Clubhouse leader Brett Coletta of Australia (USGA photo)
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Brett Coletta of Australia got out early on Tuesday morning at Olympia Fields' North Course, posting four-under par 66 to add to his 67 from day one and take medalist honors at the 115th U.S. Amateur Championship.
Coletta has two impressive top-5 finishes this year, including fifth a few weeks back at the Porter Cup, and third at the Riversdale Cup in Australia.
“I'm hitting my driver unbelievable,” Coletta told the USGA. “So having that extra distance and hitting it straight, having those short irons in really helps. I thought I played really well and really solid.”
Coletta secured the No. 1 seed and medalist honors by a stroke over recently graduated University of Colorado golfer David Oraee, who carded back-to-back 67s.
“That's just a bonus,” Coletta said of earning the medalist title. “My goal this week was to get into match play, so I've already achieved my first goal.”
First-round leader Matt NeSmith, a University of South Carolina senior, shot 65 on day one on the South Course before posting 73 on the North Course during his second round. At two-under 138, NeSmith grabbed the 10-seed heading to match play.
Rounding out the top-4 seeds beyond Oraee were UCLA senior Jake Knapp of Costa Mesa, Calif. and University of Georgia senior Lee McCoy. Knapp's 65 on day two, which he had to finish Wednesday morning, tied NeSmith and Aussie Maverick Antcliff for the lowest round of the tournament, though Knapp was the only one of the trio to post the number on the North Course.
TEN PLAYERS ADVANCE THROUGH 18-MAN PLAYOFF
On Wednesday morning, it was go-time for 54 players who had yet to finish their final round of stroke play. At 7:13 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, play was suspended due to darkness, pushing the conclusion of the stroke play portion of the tournament into Wednesday morning. Tuesday morning's weather delay was the culprit. All remaining golfers had at least reached the 10th hole before the horn was blown Tuesday evening, while the cut line sat at 3-over, with 23 players tied for 56th place at 3-over and 19 players tied for 79th place at 4-over.
At the round's conclusion, 18 players were left tied for 55th place, meaning the group would need extra holes to determine the 10 needed to complete the match play bracket. Among the golfers tied at 3-over were No. 1 ranked amateur in the world Jon Rahm of Spain, University of Texas superstar Beau Hossler, 2015 Northeast Amateur winner Hunter Stewart, and recent Canadian Amateur champion Billy Kennerly.
Fifteen of the 18 advanced past the first hole, the par-4 10th, with Stuart MacDonald and Nicholas Ross of Canada and Jackson Juerling of Indianapolis being eliminated. On the par-5 18th, the second playoff hole, eight of the remaining 15 made birdies, securing their spot in match play. Rahm, Hossler, Stewart, and Kennerly were among the group of birdies at the second, and were accompanied by 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Brad Nurski, Adrian Meronk of Austria, Noah Goodwin of Texas, and Aaron Whalen of Washington.
That left just six players standing, not including David Snyder of Texas, who bogeyed the second extra hole. The group returned to the 10th where they would fight for two remaining spots. Sean Kelly of New York, Jonathan De Los Reyes of California, and Kyle Mueller of Georgia made pars, eliminating Californians Rico Hoey and Jonathan Garrick, as well as Auburn golfer Michael Johnson.
One last hole was needed, as again the players returned to the par-5 18th hole. Mueller, who plays collegaitely for the University of Michigan, and De Los Reyes, who plays for St. Mary's College, made clutch birdies to grab the final two spots while Kelly settled for par, becoming the last man out.
Mueller drew the top-seeded Coletta while De Los Reyes is set to face the 2-seed Oraee.
Other notable players to successfully punch their ticket to match play, without need of extra holes, include University of Alabama sophomore Robby Shelton, who recently was medalist at the Western Amateur, New Zealand's Josh Munn, VCU's Adam Ball, who won this year's Monroe Invitational, and Ireland's Paul Dunne, who received a special exemption from the USGA due to his stellar play at the 2015 British Open.
Important golfers to miss the cut include 2015 British Open low-amateur Jordan Niebrugge (+6), 2015 Pacific Coast Amateur winner Aaron Wise (+6), and 2015 California Amateur champion Shotaro Ban (+7).
Defending champion Gunn Yang posted 73 on the North Course on Monday, and likely needed to shoot 70 or better on the South Course this afternoon to qualify for match play. He carded 69, and at 2-over was granted the 37-seed to face future Wake Forest golfer Cameron Young of New York.
ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA
championship, was first played in 1895 at
Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 13 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online, starting
third week in April at www.usga.org.
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