Wheaton, Ill. (July 13, 2007) – Andy Roberts said Thursday night he was reaching his nine lives. Evidently, he didn’t have a 10th.
The 27-year-old accountant from Owensboro, Ky., who produced one miracle after another in advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, finally ran out of heroics.
Corey Nagy, 18, of Charlotte, N.C., built a 4-up lead through 10 holes and then held on for a 1-up victory Friday at Cantigny Golf. Nagy advanced to Friday afternoon’s semifinals, where he’ll face Colt Knost, 22, of Dallas, Texas. Knost, a third-team All-American this past season at Southern Methodist University and a 2007 USA Walker Cup candidate, eliminated Robert Rohanna, 21, of Waynesburg, Pa., 2 up.
All four quarterfinal matches went the distance. Cody Paladino, 18, of Kensington, Conn., won the 18th hole for a 1-up victory over 19-year-old UCLA rising junior Lucas Lee of Brazil, who was a third-team All-America selection in 2006-07. The final round-of-8 match went to Louisville All-American Derek Fathauer, 21, of Jensen Beach, Fla., 1 up. Fathauer won the 18th hole with a bogey to hold off Aaron Goldberg of Encinitas, Calif.
Since sectional qualifying, Roberts, a 2002 NAIA All-American at Brescia University in Owensboro, has been enjoying life on the edge. He reached the APL field via a playoff back in Evansville, Ind., then survived a 19-for-16 extra session on Wednesday to garner the final match-play spot. He followed that up by beating the stroke-play medalist and 2007 U.S. Open qualifier Mark Harrell in the first round. Then he chipped in at 18 to force extra holes in his second-round, 20-hole win over Nathan Pistacchio.
Roberts advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4-and-3 victory over 43-year-old William Mitchell, the oldest player left in the draw. He was trying to become the first No. 64 seed to win the APL. Clay Ogden won the 2005 title from the No. 63 spot in the draw.
“If you would have told me before the tournament I would make it to the quarters, I would have taken it,” said Roberts, who will make an attempt to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Amateur later this summer. “You will see me again [at the 2008 APL in Aurora, Colo.]. It’s a great experience just making it this far.”
Nagy built a 3-up lead after nine holes, winning holes one, four and nine with pars and a birdie at No. 6. Roberts birdied the par-5 seventh for his only win on the first nine. Nagy also won the 10th with a par, but then watched Roberts birdie 11 and 12, then win 13 with a par to trim the deficit back to 1 down.
“I really didn’t think [I was in trouble],” said Nagy, a freshman All-American this past season for the University of North Carolina Charlotte. “I just sort of stuck to my game plan and stayed focused. I knew I was good enough to win. I just had to put it in motion.”
Roberts three-putted 15 to lose the hole. He was 75 yards from the flagstick in the fairway for his approach. He got it back at 16 by holing a birdie putt from the fringe. He then made a clutch par save at 17 to take the match to 18, where he missed a 25-foot birdie putt.
“The only one I wish I had back was 15,” said Roberts. “I actually started to play good today. This is probably the best I hit the ball. He let me back in it on 13. I wish I could have gotten 14. I parred that one and I think that relaxed him and he got back into a good rhythm. Most the day, he hit good shots. He was hitting his 3-wood [off the tee] really good. Out here, if you are hitting your 3-wood far enough, you are going to be fine.”
Added Nagy: “It’s cool. I feel comfortable. I love the course. We’ll see what happens [this afternoon].”
Knost missed a 2-foot par putt at four to go 2 down, but battled his way back into the match, making a winning birdie at seven and another birdie at 10 to square the match. The two opponents halved the next six holes before Knost knocked his 8-iron tee shot to the 176-yard 17th hole to 8 feet for another winning birdie. Just for good measure, Knost rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt at 18.
Knost shot the equivalent of 4-under 68, with the usual match-play concessions, while Rohanna had a 1-under 71.
“I just hung in there and played really solid,” said Knost, who played No. 18 for the first time in match play this week. “It was a great match. He played very well. And I played very well, too. It was good golf all the way.”
Said Rohanna, who will be a senior at Penn State in the fall: “I couldn’t capitalize on any of his mistakes. He did the same with mine. We couldn’t get any birdie putts to fall. I just left a lot of shots out there.”
Rohanna hopes to now qualify for the U.S. Amateur on July 26. And he’s exempt for the 2008 APL by reaching the quarterfinals.
“I have been playing pretty well all summer,” said Rohanna. “I still need to crisp up my game a little bit. I hit a few bad shots that I shouldn’t be hitting. I just need to go home and work out a few kinks and hopefully get back to normal before my U.S. Amateur qualifier.”
The Fathauer/Goldberg match had a wild finish. With the match all square, both players found the water off the tee at 18. Fathauer just managed to make a 10-footer for bogey to squeeze out the win.
“I don’t know what that was,” said Fathauer. “I wanted to make it interesting I guess.”
Neither player held more than a 1-up advantage the entire way. Fathauer birdied 11 to square the match, then chipped in for eagle from the greenside rough (20 feet) at 14 to square the match yet again. Fathauer won 15 with a par and Goldberg took 16 with a par to set up the final-hole theatrics.
Fathauer shot the equivalent of even-par 72, while Goldberg, a rising senior at San Diego State University where he earned honorable-mention All-America honors in 2007, shot 73.
“On the front I played pretty well,” said Fathauer. “On the back nine, I kind of scraped it around.”
All four semifinalists are now exempt from qualifying for the 2008 and ’09 APLs, while the quarterfinal losers are exempt into next year’s championship. The semifinal winners earn an exemption into the 2007 U.S. Amateur, with the champion receiving a likely invitation to the 2008 Masters.
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.