The eight amateur golfers who have accepted par as most meaningful, who have best taken the bad bounces with the good fortune – and there’s been plenty of that in the past 48 hours of match play – have separated themselves at the 110th U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay Golf Links.
It’s a big-boy United States Golf Association championship, played on a manly layout. Look who’s in the today’s quarterfinals:
• Korea’s Byeong-Hun An, the defending U.S. Amateur champion.
• Florida’s Peter Uihlein, the top-ranked American in the world.
• Missouri’s Scott Langley, the reigning NCAA Division I champion.
• North Carolina’s David Chung, the Western Amateur winner, and hottest amateur in the world.
• New Jersey’s Morgan Hoffmann, a member of the 2009 Walker Cup-winning squad for the United States.
• And three upset-minded but capable players, including two California products (Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay) and an Iowa resident (Jed Dirksen) who is enrolled at his third university.
“It’s a survival test out there,” Chung said.
For those searching for a Pierce County angle, Langley provides one.
He’s staying with Rich Friend, the head professional at Tacoma Country and Golf Club. And he’s hired a Chambers Bay caddie to help him try to win this tournament – Sumner’s Gary Allard.
With no true South Sound golfer still alive, could Langley qualify as the adopted local rooting interest?
“I wouldn’t mind at all,” he said.
He certainly has embraced the creative challenge of Chambers Bay. After tough tests in his first two matches against Tim Jackson and Patrick Reed – both wins in 19 holes – he had an easier time Thursday afternoon against Australia’s Ryan McCarthy, winning 6 and 4.
Anytime the University of Illinois standout was in trouble, especially on the back nine amid gusts that reached 30-35 mph, he used some slope or backdrop to get up and down for par.
“Out there, I probably had way too much fun in my practice rounds. I was like a little kid just hitting it off the slopes, rolling it up and down the hills,” Langley said. “That’s kind of the way you have to play out here.”
Whereas Langley had it relatively easy in the afternoon, two matches went to the limit – and beyond.
Dirksen, who carries his own bag, defeated Stanford’s Joseph Bramlett on the 19th hole with a bogey.
Unranked and virtually unheard of before Thursday, Dirksen is making noise – and lots of gallery friends along the way.
“I thought it was a possibility (to win), although remote,” Dirksen said. “I like the underdog role. I’ll take it.”
Uihlein never led through regulation against Nevada’s John Hahn, but rallied from a 2-down deficit to pull even going into the 18th hole.
On the par-5, both golfers were in front of the green facing 35-yard pitch shots. Uihlein’s low chip ran into a backstop and trickled back to within tap-in distance for a birdie.
Hahn faced almost the same shot, but took a different angle. And when his chip started rolling back toward the hole, it appeared to be headed right for the pin – and a match-winning eagle.
“As it was going (down the slope), I told my coach, ‘I think he made it,’” Uihlein said. “It broke off at the last second.”
Hahn twice visited the high fescue grass on the 19th hole with errant shots, and eventually conceded a birdie – and the match – to Uihlein, who now faces Hoffmann, his Oklahoma State teammate, in the quarterfinals.
“It’s a good day for OSU golf,” Uihlein said. “It will be fun.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org