by Jay Flemma
GARDEN CITY, NY (May 22, 2011) -– Surprise! The top three seeds in the championship match play bracket of the Travis Invitational all advanced to the semi-finals of the 101st playing of the Grand Old Amateur. Nick Gilliam, Steve White, and Hans Albertsson, stroke play co-medalists and the 1-2-3 seeds respectively, won morning and afternoon matches to advance to Sunday morning’s semi-finals. They were joined by party-crasher Kevin Gai, the 13th seed, who will face Gilliam in one match. White and Albertsson will lock horns in the other.
The result is stunning, as the Travis match play bracket is renowned for its unpredictability. Seven consecutive number one seeds had lost to the 16 seed before Gilliam outlasted well-decorated amateur star Ken Bakst 3&2 in his morning round. Gilliam then survived the match of the tournament thus far, a swashbuckling clash with young Irish star Eoin O’Connor that went 22 holes.
“There were so many swings in our match, we knew it had to be entertaining,” Gilliam admitted, and it was. O’Connor grabbed an early lead with birdies at one and two, and surged to 3-up after Gilliam bogeyed the par-4 10th.
“I wasn’t executing, which was a little frustrating, but I was mostly worried that Eoin would get too much momentum and ride it the rest of the way,” Gilliam explained. “I needed to counterpunch and get some confidence and momentum going, and luckily I got it right away.”