U.S. Amateur Four-Ball: Medalists roll into Round of 16
Chad Wilfong (right) and Davis Wilfong (James Gilbert/USGA)
Chad Wilfong (right) and Davis Wilfong (James Gilbert/USGA)

Being the medalist in a USGA championship can sometimes add a burden of expectations. The common belief is that the great performances from stroke play will continue in match play. But as most golfers at the elite level fully understand, match play can be fickle.

All three sides who shared medalist honors in the 7th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Country Club of Birmingham were tested in Monday’s Round of 32 on the venue’s West Course. But fortunately for them, they did not see an abrupt end to their weeks.

Top seeds Torey Edwards, 40, of Long Beach, Calif., and Bret Parker, 42, of Alpine, Utah, had the toughest first-round tussle, edging Chad Branton and Kyle Hosick, 4 and 2, in a match they never led until the 11th hole. They were 6 under over their final seven holes after playing 1-over-par golf on the outward nine.

Second-seeded Wells Williams, 18, of West Point, Miss., had a much easier time in defeating twins and New Mexico State teammates Trey and Tyler Diehl, 6 and 4. Loflin and Williams, headed this fall to the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University, respectively, were the equivalent of 6 under par with the usual match-play concessions. On Saturday, they set the 18-hole championship scoring record with a 9-under 61 on the shorter East Course.

Torey Edwards (left) and Bret Parker
Both the East and West courses were used in stroke play with the more-challenging – and longer – West hosting all of the matches.

Wake Forest alums and No. 3 seeds Chad Wilfong, 41, of Charlotte, N.C., and Davis Womble, 28, of Winston-Salem, N.C., pulled away from Joseph Lloyd and Drew Mabrey on the second nine, 5 and 3.

It was a far cry from their opening match four years ago at Jupiter Hills Golf Club in Tequesta, Fla., when they suffered a heartbreaking 24-hole decision to Steven Groover and M. Tyler McKeever. Despite a tight match for nine holes, Wilfong and Womble exited the course after 15 holes on Monday with far less sweat on their brows.

“Chad kind of got the momentum going on eight, hit it really close on the par 3 [with an 8-iron] and made a 2,” said Womble. “After that, the momentum was on our side. I hit a really nice shot on 10 (par 5) from the right rough to 35 feet for eagle. We did tie that hole, but we just started to hit some really nice shots.”

A winning par on 13, and then two consecutive winning birdies sent the duo into the Round of 16.

“Everybody starts over in match play, so you have no advantage,” said Wilfong. “We know from the very beginning you have to get after it because if you don’t, you can be 2 or 3 down pretty quick. Just judging by [our opponents’] swings on the first couple of holes, they were very capable of beating us.”

Loflin and Williams, a three-time American Junior Golf Association All-American and 2021 USA Junior Ryder Cup competitor, trailed after the opening hole when their opponents stuffed an approach shot to 6 feet for a birdie. But relying on experience from last year’s opening-round loss, the two junior standouts never panicked, winning four of the next seven holes to pull away. They closed the match out by winning Nos. 12-14, the latter with a birdie. On a couple of occasions, they made clutch par putts of 6 or 7 feet to keep the momentum going.

“We were pretty loose,” said Loflin, a two-time winner of the Press Thornton Junior Masters in Dothan, Ala. “Last year we played pretty good in stroke play, too, but when we got to match play, we tightened up a little bit. Neither of us had ever been to USGA match play before, so neither of us knew what was really going on.”

Edwards, a left-hander, and Parker, a reinstated amateur, began their rally when the latter converted a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth to keep their deficit at 1 down. The duo used the short walk between the ninth green and 10th tee to regroup. They kickstarted their second-nine rally with an eagle 3 on the par 5, followed by a winning birdie on the 172-yard 11th. Edwards drove the green on the 315-yard 14th hole and drained the 10-footer for eagle to put the side 2 up. Another winning birdie on the par-5 15th and a winning par on No. 16 ended the festivities.

“I think it gets to a point where you realize that you're probably playing a little tight, and it's hot [outside],” said Edwards, of the slow start. “You've got to find another gear. You're playing for your [championship] life, so you either find your game or you're going home.”

Texans Jace Moore, of Keller, and Jordan Woolf, of Fort Worth, who matched the 18-hole championship record set by Loflin and Williams with a 61 on the East Course in Sunday’s second round of stroke play, needed 19 holes to oust 2019 semifinalists Andrew Medley and Taylor Wood.

It was one of two Round-of-32 matches to be extended beyond 18.

The other extra-hole match saw former University of Michigan teammates Matthew McLaughlin, of Barrington, Ill., and Christian Vozza, of Orlando, Fla., defeat the last local side in the championship, Samford teammates, Andrew Sullivan and Davis Woodliff, in 20 holes. Samford University is located 3.8 miles from the Country Club of Birmingham.

Scottsdale, Ariz., residents and reinstated amateurs Drew Kittleson and Drew Stoltz, who were last-minute alternates into the field, played the equivalent of 1-under-par golf in pulling out a 1-up win over playoff survivors John Ramsey and Chadd Slutzky.

“I don't think they had their best stuff, either,” said Kittleson, the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up who regained his amateur status seven years ago. “But we've done this enough to know that normally if you're going to win one of these things, you've got to either win [one match] in extras or play a bad one and get through.”

What’s Next

Match play continues Tuesday morning with the Round of 16 starting at 7 a.m. CDT, followed by the quarterfinal matches in the afternoon that are scheduled to commence at 1 p.m. The semifinals and 18-hole championship match are set for Wednesday. The public is invited to attend, and admission is free.

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ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur Four-Ball

The U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the newest USGA championship, was played for the first time in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 5.4 or lower. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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