Ricky Castillo (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News photo)
Ben Wong is like the textbook definition of why you have to be wary of the bottom seed on a match-play bracket. The last time Wong, who now plays for SMU, competed at Pinehurst No. 2, he was partnered with now-Alabama player Frankie Capan. The two won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball that week.
On Wednesday, Wong struggled around No. 2, logging an uncharacteristic 77 to tumble down the leaderboard. He made a clutch birdie in a playoff to earn the last spot on the bracket. For that, he earned a Thursday match against top-seeded Ricky Castillo, the nation’s No. 2-ranked junior.
The No. 32 seed had taken down the medalist in each of the last two years. And in two of the last three years, the winning man started match play in the 31st seed – Tim Conover in 2016 and Ben Schlottman a year ago.
On Thursday, however, the medalist prevailed, even though Wong took him to the 18th hole. Wong was even 2 up at the turn, but Castillo fought back, winning Nos. 16 and 18 to ultimately move on.
“I knew I was going up against a great player who has a lot of experience on No. 2,” Castillo told Pinehurst writer Alex Podlogar. “Anything could happen, and really, if you’re in this field, you’re a really good player. I was glad I could be solid all day.”
Castillo will now meet Georgia Tech’s Andy Ogletree in the Round of 16. Ogletree won the Monroe Invitational earlier this month, and on Thursday dispatched Jack Rhea, 1 up.
Only one mid-amateur advanced through the first round of matches, and that was Canadian Garrett Rank. As the No. 2 seed, he took down the No. 31 seed, fellow mid-amateur Justin Tereshko, who is the assistant men’s golf coach at Louisville. Rank came out ahead by a 4-and-2 margin.
Matt Parziale, winner of the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur, fell to Pinehurst native Eric Bae on the 19th hole.
Among the other 16 men to advance were Noah Goodwin, Wong’s SMU teammate who won the 2017 U.S. Junior; Noah Norton, a Georgia Tech player who qualified for the U.S. Open this month; and Australian Blake Collyer.
Benjamin Shipp, the first-round stroke-play leader, defeated Sunnehanna Amateur champion Alex Smalley, who grew up near Pinehurst and has considerable experience on that track.
ABOUT THE North & South Amateur
The North & South Amateur Championship is the
longest consecutively run amateur tournament in
United States. Its past winners list includes names
Travis, Francis Ouimet, Billy Joe Patton, Jack
and Curtis Strange. The field is made up of invited
players as well as open applications. Two rounds of
play are followed by five rounds of match play
qualifiers) to determine the Champion. All stroke
& match play rounds are contested on
Pinehurst No. 2.
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