University Place, Wash. – Peter Uihlein advanced to the quarterfinals of the 110th U.S. Amateur Thursday afternoon by winning a match he never led until it mattered.
One of the top amateurs in the U.S., Uihlein, 20, of Orlando, Fla., claimed a 1-up victory in 19 holes over John Hahn of Cleveland, Ohio, with a conceded birdie on the par-4 first hole at Chambers Bay.
Uihlein’s hard-fought victory on an increasingly windy day sets up a showdown Friday with Morgan Hoffmann, a teammate at Oklahoma State University. Hoffmann, of Wycoff, N.J., advanced with a 4-and-2 win over Alex Ching of Honolulu.
I survived, said Uihlein, who reached the U.S. Am quarterfinals for the second straight year. The course played tough. It was brutal. John played a good match, but it was just so tough out there. It was grueling. I was fortunate to win.
He won it by giving himself a 20-foot birdie look at the first hole with a 6-iron from 177 yards. It was just his second green in regulation in his last seven holes as both players struggled in winds gusting to 25 mph.
I told my coach I couldn’t remember the last time I walked up to a green with a putter in my hand, said Uihlein, who trailed by two at the turn when he lost the ninth with a double bogey.
Hahn, an honorable mention All-American at Kent State University, near Akron, where he will be a senior this fall, needed four strokes to find the green at No. 1 after fanning his drive into the high fescue rough right of the fairway and having to chip out. He conceded when he rolled his bogey putt 3 feet past the hole.
I’m not going to make any excuses. I hit a bad tee shot (on the first extra hole). It is what it is, said Hahn, the 2009 Western Amateur champion. The wind played havoc with my golf ball and my swing this afternoon. Not much you can do. I’m disappointed the way it finished, but it was an awesome week for me. I can’t complain with how I played. Peter just played a little better.
I struggled all day, but I won a hole at the right time, said Uihlein, who trailed from the second hole until his 20-foot birdie at the short par-4 12th squared the match.
Hahn won the 13th with a two-putt par, but a 3-putt for double bogey at the 14th allowed Uihlein to draw even again. They halved the next four holes, including the 18th when both men came up short of the green and then chipped to within 1 foot of the hole. Hahn, hitting second, nearly holed his third, with the ball grazing the edge of the hole.
Uihlein gave Hahn a thumbs up in a classy show of sportsmanship after the shot. Then he gave him the thumb with a solid extra hole.
Now he meets Hoffmann, one of his best friends and teammates not only at Oklahoma State, but also on the victorious 2009 USA Walker Cup team. The OSU pair tee off at 8:45 a.m. PDT in the last of the four quarterfinal matches at Chambers Bay.
It will be a good day for OSU golf, said Uihlein of the two wins he and Hoffmann posted Thursday. It will be fun. We’ve never had a chance to play head to head before. I’d rather play guys who are friends and who I’m familiar with.
I don’t expect him to miss a fairway tomorrow, I can tell you that, Uihlein added when asked what he expected of Hoffmann. I’m just going to try to play my game and not do anything different and just hope that it works.
It’s worked for him so far, and at the right time, too.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship Web sites.