Nick Dunlap heads to the Round of 32 (USGA Photo)
Nick Dunlap, the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, continued his hot summer on Wednesday, playing 5-under-par golf to outlast world No. 1 Gordon Sargent, 2 and 1, in the Round of 64 of the 123rd U.S. Amateur Championship at historic Cherry Hills Country Club.
“I think this was a match that a lot of people wanted to see,” said Dunlap, who captured the Northeast Amateur and the North & South Amateur earlier this summer. “Obviously, he's the No. 1 player in the world for a reason. I wasn’t expecting any gifts from him. Just kind of throwing punches all day long and see who could withstand them at the end.”
Dunlap, 19, of Huntsville, Ala., a rising sophomore at the University of Alabama, lost the par-4 first hole to Sargent’s birdie. After the pair halved the next eight holes, Dunlap won Nos. 10 and 11 with birdies and added another birdie on the difficult 511-yard, par-4 14th to take control of the match over Sargent, 20, of Birmingham, Ala., a Vanderbilt junior and the low amateur in the U.S. Open in June at The Los Angeles Country Club.
“He put a lot of pressure on me on the front with some of his 390-yard drives, but I thought if I could get the tee and maybe start applying some pressure of my own that maybe I could flip the momentum in my favor,” said Dunlap, the No. 41 seed, who will take on local favorite Connor Jones, of Denver, in Thursday’s Round of 32 at 8:30 a.m. MDT. Jones, 22, a graduate student at Colorado State and the No. 9 seed, ousted Vicente Marzilio, of Argentina, 4 and 3.
All three stroke-play co-medalists advanced to the Round of 32, including Blades Brown, 16, of Nashville, Tenn., a high school sophomore who turned heads on Tuesday with an 8-under 64 at stroke-play co-host Colorado Golf Club. Brown defeated Benton Weinberg, of Potomac, Md., 1 up, while co-medalists Sampson Zheng and Jackson Buchanan also earned victories in matches that went to the daunting 18th hole.
Zheng, 22, of the People’s Republic of China, a rising senior at the University of California who captured the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball title with college teammate Aaron Du in May, edged 2019 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Preston Summerhays with a par to Summerhays’ bogey on No. 18. Buchanan, 21, of Dacula, Ga., a rising junior at the University of Illinois, held off Karl Vilips, of Australia, 2 up.
Identical twins David and Maxwell Ford, of Peachtree Corners, Ga., both advanced easily to the Round of 32, with No. 4 seed Maxwell ousting Brian Stark, of Kingsburg, Calif., 4 and 3, and No. 28 seed David winning five of the first six holes on the way to a 6-and-5 victory over William Walsh, of San Mateo, Calif.
David, who is a member of the USA Team for the upcoming Walker Cup Match at St. Andrews, Scotland, will be joined this fall at the University of North Carolina by Maxwell, after Maxwell played his first two years of college golf at the University of Georgia. Should the duo each win a pair of matches on Thursday, they will square off in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
Maxwell will square off in Thursday’s Round of 32 against Nick Gabrelcik, of Trinity, Fla., No. 10 in the WAGR, who defeated No. 43 Jackson Van Paris, of Pinehurst, N.C., 2 and 1. Gabrelcik, a semifinalist in this championship in 2021 at Oakmont, won four straight holes (Nos. 10-13) to take control of the match.
Speaking of Maxwells, Maxwell Moldovan, of Uniontown, Ohio, lost out to Cooper Jones, of Highland, Utah, in 23 holes, in one of the most dramatic matches of the day. Moldovan, 21, a rising junior at Ohio State, holed testing putts on three consecutive holes, Nos. 18-20, to extend the match.
Jones, 19, who is headed to Brigham Young University this fall, finally put Moldovan away with a par on the par-5 fifth hole to earn a Round-of-32 matchup with Buchanan at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday.