Trio Of APL Players Eye Second Straight Match-Play Bracket July 21, 2014 By Stuart Hall

Sam Horsfield is coming off a solid performance at the U.S. Amateur Public Links last week. (USGA/Jonathan Ernst)

THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Somewhere in the golfer’s creed it must be written: One shot at a time, one hole at a time and one round at a time.

Sam Horsfield understands that, and yet in the midst of stroke play at the 67th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Club at Carlton Woods’ Nicklaus Course, he is preparing his mind for the match-play portion should he advance.

On Monday, Horsfield, 17, of England, took a positive first step after shooting an opening-round 4-under-par 68. Trailing first-round leader Davis Riley by a stroke, Horsfield put himself in a good position to advance to Wednesday’s 64-player match-play bracket.

Yes, I will take it, said Horsfield, who is making his third successive U.S. Junior Amateur appearance.

Horsfield is one of three players in this week’s field who reached the match play-bracket of last week’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan. Horsfield and Easton Paxton, of Riverton, Wyo., each lost in the round of 32, while Zecheng Dou, of the People’s Republic of China, lost in the round of 64.

Dou and Paxton were both eliminated by Jordan Niebrugge, the 2013 APL champion.

Playing last week just gets me into the match-play mindset, Horsfield said. Almost all of the other tournaments I play are stroke play, but once I played match play I loved it.

You’re playing your opponent one on one and the other 154 players don’t matter at that point. You’re not really playing the course either, you’re actually playing your opponent, which is neat.

In a combined four U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Junior Amateur championship appearances, Horsfield has a 7-4 match-play record, including a quarterfinal appearance in last year’s Junior Amateur.

Dou, 17, who is ranked 42nd in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, has a combined 8-4 record in USGA championships, including quarterfinal appearances in last year’s APL and Junior Amateur.

I like match play because you can track where you are [against other players], said Dou, who shot an even-par 72 in Monday’s opening round.

If the last two U.S. Junior Amateurs are a barometer, then big things may be in order for Dou. In 2012, Dou reached the round of 16. Last year, he went a step further and reached the quarterfinals.

Compared to Dou and Horsfield, Paxton has little USGA match-play experience, having only reached the round of 32 at last week’s APL. Earlier this year, however, Paxton won the Wyoming State Golf Association’s Match Play Championship.

I love match play, said Paxton, echoing the sentiment Dou and Horsfield. Winning a match last week [at the APL] showed me that I can play at the highest amateur level. So, mentally, it was good for me.

Paxton, who opened with a 3-over 75, said the tactical mindset changes in match play.

You can be a bit more fearless and go at pins more, because if you have a bad hole, you just lose the hole, he said.

A golfer must reach match play first, though. And that requires one shot, one hole and one round at a time.

Hopefully, I can go out and have a good round [Tuesday] and get in this thing, Paxton said.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.