Brendan Valdes (Back of the Range Photo)
wasn’t afraid to peek at the leaderboard throughout the final 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying at the 121st Western Amateur
More specifically, the 36-hole leader from Orlando, Florida, was only looking at his score, which occupied the top spot the entire day at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois.
“I was leading by a few coming into today, and all I was really focused on was my score and trying to get it to 20-under,” Valdes, an Auburn junior, said. “I, unfortunately, didn’t reach my goal, but I’ll take the result, of course.”
That result was the Cameron Eddy Trophy, and Western Amateur medalist honors for Valdes. As the championship turns to match play Friday, he’ll play as the top seed in the 16-player bracket.
Entering Thursday at 10-under, Valdes carded rounds of 68-69 to maintain his spot atop the leaderboard with a four-day total of 15-under. He finished two strokes clear of Drew Goodman
, of Norman, Oklahoma, who was alone in second at 13-under.
Tied for third at 12-under was recent U.S. Walker Cup team selection Nick Dunlap
, of Huntsville, Alabama; Gustav Frimodt
, of Denmark; and Matthew McClean
, of Northern Ireland.
Valdes joins the likes of Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange, Mark O’Meara, Tom Kite, Chick Evans and Bobby Jones as a Western Amateur medalist.
But Valdes has a deeper connection to North Shore’s 2011 Western Amateur medalist – 2012 Western Amateur champion and Valdes’ assistant coach at Auburn, Chris Williams.
“It feels amazing to have my name etched next to some of the best players ever and being able to share that with my coach,” Valdes said. “Coach Williams got beat by Patrick Cantlay that year though, so I’ve got to keep going. This isn’t a stroke play tournament, so I need to turn my focus to match play.”
Valdes’ first opponent Friday will be his Auburn teammate, Carson Bacha, of York, Pennsylvania, who survived a 7-for-3 playoff to make the Sweet 16. Also advancing through the playoff were 2021 champion Michael Thorbjornsen, of Wellesley, Massachusetts; Cole Sherwood, of Austin, Texas; and Stewart Hagestad, of Newport Beach, California.
Friday’s match play competition will be streamed live for free on thewesternamateur.com and Peacock (subscription required) beginning with the conclusion of the Sweet 16 matches airing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT. Coverage will resume from 3-6 p.m. CT for the finish of the quarterfinal matches.
The Sweet 16 features an accomplished group, including two past U.S. Mid-Amateur Champions (McClean and Hagestad) and four past U.S. Junior champions (Thorbjornsen, Preston Summerhays, Wenyi Ding and Dunlap).
Dunlap also secured the Elite Amateur Cup by advancing to the Sweet 16 at the Western Amateur. The Alabama sophomore entered the week leading the season-long series after wins at the North and South Amateur and Northeast Amateur.
“I’ve had the momentum going and am really happy with my game,” Dunlap said. “I’m going to stick with what I’ve been doing and try to get another good result in match play.”
For Summerhays, it’s not the first time his family name has appeared on a Sweet 16 bracket.
Preston’s father, Boyd, reached the quarterfinals in 2001 at Point O’ Woods Golf and Country Club. Now a part of the 12th father-son Sweet 16 duo, Preston has eyes on topping his father’s performance.
“I’ve got a little extra to play for now trying to beat him,” Summerhays, an Arizona State junior said. “I’ve played in a ton of high-pressure matches, and I think that’ll help me feel more comfortable out there making a run.”
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.
View Complete Tournament Information