WHEATON, Ill. (July 13, 2007)-- Colt Knost, 22, of Dallas, Texas, will square off against 18-year-old Cody Paladino of Kensington, Conn., in Saturday’s 36-hole championship match of the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Cantigny Golf.
On Friday, Knost won a pair of matches to reach the final, beating Robert Rohanna, 21, of Waynesburg, Pa., 2-up, in Friday morning’s quarterfinals and then 18-year-old Corey Nagy of Charlotte, N.C., 3 & 2, in the semifinals. With the usual concessions for match play, Knost made just three bogeys over 34 holes and was the equivalent of 7-under-par.
Paladino, who will be a freshman this fall at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, posted a pair of 1-up victories over a pair of third-team All-Americans: UCLA junior Lucas Lee, 19, of Brazil in the quarterfinals, and Louisville senior Derek Fathauer, 19, of Jensen Beach, Fla.
Knost and Paladino are now each exempt into the 2007 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif., but Saturday’s winner will receive a likely invitation to the 2008 Masters. Knost also has his eyes on making the 10-man USA Walker Cup team that will compete against Great Britain and Ireland Sept. 8-9 at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland. Knost was one of 24 players invited to a special Walker Cup informal practice session Jan. 8 in Tampa, Fla.
“That’s a bigger reward for me,” said Knost, a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University, where he was a third-team All-America this past season. “I’d rather make Walker Cup. Walker Cup would mean more to me than Augusta. This is what I am staying amateur for, is to make Walker Cup. I could have turned pro right after my college season, but to represent your country is one of the greatest things you can do.
“It’s the greatest even in amateur golf and maybe the greatest event in golf," he continued. "It would be the greatest experience of my life to play in that. Hopefully making it to the finals of a USGA event will show [the selectors] a little something.”
Knost’s clubs have been doing plenty of talking this week. Through 80 match-play holes, he has just five bogeys. He got off to a rough start against Nagy, a freshman All-American this past season at University of North Carolina Charlotte, making two bogeys over the first three holes to fall 2-down.
The match turned at the eighth hole when Nagy three-putted for bogey. Two holes later, Knost made a 10-foot par putt and Nagy missed his from seven feet, which sent the match back to all square. At 11, Nagy made a 25-foot birdie before Knost made his from 5 feet. But Knost, who shot a 64 in April at the PGA Tour EDS Byron Nelson Championship, birdied 13, 14 and 15 to take a commanding 3-up advantage. He closed out the match by halving 16.
“I got off to an awful start,” said Knost, who visited with some medical people after the match due to blisters on his feet. “I couldn’t find the fairway the first five holes. Momentum started going my way when he missed that par putt on 10.
“I just told myself to be patient and keep going.”
Paladino was all square going to 18 in both matches. Lee hit a poor 3-wood tee shot into the trees and had to punch back out to the fairway. He eventually bogeyed to lose the hole.
A similar circumstance happened in the afternoon. Fathauer’s approach was long and left into some gnarly rough. He left his first pitch in the rough and was forced to get up and down for bogey.
“My caddie (John Menqual) just said to me, ‘On the green and two putts and we are back tomorrow,’ ” said Paladino, whose approach found the green and he calmly two-putted for the par and win.
Paladino was 2 down after 13 holes when he birdied 14 and won 16 with a par to square the match. Both players birdied the 335-yard, par-4 15th hole.
“I hit it in the water and mess of the 13 th hole,” said Paladino, the 2006 Connecticut State Golf Association Player of the Year. “I played it like a 30-handicapper. Walking to the 14th tee, my caddie and I had a little conversation. I marked a new golf ball and said, ‘All right, this is the one and we’re going to do it.’
“There’s nothing you can do if he makes birdies on top of my birdies. I dug deep and did all I could do.”
--David Shefter, USGA staff writer