After Exciting Day, U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Down to Four May 24, 2016 | MAMARONECK, N.Y. By Brian DePasquale, USGA

Brandon Cigna (left) celebrates with partner Ben Warnquist after advancing to the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball semifinals on Tuesday. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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Meet the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Semifinalists

Patrick Christovich and Garrett Rank, a pair of mid-amateurs who are the lowest remaining seeded team in the match-play bracket, won two matches in dramatic fashion Tuesday to advance to the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship on the par 70, 6,728-yard East Course at Winged Foot Golf Club.

Rank, a professional hockey referee, made a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to hand his team a 1-up quarterfinal victory over David Kocher, 20 of Charlotte, N.C., and Connor Tendall, 23, of North Potomac, Md. Earlier in the day, Christovich, 37, of New Orleans, La., set up a winning birdie in the third round on the 21st hole, the par-3 third, by striking a 157-yard 9-iron to close range.

“This is why you practice and this is why you play,” said Rank about the excitement of advancing to the semifinals. “It makes that long drive to Hershey (to referee) and back (to this championship) feel good along with the grind of taking clubs to the airport and practicing during the winter.”

Connor and Tendall, who are former University of Maryland teammates, won the opening two holes, but Christovich made a sweeping long-distance birdie putt on No. 7 and Rank sank a 24-footer for another birdie to square the match on No. 10. The teams went back and forth on the inward nine. Connor and Tendall regained the lead with a conceded birdie on the par-3 13th before Rank and Christovich won No. 15 with a par.

“Every time we got one back, next hole they put one right back on us,” said Christovich, a realtor who has won three Louisiana Mid-Amateur Championships.

Rank, 28, of Canada and the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up, kept the match all square on the par-4 16th when he sank a ticklish 20-foot birdie putt.

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, 18 each on the East and West Courses of Winged Foot Golf Club, followed by five rounds of match play on the East Course. Fox Sports 1 (FS1) will televise Wednesday’s semifinals and championship, scheduled as an 18-hole final, from 3-5:30 p.m. EDT.

Christovich and Rank will meet Ben Baxter, 20, of Flower Mound, Texas, and Andrew Buchanan, 21, of Los Altos, Calif., in the semifinals. In the quarterfinals, the Southern Methodist University teammates dispatched the No. 1 seed and stroke-play medalists, Brandon Matthews, 21, of Dupont, Pa., and Patrick Ross, 24, of Dunmore, Pa., 2 and 1

Baxter, a sophomore, made his second match-clinching putt of the day when he sank a 10-footer for par on No. 17. He secured a 1-up victory in the previous round with a big-breaking 50-footer on the 18th hole.

“It’s been pretty cool,” said Baxter, who has competed in two U.S. Amateurs. “I wouldn’t be there without my partner. He’s been playing really consistent and I’ve just been trying to pick him up where I can.”

Buchanan, a senior who earned All-American Athletic Conference honors last year, struck a 117-yard 50-degree wedge to within 4 feet to set up a birdie and a 2-up margin on the par-4 10th hole. His team never trailed in the quarterfinal match as Matthews and Ross managed to make just one birdie as a team during the round.

“Coming into it, we were just excited to be here – it was like a no-lose attitude,” Buchanan said. “Every match we advance, we’re like, oh, one more free round at Winged Foot East.”

Otto Black, 22, of Pinckney, Mich., and Colin Joseph, 19, of Loveland, Ohio, defeated two experienced opponents on their way to the semifinals. Black and Joseph edged Scott Harvey, 37, of Greensboro, N.C., and Todd Mitchell, 37, of Bloomington, Ill., 2 and 1, in the third round before registering a 2-up victory over Alex Buecking, 43, of Columbine Valley, Colo., and Jason Enloe, 42, of Dallas, Texas, in the quarterfinals.

Buecking and Enloe, who are former SMU teammates, birdied the par-3 13th to square the match. But Black and Joseph, members of the University of Toledo team who are both playing in their first USGA championship, rebounded over the final three holes. Black made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th. Both players were conceded medium-range birdie putts on the final hole.

“We always kept ourselves in it,” said Black, who lofted a 9-iron within a foot on No. 16 that put his team ahead for good in a morning round that began in rainy conditions. “We just gave ourselves a lot of opportunities, and at the end coming down the stretch, that’s what gave us that breakthrough.”

Brandon Cigna, 30, of Arlington, Va., and Ben Warnquist, 23, of Olney, Md., will face Black and Joseph in the lower half of the bracket. Cigna and Warnquist held off Drew Allenspach, 29, of Louisville, Ky., and Matthew Van Zandt, 30, of Houston, Texas, 1 up, in their quarterfinal match.

Cigna, a financial advisor, and Warnquist, a sales representative, built a 3-up margin with a par on No. 15. But the championship bracket’s No. 3 seed rallied with birdies on holes 16 and 17. Warnquist, who won the 2015 Maryland State Amateur, sealed the decision with a short par putt on the final hole.

“You’ve got to expect tough matches,” said Warnquist, who reached the Round of 16 in the 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur. “You just have to expect to play 18 holes, and that’s kind of what at least I go with.”

In the third round, Warnquist made a 4-foot par putt on the 18th hole as his team defeated Braden Baer, 22, of Westminster, Colo., and Cole Nygren, 22, of Longmont, Calif., 1 up.

Allenspach and Van Zandt got past defending champions Nathan Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Todd White, 48, of Spartanburg, S.C., 2 and 1, en route to the quarterfinals earlier in the day.

“It’s a different golf course, there’s a different field and we are a year older,” said White, who along with Smith won the inaugural championship at The Olympic Club. “There’s no defense, the only thing we are defending against now is time.”

Semifinal sides, which must remain intact, are exempt from qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C.

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

Brian DePasquale is the USGA’s manager of championship communications. Email him at bdepasquale@usga.org.

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