Derek Ernst has waited a year for another chance at the APL title. Now he’s only one win away from getting that opportunity. Ernst headlines a group of four golfers to win Friday morning matches at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links at 7,670-yard, par-71 Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
In much the same fashion as his second and third round victories, Ernst jumped ahead early, winning four of the first five holes against his opponent, Brad Schneider, 23, of Orlando, Fla. Ernst made three consecutive birdies starting on the third hole to gain control of the match.
"I felt really good," said Ernst, who capped his hot start with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fifth. "Even though I got up early, I didn’t let down and kept applying the pressure. You never know what your opponent is going to do."
The parallels between Ernst’s path to the semifinals at Soldier Hollow and his performance at Bandon Dunes in 2011 are striking. In both years, he needed 19 holes to get past his first-round opponents, but was not extended past the 15th hole in any of his next three matches.
"It’s really ironic," said Ernst, 22, of Clovis, Calif. "I don’t know if it takes me a while to get in that first match, but at some point I find a zone. Plus when you’re playing two matches in one day, I don’t want to play that many holes."
Kevin Aylwin, 23, of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., also advanced to the semifinals with a 3-and-2 victory over Paul McConnell, 21, of Garland, Texas. Aylwin never trailed in his quarterfinal match, although the outcome may have been different if the competition was stroke play.
"I would have made a seven or eight on [the par-4 sixth] but that’s the beauty of match play," said Aylwin, who is four classes away from receiving his degree from the University of North Florida. "You can make a big number and just move on."
Aylwin won holes seven and eight to go 2 up at the turn. After a good par save at No. 11, he hit an 8-iron on the 174-yard par-3 12th to within a few feet for a conceded birdie to extend his lead.
Aylwin is no stranger to the national stage. At age 23, he is competing in his fourth APL and seventh USGA championship. He qualified for last year’s APL at Bandon Dunes, but skipped it to play in the Florida State Amateur at Doral, where he bogeyed the last hole to finish second. This year there were no scheduling conflicts and at Soldier Hollow, Aylwin found a course that suits his left-to-right shot shape.
"It just fits my eye," said Aylwin. "A lot of the tee shots are set up for cuts, so I can just walk up and can see a line and don’t have to worry about picking targets."
The other two quarterfinal matches came down to the 18th hole, where Kyle Beversdorf and T.J. Vogel made birdies to hold off their opponents and advance to Friday afternoon’s semifinals.
Beversdorf, 20, of Plymouth, Minn., won three of the first four holes and held a 3-up lead through 12, but his opponent, Carlos Rodriguez, 22, of Colombia, birdied 13 and 14 and Beversdorf hit his drive out of bounds on 15 to quickly square the match. Beversdorf regained the lead with a 10-foot par save on the 17th and came to the drivable 18th facing a decision of whether to safely lay back with an iron or go for the green.
"I had the same situation earlier," said Beversdorf, who went for the green in his first-round match against Chad Johnson. "I wanted to try to make birdie and force them to make eagle to win it."
Beversdorf again played aggressively, hitting his drive just over the green into a collection area. His difficult chip ran 40 feet past the hole, but with Rodriguez facing a 20-foot birdie putt, Beversdorf left no doubt, calmly rolling the putt in for a 1-up victory.
"He had been putting great all day, so I expected him to make it." said Beversdorf. "Since it was up hill, I could stay aggressive and fortunately found my line."
Unlike Beversdorf, Vogel, 21, of Miami, played behind for most of his match against Alberto Sanchez, 18, of Nogales, Ariz. Though Vogel is three years older than Sanchez, the two have played in several junior tournaments together and are close friends. They ate breakfast together this morning and chatted throughout the match.
The players made only one bogey in the match – a missed up-and-down by Sanchez at the par-3 17th –that gave Vogel his first lead since the third hole. On the 18th, Vogel laid back to 88 yards and stuck his wedge within two feet for a conceded birdie to win the match, 1 up.
"My wedge game has been great all week," said Vogel, who has been pushed to the 18th hole in three of his four matches thus far. "I had another bogey-free day today, which is what you have to do in match play. I think it’s good to be tested – matches like this make you stronger."
The semifinal matches began at noon MDT. The winners will advance to the 36-hole final, which is scheduled for Saturday morning.
The APL is one of 13 individual national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Michael Trostel is the curator/historian at the USGA Museum. Email him at email@example.com.
Midway, Utah – Results from Friday morning’s quarterfinal matches at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being held at 7,670-yard, par-71 Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
Kevin Aylwin, New Smyrna Beach, Fla. (139) def. Paul McConnell, Garland, Texas (145), 3 and 2
Kyle Beversdorf, Plymouth, Minn. (143) def. Carlos Rodriguez, Colombia (142), 1 up
T. J. Vogel, Miami, Fla. (136) def. Alberto Sanchez, Nogales, Ariz. (144), 1 up
Derek Ernst, Clovis, Calif. (140) def. Brad Schneider, Orlando, Fla. (141), 4 and 3
Midway, Utah – Pairings and starting times for Friday afternoon’s semifinal matches at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being held at 7,670-yard, par-71 Soldier Hollow Golf Course. All times MDT.
12:00 p.m. Kevin Aylwin, New Smyrna Beach, Fla. (139) vs. Kyle Beversdorf, Plymouth, Minn. (143)
12:15 p.m. T. J. Vogel, Miami, Fla. (136) vs. Derek Ernst, Clovis, Calif. (140)