Wheaton, Ill. – Andy Roberts, 27, of Owensboro, Ky., eliminated stroke-play medalist Mark Harrell, 21, of Hazlehurst, Ga., 3 and 2, Wednesday in the first round of match play at the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Cantigny Golf.
Roberts, who survived a 19-for-16 playoff earlier Wednesday to garner the final match-play spot, became the first APL No. 64 seed to win a first-round match since 2002 when Tele Wightman beat Isaac Jamison.
Because of all the weather delays the first two days, the first round of match play didn’t begin until 2:39 p.m. CDT. A total of 126 players had to complete the second round of stroke-play qualifying on Wednesday before the field could be cut to the low 64 scorers.
Only 15 of the scheduled 32 first-round matches were able to finish before darkness halted play at 8:36 p.m. Defending champion Casey Watabu of Kapaa, Hawaii, who followed a first-round 80 with a 4-under 68 to get into the match-play draw, was all square through eight holes of his match against Brent Paladino of Kensington, Conn.
The last match between Rory Hie of Los Angeles and Federico Damus of Argentina started at 7:36 p.m. First-round matches will resume at 7:30 a.m. CDT on Thursday. Second-round matches also are scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. The third round of match play will follow.
Quarterfinal and semifinal matches are scheduled to be played on Friday, followed by the 36-hole final match on Saturday.
“I finally started hitting the ball a lot better,” said Roberts, who reached the second round of match play in his only other APL appearance in 2000. “I got really lucky in the playoff just to get in.”
Roberts, an accountant, bogeyed both playoff holes, but thanks to a pair of double bogeys at the second extra hole, he received the final spot. He took advantage of his break by playing bogey-free golf (with the usual match-play concessions) over 16 holes. Roberts grabbed a 1-up lead at the second hole and never relinquished it.
“It wasn’t like he was hitting bad shots,” said Roberts. “I thought he was hitting the ball really good. I just got up early. It’s not like the golf course is a pushover. It’s not driver/sand wedge all day long. That makes it difficult [to rally] when you are down.”
Harrell, a rising senior at the University of Alabama, completed his final round of stroke-play qualifying with a 2-under 70, giving him a 36-hole total of 139, good enough for a two-stroke advantage over Brazil’s Lucas Lee, Eddie Olson of Aptos, Calif., and Clayton Rask of Otsego, Minn.
“It’s frustrating, no question,” said Harrell, a 2007 U.S. Open qualifier who missed the cut by a stroke at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. “You work so hard to get into match play and then to go out in the first round, that’s tough.”
Last year at the U.S. Amateur, Harrell was the No. 2 qualifier out of stroke play and was defeated by Roberto Castro, 3 and 2. He hoped for a better match-play result this time. Perhaps the marathon day just caught up with him. Harrell was up at 6 a.m. and left the golf course after 8 p.m.
“I’m exhausted,” he said. “I just ran out of gas out there. I was telling my caddie walking in that I’ve got to be in better shape physically to endure days like today, because they will happen.
“I’ve just got to learn from this experience.”
Two Chicago-area players qualified for match play, but only 22-year-old Philip Arouca of Wilmette, Ill., advanced. Arouca, who is set to graduate from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia this December with a degree in history and political science, eliminated Danny Sorgini of Pickerington, Ohio, 4 and 3.
Jonathon Schram, 23, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., lost to 16-year-old Seung Yul Noh of Korea, 3 and 2.
Arouca was able to dodge the weather suspensions on Monday and Tuesday. He played early Monday and then didn’t hit a shot Tuesday. He shot a 4-over-par 75 Wednesday morning and then managed an early starting time for match play.
“It played into my hands,” said Arouca of the weather situation. “The good thing is I’m hitting my irons real well right now. I’m not driving it as well as I would like. I’m able to scrape it around and play 2-over-par golf in the match play [over 15 holes]. It was enough to get by.”
The Philadelphia-born Arouca moved to Wilmette when he was 14, but only played one year of high school golf at New Trier, and that was after he got cut from the varsity baseball team in the spring of 2003. He originally attended LaSalle University and transferred to St. Joseph’s after his sophomore year. This past year, he earned All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors, one of two players not from conference powerhouses Xavier and Charlotte to make the squad.
Arouca still considers himself a Philadelphia guy, but right now he’s getting good vibes making the one-hour commute from Wilmette to this western Chicago suburb.
“Cantigny is starting to feel like home right now,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be here for a couple of more days.”
The APL is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.