High Drama at the San Diego County Match Play Championship
Rancho Bernardo, CA (March 31, 2012) —The sweet 16 got underway under cloudy and cool conditions Saturday morning at Rancho Bernardo Inn. Conditions were again good for scoring for the 2nd day in a row after a tough qualifying round last Sunday.

The first match of the day pitted 1-seed and defending champion, Buddy Duncan, against 17-seed Phil Walker of Rancho Santa Fe. Walker would build an early two-up lead after Duncan struggled on the front side and not breaking 40 for nine holes. Walker missed some opportunities to go way up in the match and it cost him. Duncan won the 11th and 12th holes to pull even, and then went ahead thanks to a gritty par on the 16th hole. Both players were tied heading into 18 and both players laid up on the par five. Duncan flew the green with a wedge, and Walker’s approach found the green albeit some forty downhill feet away. Duncan hit a deft pitch to 5 feet and drained the putt, winning 1-up.

25-seed Scott Stratton of Rancho Santa Fe and 24-seed Pete Wlodkowski had a tremendous match, with no player getting to more than 1-up or 1-down on the day. With Stratton holding a tenuous 1-up lead on the 18th hole, both players hit their wedges to close range. Wlodkowski, facing a do-or-die putt, nailed his birdie to hopefully extend the match. Stratton, who had about an 8-footer, responded nicely and made his putt to win, 1-up.

4-seed Spencer Thurn and 13-seed Jeff Hunter had a tremendous match. Hunter pulled ahead early, building a 2-up lead after eight holes of play. Thurn made a difficult 15-footer for birdie on 9 to pull within 1, and he remained 1-down heading all the way to 18. On 18, Thurn made birdie to extend the match to extra holes and would go on to win in exciting fashion on the 20th hole of the day with a par on the difficult par-three 2nd hole.

In a rematch of last year’s sweet sixteen matchup, 5-seed Bill Brammer squared off against 12-seed John Kollus of San Diego. Brammer, who defeated Kollus last year on his way to the semi-finals, did not have much of a fight on Saturday as he did not bring his “A” game. Kollus on the other hand played beautifully, going out in 3-under par 33 to be 7-up after nine holes of play. Kollus made four birdies and closed out the match on the 12th hole, 8 and 6.

2-seed Gary Robinson of San Diego and 18-seed Akash Patel also had a very competitive match. Robinson would seize a 1-hole advantage after three holes of play and would never relinquish it, however, winning 2 and 1.

7-seed Scott Stevens was up two against 23-seed Cory Gladstone after only four holes of play and looked to be comfortable. Stevens, who qualified for match play in the 2011 US Mid-Amateur, figured to build on the lead but the talented Gladstone chipped into it slowly. Gladstone got the match back to even after nine holes, and won the 10th and 11th with pars to go 2-up. Stevens made a nice birdie on 12 to get to 1-down. Showing some resolve, Gladstone would go on to birdie 13 and 14 to get to three up and went on to claim the match, 3 and 2.

The heavyweight match of the sweet 16 was undoubtedly the Joe Ryon-Pete Roberts matchup. These two Taylor-Made employees had the most competitive match of the morning with Ryon going 1-up early. Roberts, a seasoned veteran of this event, was either even or down all day long until the 14th where he went 1-up. Ryon would respond with wins on 16 and 17 to hold a 1-up lead going into 18. After both players laid up, Ryon would hit a nice wedge to about 10-feet setting the stage for Roberts. Roberts hit the shot of the tournament so far, with his approach hitting about five feet behind the hole and spinning back, lipping out and leaving him about 5-feet. After Ryon narrowly missed, Roberts buried his birdie putt to send the match to extra holes! The momentum would be short lived, as Ryon escaped with the win after a par on the 19th hole of play.

6-seed Mark Stuart faced off against 11-seed Cavin McCall on Saturday morning. Stuart, no stranger to competitive golf, built a 1-up lead early. McCall would steady his nerves a bit, however, and swing the match to 1-up in his favor heading into the final nine. McCall would not waiver, not losing a hole on the back nine on his way to a 3 and 2 victory.

Quarterfinal Matches

1-seed Buddy Duncan had little trouble getting past 25-seed Scott Stratton. Duncan built a 4-up lead after six holes of play, and would go on to win after Stratton conceded the match. Thus, Duncan will reach the semi-finals for the 2nd year in a row, and is the only repeat player in the final four from 2011.

4-seed Spencer Thurn brought his best game to the quarterfinal matches. Kollus would win the opening hole with a birdie to go 1-up, but it was all Thurn all the time after that. Thurn made 4 birdies the rest of the way with no bogeys, finishing up at 4-under par thru 15 holes to win his match 4 and 3.

Gary Robinson also played his best golf in the afternoon against Cory Gladstone of San Diego. Robinson would birdie the first hole to go 1-up and would never take his foot off the gas. Robinson would go on to win, 4 and 3, thanks to a 5-under par performance thru 15 holes of play.

The last quarterfinal match of the afternoon was also the most exciting. Joe Ryon and Cavin McCall played a match that one might hope could produce two winners. All square heading into 17, Ryon would hit a fantastic approach under pressure to 5-feet and a seeming advantage. McCall responded and then some, almost holing his wedge shot which finished kick-in distance to the hole. Ryon was up to the task, however, and nailed his 5-footer for birdie. Both players would lay up on 18, with McCall hitting a nice approach to ten feet while Ryon just missed the green. With the pin out of the cup, Ryon’s chip just slid past and was conceded for par setting the stage for McCall. McCall hit a great putt that just missed on the high side sending both players to extra holes. After finding the trees with his tee shot, Ryon was able to get his approach past pin high just left of the green while McCall hit a great wedge to 10-feet away and must have had some good vibes after making birdie there to open the match. Ryon, figuring his luck might be running out, hit a beautiful chip that somehow stayed out of the hole after a lip-out. McCall, with his 2nd putt in a row to end the match, faced a difficult slider and left it just short sending the match to the 20th hole of the day. On the 20th hole, McCall would hit his approach long and face a very difficult 50-footer in which he unfortunately 3-putted. The opportunistic Ryon who held in there after dodging multiple bullets took no time to knock in his 4-foot par putt to send him to the semi-finals. Both players should be commended on their great play and great match in which both players finished up at 2-under par after 20 holes of play.

ABOUT THE San Diego County Match Play

Open to players with a 6.0 handicap or less. Qualifying round is 18 holes on Sunday, April 27. Matches begin on Friday, May 2 and run through the champion is crowned in the afternoon of Sunday, May 4. Defending champion Buddy Duncan has turned pro, so the No. 1 seed is up for grabs.

Host course Aviara Golf Club just hosted the LPGA Tour's Kia Classic.

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