All-American Semifinal Set for Saturday
August 18, 2017 | PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
For the first time since 2012, the semifinal matches of the U.S. Amateur will have an all-American feel as a quartet of U.S. college players won their quarterfinal matches of the 117th championship on Friday at The Riviera Country Club.
The four winners were: University of Texas All-American and Big 12 Conference Player of the Year Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, Ill., Vanderbilt University All-American Theo Humphrey, of Greenwich, Conn.; Virginia Tech junior Mark Lawrence Jr., of Richmond, Va., who won the 2017 Virginia State Amateur; and Clemson University sophomore and 2017 Western Amateur runner-up Doc Redman, of Raleigh, N.C.
Ghim meets Humphrey at 8 a.m. PDT and Lawrence faces Redman at 8:20 a.m.
“Yeah, it's new territory for the U.S. Am,” said Ghim, who advanced to the Round of 32 in the 2016 U.S. Amateur. “It's the U.S. Am for college golf. It's as big as it gets. There are nerves for sure, but everyone is feeling them. I'm more than happy to feel those nerves, because that means I'm doing something right.”
In his match, Ghim, No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, never trailed in defeating world No. 13 Connor Syme, of Scotland, 2 and 1. Syme is a member of Scotland’s national squad and the winner of the 2016 Australian Amateur.
With the match all square after nine holes, Ghim, who won the Pacific Coast Amateur in July, won the short par-4 10th with a birdie after an excellent drive just off the front of the green. His chip from nearly 100 feet settled to 3 feet for a conceded birdie. On the par-4 13th, he hit an 8-iron to 24 feet and holed the putt for another winning birdie and a 2-up margin.
“The birdie on 13 was nice,” said Ghim, who was runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. “Connor kind of freed me up because he had about 10 feet for par. That kind of gave me a free run at it. I thought, I don't want to have to watch him putt and see if I can win the hole. I want to make this one. It was an easy putt to read. I hit a good putt and rolled it in.”
Humphrey, who earned the fourth seed in stroke play, was 2 down through eight holes in his match with Arizona State University sophomore Chun An Yu, of Chinese Taipei. However, Humphrey, an all-Southeastern Conference choice, birdied four of the next five holes (losing the 11th to Yu’s birdie) to gain a 1-up lead, which held when the pair halved the next five holes with four pars and one birdie for a 1-up victory.
“To make birdie there (on 12) and to birdie again on 13, those are two holes you're happy to walk off with par,” said Humphrey, who is playing in his fourth U.S. Amateur and was the runner-up to Ghim in the 2017 Northeast Amateur. “To birdie and win both of those holes was really big for me, and that shifted everything in the match.”
Lawrence, the No. 7 seed from stroke play who is competing in his first USGA championship, won holes 10, 11 and 12 (11 and 12 with birdies) to turn an all-square match into a 3-up lead over Dawson Armstrong, of Brentwood, Tenn., who was struggling to recover from an overnight bout with food poisoning.
Armstrong won the 14th with a par to cut his deficit to 2 down, but Lawrence responded with par on the 16th to win the hole and close out the match, 3 and 2.
In the last of four matches, Redman defeated Travis Smyth, of Australia, 1 up, despite facing a 2-down deficit with six holes to play.
Smyth, ranked No. 29 in the world, had defeated NCAA champion Braden Thornberry in the second round and Wake Forest All-American Will Zalatoris in the third round.
Redman won holes 13, 14 and 15 to gain a 1-up lead, lost 17 to a Smyth birdie but won the match with par on 18.
“It was stressful,” said Redman, who also caddies in the summer. “It was tight. I think it was very competitive, too. I think we were both there obviously doing our best and playing pretty good golf. I'm sure it was fun to watch. It was fun to play.”
Semifinalists are exempt into the next two U.S. Amateurs, while all quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 118th U.S. Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links and stroke-play co-host Spyglass Hill August 13-19, 2018.
The 117th U.S. Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, concluding with Sunday’s 36-hole championship match. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Riviera, which was the host site of the 1948 U.S. Open, won by Ben Hogan, and the 1998 U.S. Senior Open, won by Hale Irwin, is playing at 7,272 yards. Bel-Air Country Club, which hosted the 1976 U.S. Amateur and the 2004 U.S. Senior Amateur, served as the stroke-play co-host course.
Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.