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Former NFL lineman Williams and partner advance at U.S. 4-Ball
Gregory Berthelot (Steve Gibbons/USGA)
Gregory Berthelot (Steve Gibbons/USGA)

As a former college and professional football player, Kyle Williams knows how difficult it can be to win a championship. The former Louisiana State University All-American won a BCS national title with the Tigers in 2003, but the defensive tackle never tasted that level of success in 13 NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

He has a chance to rekindle that feeling this week on Bandon Dunes Golf Resort’s Old Macdonald course. Williams, 35, of Ruston, La., and his partner, Gregory Berthelot, 30, of Baton Rouge, La., successfully tackled their Round-of-32 opponents on Monday, handing Hillsdale (Mich.) College teammates Andrew Grayson, of Medina, Ohio, and Liam Purslowe, of Australia, a 4-and-2 defeat.

Competing in their first USGA championship, Williams, who retired this past December as a six-time Pro Bowl selection with 48.5 career sacks, got the side off to a fast start with birdies from 5 and 30 feet on Nos. 1 and 2. Then Berthelot, the 2011 Louisiana State Amateur champion, added another birdie on the third hole, the same par 4 he eagled during Sunday’s final round of stroke play.

From there, the side played the last 12 holes in the equivalent of 3-under-par golf – with the usual match-play concessions – to close out their 22-year-old opponents.

“It was obviously a hot start and it ended up being basically the deciding factor in the match,” said Williams. “We birdied the first three and got up and down [for par] on four. We were off and rolling and in a comfortable spot to get that [win].

“I know what we're up against and you'll have other guys you're going to play against that are competitors and skilled players. We're looking forward to what tomorrow holds.”

Although the day began with some light mist and overcast skies, the winds that are so prevalent at the resort were calm.

Two of the three co-medalist sides from stroke play advanced; the lone exception being Texans Christopher Wheeler, 36, of Addison, and Derek Abel, 36, of Dallas. Placed at the top of the bracket in the No. 1 seed slot, the former mini-tour players (they were reinstated in 2012 and 2016, respectively) lost to the Louisiana tandem of Andrew Noto, 29, of Metairie, and James Fuselier, 38, of New Orleans, 3 and 2. This came after Noto and Fuselier emerged from a 7-for-4 playoff earlier on Monday just to get into the draw.

Ex-Santa Clara University teammates Derek Ackerman, 22, of Santa Clara, Calif., and Matthew McCarty, 21, of Scottsdale, Ariz., the No. 2 seeds, defeated Canadians Eric Patttenaude and Adam Graham, 3 and 1, while third-seeded Vince Kwon, 25, of Marlton, N.J., and Troy Vannucci, 27, of Marlton, N.J., had a much more dramatic finish against Auburn University teammates M. Tyler McKeever and Steven Groover. Tied going to the final hole, Vannucci hit a 6-iron out of a fairway bunker from 185 yards to 25 feet below the hole. He then converted the 25-foot uphill birdie putt for a 1-up victory.

“Yeah, I was leaking oil,” said Vannucci. “I mean, Vince, he played incredible. He carried me all day.”

Two recent U.S. Mid-Amateur champions set up a showdown Tuesday morning at 8:24 PDT in the Round of 16. Stewart Hagestad, 28, of Newport Beach, Calif., the 2016 winner, and partner Derek Busby, 35, of Ruston, La., held on for a 1-up win over Robert Lutomski, 38, of Simpsonville, S.C., and Weston Bell, 25, of Piedmont, S.C.

Matt Parziale, 31, of Brockton, Mass., the 2017 Mid-Amateur champion and 2018 U.S. Open co-low amateur, and partner Herbie Aikens, 37, of Kingston, Mass., ousted California teenagers Aiden Tran, 15, of Fresno, and Jackson Lake, 18, of Clovis, 3 and 2. This is Parziale and Aikens’ third appearance in this championship but the first time they’ve qualified for match play.

“I’ve played with Stew quite a bit and we’ve always had a lot of fun together,” said Parziale. “We’ve been in contention [together] in some tournaments, but not matches. I’m good friends with Derek, too, so all four of us know each other. It should be a lot of fun.”

A third past U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, Scott Harvey, 40, of Kernersville, N.C., also advanced to the Round of 16 with his partner, Todd Mitchell, 40, of Bloomington, Ill., 2 and 1, over Davidson College graduates Ralph Blasey, of Bethesda, Md., and Alex Nianouris, of Raleigh, N.C. Harvey won the title in 2014 and Mitchell was the runner-up in the same championship in 2008. They were semifinalists in the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball four years ago.

ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 5.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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