CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. (Aug. 17, 2012) -- Justin Thomas, 19, of Goshen, Ky., defeated medalist Bobby Wyatt, 1 up, in a matchup of college teammates on Thursday to become one of eight players to advance to the quarterfinal round at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship at the par-71, 7,409-yard Cherry Hills Country Club.
Thomas and Wyatt, University of Alabama team members who are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), produced a roller-coaster match where each player held a least a two-hole lead. Thomas, who won the 2012 Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s top collegian, went ahead for good by recovering well from a poor tee shot and making a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th.
“I felt I could carry that bunker with a driver,” said Thomas, who had reached the U.S. Amateur’s round of 32 the previous two years and defeated Max Homa, 3 and 1, in the round of 32 on Thursday morning. “I just killed it, double-crossed it. The ball could have gone anywhere. I turned down a 9-iron (with his second shot) and wanted to get it anywhere on the fairway. It worked out well.”
The 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Sunday, starting at 8:30 a.m. MDT.
The U.S. Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Wyatt, 20, the medalist in stroke play with a record-tying performance (132), rallied from three holes down to defeat Matthew Stieger of Australia in the morning’s second round. Against Thomas, he won the 13th and 15th with pars to square the match, but sent his approach over the 17th green while his opponent made the go-ahead birdie.
Cheng-Tsung Pan, 20, of Chinese Taipei, reached the quarterfinals of a USGA championship for the first time since the 2007 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a 15-year-old. Pan, who tied for second in stroke play behind Wyatt, and has played in five of the last six U.S. Amateurs, saw a three-hole lead evaporate against Andrew Presley, 20, of Fort Worth, Texas. Pan birdied the par-4 16th by reaching the green from a fairway bunker and converting a 35-foot putt.
Pan explained what has changed since his last USGA quarterfinal appearance. “My English is better and I feel good about myself,” he said. “My game has improved. I changed my swing and both my short game and putting is better.”
Chris Williams, 20, of Moscow, Idaho, broke open a tight third-round match with France’s Edouard Espana, 20, by winning the opening three holes on the inward nine with a par and two birdies for a 3-and-2 triumph. Williams, the world’s top-ranked amateur and a member of the 2011 USA Walker Cup Team, was also an easy 5-and-3 winner over Adam Stephenson of Greenville, N.C. in the second round.
“He bogeyed 10 and I birdied 11,” Williams said of his match against Espana.. “At 12, we both had putts of about 40 feet. I got a pretty good read off of his. It’s one of those putts you don’t expect to make but if you do it’s a bonus. I was just delighted to see it drop.”
Michael Weaver, 21, of Fresno, Calif., and Steven Fox, 21, of Hendersonville, Tenn., have each registered three match-play victories after surviving Tuesday’s 17-for-14 playoff to make the 64-player bracket. In the third round, Weaver sank a birdie on the 19th hole to advance over Albin Choi of Canada, while Fox won the last two holes for a 2-up victory over Zack Munroe of Charlotte, N.C.
Oliver Goss, the youngest player remaining in the field at age 18, parred 16 and 17 to defeat 27-year-old Bobby Leopold, 2 and 1, in the third round. Goss, who recently captured the Western Australian Amateur, will be a freshman at the University of Tennessee in the fall. Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia, 21, made five birdies in a stretch of seven holes for a 5-and-3 victory over Devon Purser to join the group of eight U.S. Amateur quarterfinalists.
Douglas Hanzel, 55, of Alpharetta, Ga., and Todd White, 44, of Spartanburg, S.C., failed to advance through the second round. Hanzel was the oldest competitor in U.S. Amateur match play since 1979, while White played in the last Amateur at Cherry Hills 22 years ago.
The eight players in the quarterfinals earn exemptions from qualifying for the 2013 U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and are exempt from local qualifying for the 2013 U.S. Open Championship. Quarterfinal play begins on Friday at 8:30 a.m. MDT.