SCOTTSDALE, AZ (Aug. 4, 2011) -- Zachary Sardina, an 18-year-old from Goodyear, was well aware of the challenge he faced Wednesday as the No. 63 seed in the 64-player bracket of the Arizona Amateur. After all, he was pitted against Sierra Vista’s Colin McCarty, the No. 2 seed and a very good player headed to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville this fall.
Then came the 18th hole at the Country Club at DC Ranch, with the match surprisingly all-square and both players putting for birdie – Sardina from 20 feet with McCarty just inside of him.
“I knew I was the underdog, but I was just trying to stay patient, hang in there and overcome my mistakes while hoping he might make a couple (of mistakes),’’ said Sardina, who didn’t take up golf until he was a sophomore at Millennium High School.
“When my putt went in for birdie, I was so excited that I did my little Tiger Woods fist pump. But I still wasn’t convinced I’d won the match because I kind of thought he might make his putt, too. When it didn’t go in, I was actually kind of shocked.’’
Sardina’s 1-up shocker over McCarty, who also is 18 years old, was the biggest upset posted among the 32 matches that unfolded in Round 1. Not only does it show the depth of this major championship sponsored by the Arizona Golf Association, it also revealed a rising talent in Sardina, who will play golf for Scottsdale Community College this fall.
“I’ve had a lot of runner-up finishes in junior golf but never a win, so this was a big step for me,’’ said Sardina, who was 2-down after three holes, evened the match after nine holes, trailed 2-down after 14 holes only to rally back and win the 15th and 17th holes with pars. The other top seed in this event, No. 1 Adam Walicki, easily moved past his opponent Steven Ortiz, 4 and 3. Walicki, a stockbroker from Scottsdale, was medalist with a 7-under-par aggregate to earn the top spot. In the day’s longest-running match, Chandler’s Peter Kyo Won Koo upended Grand Canyon University sophomore Alec Dahlquist in 23 holes. Koo, a 15-year-old who earlier in the year captured the Arizona State Stroke Championship, was 3-up after 15 holes, lost the last three holes and then prevailed on the fifth extra hole. Dahlquist had been the No. 11 seed.
The shot of the week, at least so far, went to Mesa’s Robbie Kernagis, who made a hole-in-one from 174 yards at No. 5 that proved pivotal in his 2-and-1 win over the University of Arizona’s Tom Conran. Perhaps the most impressive victory of the opening round, in terms of score, was Juan Fernandez’s 7-and-6 drubbing of Matt McClure. Fernandez, who was the No. 1 player for Scottsdale Community College the past two seasons, never trailed in the match.
“I played pretty good and he didn’t play so well; it was a combination of both,’’ said Fernandez, 21, whose four birdies and lone bogey were good enough. “He gave me one at the third hole, where he four-putted, then I was 2-up after six, won the seventh with a par, and birdied (Nos.) 8, 9 and 10 to go 6-up. I made a par at the 12th to win the match. I think the real key for me is I haven’t had a three-putt since Monday, so I’ve been able to figure out the speed of these greens.’’
Fernandez, who is from Mexico City but spent over half of his life in Spain, said he had wanted to play for either Arizona State or Washington this fall but couldn’t get a scholarship. So after the Arizona Amateur, he plans to turn pro.
“If I could win this, that would be a great good-bye to amateur golf,’’ he said.
Other notables to advance, all three Arizona State players – No. 9 Jin Song, No. 21 David Lowe and No. 43 Austin Quick – advanced. Song and Lowe each won, 3 and 2, while Quick squeaked out a 2-and-1 win. Among the veterans (translated: not kids) who made the match play, Tucson’s Patrick Geare emerged from a hard-fought, 2-and-1 win over Mesa’s Steve Dallas; Phoenix’s Jeff Johnson ousted Paul Welle of Scottsdale, 2 and 1; and AGA points leader Camron Howell of Queen Creek beat Anthem’s Gary Quinn, 4 and 2.
The 87th Arizona Amateur continues Thursday with two rounds of play before getting down to the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday. The championship match is set for Saturday at 7:30 a.m.
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