Stroke-play medalist Davis Thompson (Charles Cherney/Western Golf Association)
There’s perhaps no better way to drive home the point of just how hard
it is to reach the Western Amateur bracket than to look at the men who just barely missed. There was a USGA champion just outside the cutline on Thursday at Point O’Woods Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Mich., plus a long list of college golf’s best and winner's of this summer's elite amateur events (the Sahalee Players, the Players Amateur, the Trans-Miss Amateur).
The second cut is a grind at the Western Amateur, and it doesn’t get any easier from here. The next two rounds will be double-round match-play days for any man who expects to play for the trophy.
Perhaps nobody understood the grind of being a Sweet 16-er on Thursday quite like Garrett Rank, the 31-year-old NHL referee. Rank has made five appearances in this event, and on Thursday afternoon, it took a closing 65 with two birdies over his last three holes to climb the leaderboard and reach a share of fifth at 6 under.
“I’m really thrilled,” he told the Western Golf Association. “I started getting emotional on the course. To come out here and compete against these guys is awesome. I know the history of this tournament, and it’s pretty humbling and really cool to be in this spot.”
As the championship resets for match play, Davis Thompson will be the man on the top of the bracket. Thompson, a junior at Georgia, earned medalist honors at 13 under after posting four rounds in the 60s. Early-week Western Amateur hardware comes as a nice confidence boost after a U.S. Amateur qualifying let-down.
“I wasn’t really playing well,” he said. “I missed U.S. Amateur qualifying, and I was down in the dumps. I went back home and played with some buddies. Something clicked.”
Thompson had never played this event before this year.
Other notable collegians on the bracket include Pepperdine redshirt senior Sahith Theegala, who is plotting a serious comeback after 10 months off nursing a wrist injury that called for surgery. Oklahoma’s Quade Cummins also qualified a week after winning the Pacific Coast Amateur, and so did Florida State’s John Pak, a man who has hung around leaderboards all summer long in a quest for a Walker Cup pick.
“I got off to a shaky start, but I kept playing my game and it worked out well,” said Pak, who also made the bracket in 2017. “Now that I’m in match play, anything can happen. I was nervous the first time I made it, but I’m more laid back [now]. I have a good chance of winning this tournament.”
The bracket also includes Texas A&M grad Chandler Phillips, Northwestern senior Everton Hawkins, UCLA senior Hidetoshi Yoshihara, Alabama sophomore Frankie Capan, Baylor grad Garrett May, Arizona senior David Laskin, incoming Florida freshman Ricky Castillo, Clemson junior Turk Pettit, Wake Forest senior Eric Bae and recent Ohio State grad Daniel Wetterich.
Aussie Karl Vilips will represent the juniors after beating out Philip Barbaree, the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, in a playoff for the 16th and final spot.
Quotes and information from the Western Golf Association used in this report
ABOUT THE Western Amateur
Invitational event, and the most important
tournament in American amateur golf outside of the
U.S. Amateur. With a grueling schedule, it's quite
hardest amateur tournament to win.
156 invited players come from across the
globe to play one of the toughest formats in
amateur golf. The tournament starts with 18
holes of stroke play on Tuesday and
Wednesday after which the field is cut to the
low 44 scores and ties. Thursday it's a long
day of 36 holes of stroke play to determine
the “Sweet Sixteen” who compete at Match
Play on Friday and Saturday (two matches
each day if you're going to the finals) to
decide the champion.
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