Neal Shipley (USGA Photo)
The par-4 18th hole at Cherry Hills Country Club has seen its share of heroics and heartaches through 10 USGA championships, and the lore only grew on Friday in the 123rd U.S. Amateur quarterfinals. Two matches came to the 487-yard, uphill 18th, and the hole was tied with bogeys (Nick Dunlap and Jackson Koivun) and with double bogeys (Parker Bell and Ben James), setting up further drama on another historic hole here, the par-4 first, where Arnold Palmer triggered his historic comeback in the 1960 U.S. Open by driving the green.
Dunlap, 19, of Huntsville, Ala., rebounded from his three-putt bogey on No. 18 to birdie No. 1 and defeat Koivun, 18, of Chapel Hill, N.C. Dunlap, who won the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur title, was 2 down through seven holes and rallied to take the lead, but twice followed up hole wins with bogeys, on Nos. 14 and 16, to give Koivun hope.
“I know it’s hard to win; it’s hard to win for him, it’s hard to win for me, and just give all you got,” said Dunlap, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, who knocked in a 20-foot putt on the 333-yard first hole, then watched as Koivun missed his tying bid from 12 feet. “That just shows, I was feeling like I was in a bad spot on the last hole, and you never know what can happen. I felt like if I could somehow give myself a putt and make it, you never know what happens. Fortunately, it all turned out in my favor.”
Bell, 19, of Tallahassee, Fla., a sophomore at the University of Florida, outlasted a furious rally by James, of Milford, Conn., and was the winner of the Phil Mickelson Award as the top freshman in the country for the University of Virginia. Just when it appeared that James might complete his rally from 2 down with three to play, he missed a 2½-foot putt for bogey on No. 18 and settled for matching 6s with Bell, who also took three to get down from the side of the steeply pitched green.
Bell, who had watched James birdie No. 16 and eagle No. 17 to tie the match, took full advantage of his opportunity on the 19th hole, making a 5-foot birdie putt after James’ long birdie try slid past. Bell, who was not among Florida’s top players in the 2022-23 season, has found his form at a very fortuitous time. He will square off against Dunlap on Saturday in the semifinals at noon MDT.
“I really thought it was over. He was steady all day putting,” said Bell of James’ three-putt on No. 18. “When he missed it, it felt like new life, and I’m sure he was pretty boggled by that. The momentum kind of swung to my side. I didn’t really want it to go any further. When you get a chance like that to win it, you never know if you’re going to get another opportunity, so you've got to take advantage.”
The other all-American semifinal will pit John Marshall Butler, 21, of Louisville, Ky., against Neal Shipley, 22, of Pittsburgh, Pa. Butler, 21, a senior at Auburn University, completed his dramatic Round-of-16 victory over Paul Chang early Friday morning with a par on the 19th hole, then led from the first hole in his 3-and-2 quarterfinal victory over Jose Islas, 20, of Mexico, a junior at the University of Oregon.
“I was just really in control of my game mentally and physically,” said Butler of his quarterfinal performance. “Never was rattled. José is a great player. He hit some very high-quality iron shots. But I just stuck to my game plan and played very resiliently. I have all week.”
Shipley prevailed, 2 and 1, in a back-and-forth matchup with Andi Xu, 21, of the People’s Republic of China. After Xu took an early 2-up advantage, Shipley, a graduate student at Ohio State University, won three straight holes. Xu forged a final tie with a birdie on the par-3 12th but miscues on Nos. 15 and 17 dashed the chances of the University of San Diego senior, the No. 7 seed in the bracket.
“This one is pretty special because I started out kind of slow and had to claw back,” said Shipley, who played at James Madison University before joining the Ohio State program last year. “I got up, and then he got me, and then just kind of won those two near the end. It’s tough. You’ve just got to stay mentally in it the whole time.”
ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA
championship, was first played in 1895 at
Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 14 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online in the spring
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