2015 Western Amateur medalist Robby Shelton (WGA photo)
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. — University of Alabama junior Robby Shelton added to his stellar 2015 golf resume at Rich Harvest Farms on Thursday, finishing in first place and earning medalist honors at the 113th Western Amateur.
Conquering the difficult course on a 36-hole Thursday was Shelton, who fired rounds of 71 and 67 to post 11-under par 277 before many had finished. He was six off Dawson Armstrong's second-round lead entering the final day, but the sophomore from Lipscomb University posted consecutive 74s on Thursday to lose position.
“I got off to a hot start this afternoon, had the putter rolling on the first four [holes]; it went cold for awhile but seemed to kick in again on 11 and 12,” Shelton told the WGA. “I didn’t have many putts outside 12 to 15 feet all day. If you hit the fairways on this course, it’s really get-able.”
The native of Wilmer, Ala. had his most recent success on the PGA Tour, where he tied for third at the Barbasol Championship — played in his home state of Alabama. He and two other amateurs received sponsor's exemptions to play the pro tour that week. Finishing five shots behind winner Scott Piercy, Shelton tied professionals Whee Kim and Ricky Barnes and scored better than players like Aaron Baddeley, Johnson Wagner, and Trevor Immelman.
He represented his Crimson Tide this spring to a number of impressive collegiate finishes, including a win at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, third at the SEC Championship, and tied-for-fourth at the Puerto Rico Classic.
Let's meet the 15 other players joining Shelton when match play gets underway on Friday:
Gavin Hall — The native of Pittsford, N.Y. moved from outside the top-16 into solo second place on Thursday with rounds of 70 and 66. A junior a the University of Texas, Hall already has three top-3 finishes this year, including one at last week's Porter Cup and two on the collegiate level.
Sam Horsfield — The soon-to-be University of Florida freshman, who hails from England but lives in Florida, was one of two players to have begun the day outside the top-30 and wind up qualifying for match play. Horsfield finished his final round with six back-nine birdies to shoot one of two 66s carded in the afternoon.
Aaron Wise — Wise traveled straight from Eugene, Ore. to the suburbs of Chicago with a big win at the Pacific Coast Amateur under his belt. The native of Lake Elsinore, Calif. and University of Oregon sophomore shot 76 in Tuesday's first round but rebounded significantly with 64 on Wednesday. Couple that with 71 and 70 in Thursday's rounds and Wise is in position to make it two huge wins in a row.
Dawson Armstrong — The tournament's 36-hole leader had a tough go on Thursday, but that didn't prevent him from heading to match play as one of the higher seeds. The sophomore at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. carded consecutive 74s in the third and fourth rounds after holding a two-shot lead at the event's halfway point, which featured a stretch of 32 holes to begin the tournament without a bogey.
Jordan Niebrugge — The 2013 Western Amateur champion will have a chance to do it all over again. Niebrugge, a senior at Oklahoma State, made headlines two weeks ago when he was awarded the Silver Medal for the British Open's best-finishing amateur player. The native of Mequon, Wisc. needed even-par 144 on Thursday to cruise into match play and finish tied for third with Horsfield, Wise, and Armstrong.
Charlie Danielson — Another Wisconsin kid, this University of Illinois senior held a slim one-stroke lead at the end of Thursday morning's round, which was by far the most difficult scoring round of the tournament. Only eight players broke par, including Danielson's 71 that pushed him into the lead. But a 76 in the afternoon, including a double bogey on the 18th hole, dropped him out of contention for medalist and into seventh place. Danielson is also the only returnee from last year's final 16.
Harrison Endycott — Endycott will be one of three players from the Southern Hemisphere participating in match play. Hailing from New South Wales, Australia, Endycott captured a big win down under at the Avondale Amateur Medal — where they played his home course — and did so by nine shots. On Friday, he'll enter match play as a middle-of-the-pack seed thanks mostly to his second-round 66.
John Coultas — Coultas will look to represent NCAA Division II golf when he heads to match play Friday morning. The Florida Southern sophomore got off to a crazy hot start in his opening round on Tuesday, reaching the ninth tee at six-under. He ended up struggling on the back side and shooting 71, but the Valrico, Fla. native posted rounds of 69, 73, and 70 on the way to stay near the top of the leaderboard.
Ryan Ruffels — The second of two Aussies reaching match play, Ruffels was the most consistent player all week — in terms of 18-hole scores, that is. The Melbourne resident shot 71 during three of his four rounds, and shot 70 in the outlier. At age 16, Ruffels won the Callaway Junior World Championship in 2014. Now, in 2015, he'll look to make his mark at Rich Harvest Farms as the youngest player in match play.
Jake Knapp — The UCLA senior was almost as consistent as Ruffels, shooting between 70 and 72 in all four rounds. Knapp, of Costa Mesa, Calif., successfully Monday-qualified for this year's Farmers Insurance Open, but that wasn't the only PGA Tour event he played. Knapp advanced through local and sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, getting to play two rounds at Chambers Bay before missing the cut.
Luke Toomey — Toomey represents the third of three Southern Hemisphere golfers in match play, but not from the same country as the other two. Toomey is from across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, and shot 67 on Thursday afternoon to climb up the leaderboard and into the top-16.
Jonathan Garrick — Another UCLA Bruin senior, Garrick hails from Northern California and the Bay Area town of Atherton. Along with Sam Horsfield, Garrick was outside the top-30 entering the final day and managed to crawl back into contention. After a first-round 75, Garrick fired 69-71-69 to finish at four-under 284.
Adam Wood — Wood is a Duke University sophomore and Zionsville, Ind. native. Sitting outside the final cut line entering the afternoon round, Wood posted three-under 33 on the front nine and closed with 36 to shoot 69 and finish at four-under.
Alex Franklin — Franklin hails from San Rafael, Calif. and is the only graduating senior remaining in the event. The former Oregon State golfer was outside the top-16 heading to the final hole on Thursday but made a clutch birdie at the closing par-5.
Jack Maguire — Rounding out the 16 players still remaining is Maguire — the only player to finish at three-under par. If the Florida State junior wins, we'll all look back at his 72nd hole, where Maguire made eagle at the par-5 18th to leap frog into match play qualification by the slimmest of margins.
Keep tuned in to AmateurGolf.com as the Western Amateur comes to a close on Saturday, when the semifinal and championship rounds of match play will take place at the notoriously difficult Rich Harvest Farms.