the drive from Michigan. "The women's team has been setting the bar for us lately."
The bar already is pretty high for Piot, 22, a Canton native and Detroit Catholic Central alum.
He comes into this week with three championships under his belt this calendar year, including the 100th Golf Association of Michigan Championship on Tuesday at Franklin Hills near Farmington Hills. Earlier this year, he ran away with the title at the Michigan Medal Play at Detroit Golf Club, and won the Hoosier Collegiate Invitational in Bloomington, Indiana. He made the NCAA Championships, and recently made the Sweet 16 of the Western Amateur, which, outside the U.S. Amateur, is the most prestigious amateur competition in golf.
He's picking a fine time to be playing his best golf, entering the 312-player U.S. Amateur. There are two rounds of stroke play, and the top 64 advance to the match-play bracket.
We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.
"Yeah, it's starting to come together," Piot said, in a great understatement. "I missed my first cut of the summer, and after that, it's just been coming together slowly. The putter has been getting hot.
"I'm a streaky putter."
Putting, in major championships like the U.S. Amateur, usually determines just how far you can go, as Rossi, Piot's fellow Spartan, proved in the U.S. Women's Amateur. She made nearly everything for four days, particularly in the quarterfinal, to advance to the semifinals.
Last year, Piot — who just finished his senior season at Michigan State, but can return if he wants because of the extra year allowed by the NCAA because of COVID-19 — shot 9 under in stroke play, missing medalist honors by two shots in that 264-player field.
He won his first match, in extra holes, before losing his second.
The goal last year was just to make match play, and see what happened from there. That's still the goal this year, sort of — it's hard to fault him from the loftier aspirations after his performance in 2020.
Last year was his first U.S. Amateur.
"The U.S. Am is the biggest tournament in amateur golf, it's something I've looked forward to since I qualified. I've just been preparing," Piot said of an event whose past champions include Tiger Woods (three times), Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus (twice), Arnold Palmer (at Country Club of Detroit in 1954) and Bobby Jones (five times). "Just getting a taste of it last year makes you want to kind of come back and make it even further.
"Now I have the match-play experience."
Piot, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten player whose caddie will be Michigan State assistant coach Dan Ellis, will be joined at the U.S. Amateur by several other state of Michigan golfers, including Wayne State's Grant Haefner (Bloomfield Hills) and Sean Niles (Troy), Northville's Jimmy Dales (Wyoming), Michigan's Brendan O'Reilly and Hunter Thomson and Shelby Township's Bradley Bastion.
None of the four alternates from Michigan have made the field.
► When: Monday-Aug. 15
► Where: Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pa.
► Schedule: Monday-Tuesday, stroke play; Wednesday-Aug. 15, match play
► TV: Peacock and Golf Channel; check local listings
► 2020 champion: Tyler Strafaci