Cohen Trolio (USGA photo)
The U.S. Amateur is now down to eight remaining men at Pinehurst No. 2. Here’s a preview of each of the four quarterfinal matches set for Friday:
2:30 p.m.: Austin Squires vs. Cohen Trolio
Squires certainly hasn’t had an easy go of it, what with a four-hour, 27-man playoff bridging the gap between stroke play and match play. Squires was the last man out of that gauntlet, and then had the unenviable task of putting away medalist Brandon Wu. Squires did it on the 18th hole
(with the light fading fast), came back Thursday morning to go 19 holes against Italy’s Stefano Mazzoli then escaped his afternoon match against the formidable John Pak, in 17 holes.
Said Squires, who is in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, “I kind of feel like I'm playing with house money. I mean, I've really got nothing to lose. If I lose the next match, I go to pro golf. If I don't, I continue in amateur golf. So just kind of rolling with the punches and trying to play my best golf.”
Trolio represents one of new faces at this late stage of the game. The 17-year-old is the youngest remaining player. His father V.J. is the teaching professional at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Miss., site of last week’s U.S. Women’s Amateur, and also happens to be caddying for his son this week.
“I did a good job of sticking to my expectations and not letting the whole 'this is a big USGA event' kind of take over my brain.
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2:45 p.m.: Andy Ogletree vs. Spencer Ralston
Ogletree’s big victory of the summer came in the Monroe Invitational
. The Georgia Tech player, ranked No. 120 in the World, has matured considerably on the Yellow Jacket roster. Now his game has depth.
“When I got there, it was just see flag, hit flag,” he said. “I was not very well-rounded with my game I would say. My short game wasn't there. I had some incredible rounds because I could hit it pretty good. But I wasn't an all-around player.”
Ralston has the same kind of quiet demeanor, though arguably more experience. The University of Georgia senior is drawing confidence from a breakthrough win at the Players Amateur last month – one in which he came from 11 shots back.
“There’s a lot of ways to compete,” said Ralston, who has been working with mental coach Morris Pickens. “…There’s no single recipe that sets up for success,” he said.
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3 p.m.: John Augenstein vs. Palmer Jackson
Augenstein came to Pinehurst with two goals: to make the U.S. Walker Cup team, and to cart away the Havemeyer Trophy.
“That’s the order they go in,” said the steely-eyed Vanderbilt senior.
It hasn’t been a banner summer for a guy who brings the fire in match play like Augenstein does. He went up against two high schoolers on Day 2 of match play – Akshay Bhatia and Ricky Castillo – who also happened to be two of the strongest players on the bracket. Augenstein has had to fight for every advancement in this tournament.
That won’t stop, and neither will his pattern of drawing young players. Augenstein’s quarterfinal opponent Palmer Jackson is only 18 years old, but has an eloquence that honors his namesake of Arnold Palmer. His father Doug picked out the name – to honor the King, of course – but the younger Jackson never got to meet the legendary player. Instead, he takes his cues from Pennsylvania senior golf legend Sean Knapp, winner of the 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur.
Jackson got to the semifinals by defeating Stanford graduate Isaiah Salinda, a semifinalist a year ago. Knapp prepared him for that the unpredictability of match play this way: “If you're going to win, you have to play past champion after past champion, and I thought that was pretty cool to hear because it's the same deal here. You're going to play Walker Cuppers, you're going to play all these kids that are veterans on the amateur golf tour, and you really just have to play your own game.”
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3:15 p.m.: William Holcomb vs. Karl Vilips
Karl Vilips is another of the young players to make the quarterfinals. Even though he’s only 18, he’s playing his fifth USGA championship and his third U.S. Amateur. He showed some match-play chops on Thursday, first getting past Georgia Southern graduate Steven Fisk, the NCAA runner-up, then Oklahoma graduate Brad Dalke, runner-up at this event in 2016.
The Australian said this time around that he felt more prepared. Aussies do tend to play well on Pinehurst No. 2, a venue that’s reminiscent of something you might find in the Melbourne Sand Belt.
“My first U.S. Ams I really just didn't think I could make match play, being like 14, 15, and just didn't have a lot of confidence heading in,” he said. “But this week coming off the hot tournaments this summer so far, I really felt like I could do it.”
As for Holcomb, at No. 328 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, a quarterfinal run is the dream. Holcomb will be a senior at Sam Houston State. He was 4 down through 10 holes in his very first match play, having not been too familiar with the format coming in, but rallied and hasn’t lost it since. He has learned to let things happen.
“I mean, this place is brutal,” he said. “I probably shot 75 or 76 in every match. But I'm just focused on what I can do, controlling what I can control, and then whatever happens -- I mean, I can't force myself to win, if that makes sense. It just doesn't work like that. It's golf.”