PEBBLE BEACH – Eight players remain after Wednesday’s first two rounds of match play and the field proves to be plenty diverse. Of the eight that remain two are mid-30s, two are only 16-years-old and the remaining four players range between the ages of 19 and 25.
Danny Paniccia, the No. 5 seed, was the first to advance through to the quarterfinals, winning his afternoon match rather easily beating Matthew Miller 4 & 3. The 35-year-old got up early in the match and took a 5-up lead through 10 holes to cruise to a victory, which took only two and half hours to play. In the morning match Paniccia found himself in a tougher spot as he was 2 down through 13 holes to Freddy Wolfe of Rancho Mirage. However, the Clovis resident would close out the match by winning four straight holes, which included three birdies, to win 2 & 1.
Sebastian Crampton, the No. 29 seed, was the next to advance through and will square off against Paniccia Thursday morning in the quarterfinals at 7:15 a.m. The 16-year-old had two well fought matches as he faced current NCGA points’ leader Ben Geyer in the morning and two-time NCGA Four-Ball Champion Taylor Travis in the afternoon. Crampton’s 1-up victory in his round of the 32 match with Geyer had the feeling of a quarterfinal or semifinal match, not an opening round match as two marquee players battled it out for 18 holes. His afternoon match proved to be a little less stressful, but still was tough as he halved the first seven holes of the match with Travis. The key to his match though was winning three holes out of four on Nos. 11, 13 and 14, en route to a 3 & 2 margin of victory.
“Those were big holes,” said Crampton.
Making it to the round of 16 last year as 15-year-old, Crampton has already surpassed that mark and hopes to draw from his experience last year going forward the next two days.
“I have found [since last year] that you have to play your own game,” he said. “You have to be aware of what your opponent is doing, but as long as you play your best and play the course, things usually turnout in your favor.”
Jake Yount favored based off his No. 8 seed advanced through to the quarterfinals, but had to play 36 holes in order to do so. His afternoon match against Patrick Soli went 19 holes, which capped off a nice comeback for the 25-year-old. Yount was 3 down at the turn and looked to be in trouble after losing his second straight hole on the par-4 ninth. Unfazed by the way the match was going Yount converted three consecutive birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 12 to square the match. The Danville resident took a brief 1-up lead after Soli bogeyed the 14th hole, but a double-bogey by Yount on the 16th would square the match, before he eventually won with a birdie on the par-5 first hole. In his morning match Yount held off Brian Knoll of El Dorado Hills 2 & 1, where he led from the sixth hole on.
Yount will face off with two-time runner-up in this event Scott Hardy of Pleasant Hill at 7:00 a.m. Hardy, the No. 17 seed, played solidly Wednesday knocking off No. 1 seed and co-medalist Jay Myers in the afternoon 3 & 2.
“The key for me today was that I hit some really good shots on the long par-4s when I had my rescue or 5-wood to hit into the green,” said Hardy.
The St. Mary’s golf coach had a similar margin of victory in his morning match as he won 3 & 2 over Levi Garcia of Paso Robles. Having made it deep in this tournament before Hardy knows what’s ahead, so he is mainly worried about his stamina the rest the way.
“Dealing with playing another 36 holes tomorrow is going to be the hard part for me,” said the 36-year-old. “I was really dying those last few holes.”
In the bottom half of the bracket Mac McClung, Grant Rappleye, Maverick McNealy and Eric Ash advanced with McClung and Rappleye set to square off at 7:30 a.m. and McNealy and Ash to go off last at 7:45 a.m.
McClung, the 31st seed, one of the last three players to qualify for match play after last night’s playoff, again maxed out his rounds at Spyglass as both his matches Wednesday went to the 18th hole. Playing Aidan Pinch of Santa Rosa in the round of 16, the match remained close throughout as neither player grabbed more than a 1-up lead. With Pinch winning the 16th hole after a McClung bogey to take a 1-up lead, the 20-year-old McClung would win the 17th and 18th hole due to miscues by Pinch, who took a bogey on 17 and a double-bogey on 18, allowing McClung to claim a 1-up victory. In his morning match, the Fremont resident had another tight match against co-medalist Austin Roberts. That match proved to be a tale of two different nines as Roberts controlled most of the front nine, while McClung played better on the back nine to win 2 up.
Grant Rappleye has yet to see the 18th hole in match play and hopes to keep it that way. Rappleye won both of his matches Wednesday by a 3 & 2 margin. Coming in as the 10th seed, Rappleye faced Chris Herzog, the No. 23 seed, in the morning and Wes Payne in the afternoon, the No. 26 seed. The 22-year-old never trailed in either match and has been pleased with the way he’s played at Spyglass over the past few rounds.
“I have played pretty solid for four rounds,” said Rappleye. “I have never played really well here, so I wasn’t feeling super good coming in here; it’s been a nice surprise so far.”
Maverick McNealy is the highest seed remaining in the championship (No. 3) and has arguably played the best golf out of anybody the past three days. The 16-year-old has yet to trail in a match as he won his matches rather easily, winning 3 & 2 in the morning over Eric Taylor of San Juan Capistrano and 5 & 4 over Kenny Maroney of Livermore in the round of 16. McNealy credits a lot of his success to the experience he got at last month’s U.S. Junior Amateur in New Hampshire, where he made it all the way to the quarterfinal round.
“It’s the same format [as the U.S. Junior], so it’s definitely helped,” said McNealy. “In match play, you just have to be smart and play your shots according to what your opponent does.”
Eric Ash, the final quarterfinalist, had two very dissimilar matches on Wednesday. Dominating his morning match against Jerry Ledzinski of Carmel, Ash only played 11 holes after Ledzinski conceded the match after being six down with eight seven holes to play. In the afternoon Ash had a difficult match against Cory McElyea of Santa Cruz, which came down to the final hole. Ash had more than three hours between his morning and afternoon round, while McElyea had a half an hour at best as his morning match with Nick Moore went 20 holes. Ash controlled the afternoon match most of the way, going 3 up after 11 holes. However, McElyea fought back and squared the match after the 16th hole. Ash would birdie the 17th, however, to regain the lead and only needing a halve on the 18th hole to win 1 up.
Tomorrow’s quarterfinal matches begin at 7:00 a.m. with the semifinal matches to commence at 12:30 p.m. and 12:45 p.m.