PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — 2015 NCGA Public Links champion Nick Moore was pumped to play No.2 world ranked Maverick McNealy, but he also knew it would be a tough task.
After falling 6 and 5 to McNealy in Thursday’s quarterfinals of this week’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill, Moore summed up just how hard it was.
“I felt like I needed to birdie every hole to have a chance,” said Moore, who’s one of the top players on the NCGA Amateur Tour.
McNealy, the highest world-ranked amateur to ever play in an NCGA championship, was again in top form in both the Round of 32 and Round of 16.
In his win over Moore and a 4 and 3 victory over Derek Ackerman in the Round of 32, the Stanford junior went a combined 10-under over 28 holes without a single bogey. Overall so far, McNealy is 18-under through 54 holes–on a Spyglass Hill course that is one of the toughest rated courses on the planet.
“There’s a reason why he’s No.2 in the world,” Moore said.
For McNealy, meanwhile, it’s all been business as usual.
“I felt like I played solid golf throughout both rounds,” said McNealy, who was named to this year’s U.S. Walker Cup squad on Monday. “In the afternoon I putted really well and in the morning I hit the ball really well. Derek and Nick were really fun to play with.”
While McNealy was in cruise control, three of the other Top 4 seeds found themselves victims of upsets.
No.2 seed and defending champion Matthew Seramin fell in the Round of 16, 2 and 1, to No.18 seeded Granite Bay GC member Jon Peterson. Peterson, at 42 the oldest player left in the brackets, didn’t get off to the start he wanted to, falling behind by three through the first five holes.
“I was on the verge of jumping into the Pacific Ocean,” Peterson said.
The tide turned, however, when Peterson won holes No.6 through No.9 to bring the match back to all-square. Peterson went on to take the lead on the 13th and later closed things out by sinking a 10-foot par putt on the 16th and a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th.
“I played really well on the back,” Peterson said. “Those last two putts were big.”
While Peterson’s putter warmed up, Seramin, who was looking to become the first repeat winner since John Catlin (2010-2011), couldn’t make anything on the back.
“I gave myself opportunities on the back-nine and just couldn’t convert,” said Seramin, who plans on taking his chances at PGA Tour Q-School this fall. “That’s just how golf is.”
Also getting bounced from the brackets were No.3 seed Justin Suh, who lost 3 and 2 in the Round of 16 to Mayacama GC member Scott Mitchell and No.4 Steven Chung, who fell 6 and 4 to No.29 seed Ryan Knop in the Round of 32.
Knop, a freshman at UC Davis, later lost 6 and 4 to Cal’s Walker Huddy in the Round of 32.
In Thursday morning’s quarterfinals, McNealy will take on No.9 Matthew Ashley. Ashley, a red-shirt sophomore at San Jose State, moved on with a 4 and 3 win in the Round of 32 over Patrick Soli.
Huddy will take on No.28 UNLV sophomore Shintaro Ban, who squeaked out two 1-up wins, and Peterson will face No.7 Matthew Cohn of San Francisco. Cohn reached the semifinals in last year’s championship, knocking out then-marquee player Corey Pereira in the quarterfinals.
Ban, the younger brother of California Amateur Championship winner Shotaro Ban, had a comeback to remember in defeating No.12 Perry Cohen in the Round of 32. Ban was down three through the first three holes and remained three down through the 12th hole.
Ban won the 14th with a birdie and later birdied the 16th through 18th holes to stun Cohen.
In the fourth quarterfinals match, Mitchell will take on No.11 Brandon Lee, who knocked out No.27 Scott Hardy, 3 and 2, in the Round of 32.
The men’s golf coach at St. Mary’s, Hardy is tied for third on the all-time NCGA win list behind Randy Haag and Casey Boyns.
Friday’s quarterfinals will begin at 7 a.m., with the first semifinals match slated to tee off at 12:30 p.m.