Norman, Okla. – Nick Taylor, 21, of Canada and Brad Benjamin, 22, of Rockford, Ill. won their semifinal matches on Friday and will meet in the scheduled 36-hole final on Saturday at the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being conducted at the 7,289-yard, par-71 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
Taylor defeated Phillip Bryan, 23, of Norman, Okla., 3 and 2, in the first semifinal. Benjamin birdied the 18th hole to defeat Brandon Crick, 21, of McCook, Neb., 1 up, in the second semifinal.
Taylor, who recently tied for 36th and was the low amateur at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park, arrived in Norman as one of the pre-championship players to watch, fresh off a victory at the Sahalee Players Championship – a prestigious amateur event held at the site of the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash. Taylor will be a senior at the University of Washington.
“To make it to the final to any match play tournament, it's so difficult,” said Taylor. “You've got to be lucky a little bit and you’ve got to play well too. It’s going to be exciting tomorrow and I'm going to be pumped to play.”
In his match against Bryan - the assistant golf coach at the University of Oklahoma and a former four-year member of the team - Taylor was seemingly up against more than just an opponent. The largest crowds of the championship filled the fairways and ringed the green around the Taylor-Bryan match, cheering Bryan throughout. Though Bryan had his chances on a golf course he has played an estimated 300-400 times, it was the combination of a cool putter and consistently steady play from Taylor that ended his hopes of a hometown victory.
Taylor took advantage of a birdie miss by Bryan on the par-5 13th hole to record a birdie of his own and grab a 4-up lead with five holes to play. With the match on the line, Bryan hit a utility club to 10 feet on the 281-yard, par-3 15th hole, made the putt for birdie and extended the match. On the 16th hole, Taylor closed out Bryan with a par to win, 3 and 2.
“I'm having fun,” said Taylor. “At the end of the day, you're having fun but you're also just drained, so it's kind of hard to show how much fun you're having.”
Taylor has still not played in a match that has been extended to the 18th hole this week. He was the stroke-play medalist, recording a 6-under-par 136, four shots better than his nearest competitor. The last medalist to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links was D.J. Trahan in 2000, at Heron Lakes Golf Course, in Portland, Ore.
Taylor defeated Wesley Bryan, 19, of Chapin, S.C., 2 and 1, in Friday morning’s quarterfinal round.
Meanwhile, Benjamin lived to see another day when he won the final two holes of his semifinal match to sneak past Crick, 1 up. Trailing one down on the par-4, 17th, Benjamin stayed alive in the match by curling in a speedy 5-foot putt for par. When Crick lipped out his par attempt from 4-feet, the match was all square.
The recent Memphis graduate laid-up on the 584-yard par-5 18th, and had 145 yards left for his third shot. He hit a 9-iron to about 5-feet and made the birdie putt to win the match.
“He hit a great shot in there, you have to give him a lot of credit,” said Crick. “Brad played really well, it was a battle all the way to the end.”
Benjamin has flown under the radar for much of the week, but was excited and happy to be getting a chance to take on one of the hottest amateurs in the country, and the player who has garnered most of the media attention here in Norman.
“I really like this course. It suits my eye well, and I have a lot of good visuals out there,” said Benjamin, who earned an exemption into the 2009 U.S. Amateur Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., in August. “But if you change your game plan based on who your opponent is, you probably won’t get the results you’re looking for. So, I’m just going to go out tomorrow, and see what happens. Stick to my game.”
Benjamin is looking to become just the second left-handed player to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links, and the first since Ralph Howe III did it, in 1988 at Jackson Hole G & TC, in Jackson, Wyo. Although Benjamin swings left-handed, he putts right-handed.
Benjamin defeated LSU’s Sang Yi of Carrollton, Texas, 5 and 3, in Friday morning’s quarterfinal round.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links, established in 1922 for bona fide public course players, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Story written by David Normoyle and Dave Fanucchi of the USGA Communications staff. For questions or comments, contact them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Norman, Okla. – Results following Friday’s quarterfinal and semifinal rounds at the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the par-71, 7,289-yard Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club:
Nick Taylor, Canada (136) def. Wesley Bryan, Chapin, S.C. (143), 2 and 1
Phillip Bryan, Norman, Okla. (146) def. Sam Lyons, Myrtle Beach, S.C. (145), 1 up
Brandon Crick, McCook, Neb. (149) def. Eddie Olson, Aptos, Calif. (149), 19 holes
Brad Benjamin, Rockford, Ill. (142) def. Sang Yi, Carrollton, Texas (144), 5 and 3
Nick Taylor, Canada (136) def. Phillip Bryan, Norman, Okla. (146), 3 and 2
Brad Benjamin, Rockford, Ill. (142) def. Brandon Crick, McCook, Neb. (149), 1 up
Norman, Okla. – Pairing for Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final match at the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the par-71, 7,289-yard Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club:
7:00 am Nick Taylor, Canada (136) vs. Brad Benjamin, Rockford, Ill. (142)