Nick Dunlap (USGA Photo)
After two rounds of match play in the 123rd U.S. Amateur Championship, it appeared that the identical twin Ford brothers were on a collision course to square off in the quarterfinals, with neither David nor Maxwell, 20, of Peachtree Corners, Ga., being extended past the 16th hole in any of their first four matches at historic Cherry Hills Country Club. Hopes of that matchup were dashed in the Round of 16 on Thursday afternoon, with one match ending in dramatic fashion, the other less so.
David, a junior at the University of North Carolina, squared off against Ben James, of Milford, Conn., in a back-and-forth match that featured six lead changes, the final one coming on the 19th hole, when James completed a late rally with a birdie on the 401-yard par 4. James had squared the match with a two-putt par on the daunting 487-yard 18th, as David Ford was unable to get up and down for par after hitting his drive into the rough.
“It was unbelievable; David is an incredible player,” said James, who won the Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top college freshman at the University of Virginia. “We've played a lot growing up, so I know his short game is phenomenal. I knew I’d have to use my weapon, ball-strike it around. I started off hot with the putter, and I knew it was going to be a good day.”
Maxwell Ford, the No. 4 seed this week, was eliminated by Parker Bell, 19, of Tallahassee, Fla., 5 and 4. Bell, a sophomore at the University of Florida, reeled off victories in five of seven holes from Nos. 3 through 9 to take command of their match and set up a quarterfinal matchup with James.
Round of 16 Highlights
Maxwell, who played his first two years of college golf at the University of Georgia, will join brother David at the University of North Carolina this fall. David is one of four players who have been announced as members of the USA Team for the Walker Cup Match against Great Britain and Ireland on Sept. 2-3, along with Nick Dunlap, Caleb Surratt, and Gordon Sargent.
Dunlap, who knocked off world No. 1 Sargent in Wednesday’s Round of 64, rolled to two more victories on Thursday to reach the quarterfinal round. Surratt, of Indian Trail, N.C., who is the No. 6 seed here, was ousted by Paul Chang, of the People’s Republic of China, in the Round of 32 on Thursday morning. Chang birdied the difficult 18th to send the match to extra holes, then birdied the 22nd hole to win.
Dunlap, of Huntsville, Ala., a sophomore at the University of Alabama and the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, reached the match-play bracket for the first time in this, his fourth start in the U.S. Amateur. He stacked a 4-and-2 win over No. 9 seed Connor Jones, of Denver, Colo., and a 5-and-3 win over Bowen Mauss, of Draper, Utah, onto his 2-and-1 win over Sargent.
“My caddie and I have a good game plan for this place, and it’s just to bank on my mid-irons and short irons and go from there,” said Dunlap, the No. 41 seed, who won the Northeast Amateur and the North & South Amateur earlier this summer. In the quarterfinals, Dunlap will face Jackson Koivun, 18, of Chapel Hill, N.C., the No. 32 seed and an incoming freshman at Auburn University. Koivun rallied to edge Matthew Sutherland, of Sacramento, Calif., in the Round of 16 by winning the 18th and 19th holes with pars.
Andi Xu, 21, of the People’s Republic of China and a senior at the University of San Diego, earned a pair of 2-up victories to get to the quarterfinals, first over Cole Anderson of Camden, Maine, then over Connor Gaunt, of Cabot, Ark. He will face Neal Shipley, of Pittsburgh, Pa., who began the week by replicating Western Pa. hero Arnold Palmer in driving the first green with a 1960s era driver at the players’ dinner. Shipley, a graduate student at Ohio State, outlasted Calum Scott, of Scotland, in 20 holes on Thursday morning, then earned a 3-and-2 victory over Cooper Jones, of Highland, Utah.
Jose Islas, of Mexico, captured two matches on Thursday to make the quarterfinals, but he will await his opponent, as Paul Chang and John Marshall Butler played to a stunning stalemate over 18 holes.
The match, which will resume at 8 a.m. MDT on Friday, featured a 147-yard hole-out by Chang on the 16th hole for an eagle and a 1-up lead, an approach to within a foot for birdie by Butler to tie the match on No. 17, and a remarkable par by Butler on No. 18 after he hit his tee shot into the lake bordering the 18th fairway. After taking a drop, Butler hit an iron shot to within 4 feet to save par and match Chang’s conventional two-putt 4.