Young Turns Tables on Defending Champion Yang August 19, 2015 | Olympia Fields, Ill. By Dave Shedloski

Cameron Young never trailed in his 3-and-2 victory over defending champion Gunn Yang during their Round-of-64 match on Wednesday. (USGA/John Mummert)

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Cameron Young said that the player he lost to a year ago in the U.S. Amateur, eventual champion Gunn Yang, has improved considerably in the last 12 months.

Young is a better player, too.

In a rematch of their quarterfinal showdown in the 2014 championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Young came out on top this time, sending the defending champion home early with a 3-and-2 decision Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of match play in the 115th U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields Country Club.

An incoming freshman at Wake Forest University, Young, 18, of Scarborough, N.Y., faced Jon Rahm of Spain at 8 a.m. Thursday on the North Course at Olympia Fields.

With his mother Barbara, a former golf professional, on his bag, Young took advantage of several Yang miscues, particularly on the greens, and made fewer errors in the swirling breezes that made club selection difficult. Young never trailed in the match and took the lead for good when Yang made the second of his five bogeys at the par-4 fifth hole.

Still, Young, who qualified for match play with a 1-over 141 total, was impressed with his opponent, to whom he lost 2 up a year ago.

“He’s clearly better than last year. You can just see he’s improved. Having played in the Masters and those other majors, he just plays better,” Young said. “He did struggle on the greens today. He was a little bit unlucky. But I played pretty solid. I made some key putts for par when I needed them. It was a hard-fought day out there.”

Young admits he felt a bit intimidated when he found out he would face Yang again, but then he remembered feeling like he could have beaten him last year were it not for a few missed putts. This time the tables were turned.

The match, Young said, swung decisively in his favor when he birdied the 454-yard, par-4 eighth hole after making bogey at No. 7. That restored a 2-up lead, which enabled him to weather a disappointing stretch when he lipped out on consecutive putts at the ninth and 10th. He birdied 11 and 12 to move 3 up and Yang helped with three-putt bogeys on the final two holes of the match. His final miss also was a lip out from about 4 feet after his birdie try from 40 feet was too strong.

“I played badly. I putted badly,” said Yang, 21, a junior at San Diego State University. “It was a frustrating day.”

Meanwhile, Young said he feels like he has played better each day. And in his third appearance in the U.S. Amateur, he’s growing in confidence.

 “I'm just a lot tighter [with ball striking]. I think I'm mentally stronger this year,” he said. “I think I'm mentally more prepared and physically, as well, just knowing I've been here before and knowing how to handle myself. And then I think just to know that it's another year of practicing, another year of hitting balls on the range, another year of playing in tournaments and knowing how to manage my game, just knowing how to hold myself together when I have to, really.”

 Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who writes frequently for USGA websites.

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