Jackson Herrington and Blades Brown secure statement win at U.S. Four-Ball
Jackson Herrington (left) and Blades Brown (USGA Photo)
Jackson Herrington (left) and Blades Brown (USGA Photo)

Top seeds being challenged. Extra-hole matches. A hole-out, eagle 2 for a walk-off, 24-hole victory. A playoff for the final match-play spots that lasted seven holes and nearly five hours. Throw in a nearly two-hour weather suspension, and there was enough drama and theatrics for Broadway. Or, since we’re just outside the City of Brotherly Love, Broad Street.

Just another match-play Monday at the 9th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, where the tension at Philadelphia Cricket Club was decidedly palpable, and the excitement was heart-stopping.

Where do you start?

The record-tying medalists and No. 1 seeds from Oregon, Zach Foushee, 29, of Lake Oswego, and Robbie Ziegler, 33, of Tualitan, were taken to the 20th hole by not your average No. 32 seed. Wake Forest graduates and 2022 champions Chad Wilfong, 43, of Charlotte, N.C., and Davis Womble, 30, of Winston-Salem, N.C., survived a marathon seven-hole playoff early Monday just to advance into the Round of 32, and they brought plenty of veteran experience into the match.

But it was Ziegler who drained a 12-footer on the par-4 20th hole – No. 2 on the Wissahickon Course – that finally ended the festivities. Womble had an 8-footer to send the match to the 21st hole but missed on the low side.

Foushee and Ziegler shot a 36-hole total of 16-under 126 in stroke play to match the championship mark.

“We talked about this last night, that as the No. 1 seed, we would get everyone’s best shot,” said Ziegler, who got to the course with Foushee at 8:30 a.m. but didn’t tee off for another three hours. “We kind of expected this to be a close match.”

Added Foushee, a member of the University of Oregon’s 2016 NCAA title team: “Anybody who makes it to match play is going to be really good. These guys won the whole thing two years ago. It was kind of a bad draw on our side.”

Moments before their match concluded, 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Kenny Cook, 44, of Noblesville, Ind., holed out from 165 yards on the par-4 sixth hole – the 24th of the match – with an 8-iron to lift he and partner Sean Rowen, 50, of Greenwood, Ind., over Jarred Gomez and Dane Huddleston. It was the second-longest match in championship history. Cook and Rowen, the No. 3 seeds, rallied from 2 down with two to play to force extra holes, winning Nos. 17 and 18 with pars.

“Nobody really played badly, but you know, we all had opportunities,” said Cook, who is competing in his sixth Four-Ball with Rowen. “We could've lost it on 3 (21st hole). We were just very fortunate to get a win."

Not many sides have managed to take out Drew Kittleson and Drew Stoltz at this championship as the Scottsdale, Ariz., residents had amassed an 8-2 match-play record the past two years, reaching the finals on both occasions.

But a pair of 20-year-old rising college juniors from Colorado handed Kittleson, 35, and Stoltz, 39, their earliest-ever exit with a 1-up decision.

Hunter Swanson, who plays for the University of Colorado, and Maxwell Lange, a member of the NCAA Division II Colorado School of Mines team, took the lead for good in the tight battle with a par on the challenging 225-yard, uphill par-3 15th hole that was playing closer to 250 in Monday’s conditions. They then waited out the 108-minute weather suspension before tying the remaining holes to advance. Last year at Kiawah Island Club, Lange, of Golden, and Swanson, of Denver, reached the quarterfinals.

Swanson was facing a challenging 4-foot par putt when the horns blew, leaving him plenty of time to ponder the shot.

“I couldn’t really sit still for that [nearly] two-hour stretch,” said Swanson.

Like a grizzled veteran, Swanson converted and maintained the side’s momentum.

“We played at Kiawah last year and saw their names and know they made it a long way,” said Swanson. “One of the Drews (Stoltz) is [originally] from Colorado. I knew he was a great player. They seem to ham-and-egg it well in Four-Ball and play really well [together]. We knew we quite possibly had the hardest [match] of the day. We knew this was a good opportunity to show who we are and what we can do.”

Middle Tennessee State assistant coach Payne Denman, 32, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and University of Mississippi accounting professor Brett Patterson, 32, of Oxford, Miss., also survived a comeback from Louisiana residents Tyler Ledet and Andrew Noto. The ex-Blue Raider teammates watched Noto hole a 30-footer for birdie on 14 and then they bogeyed 15, tying up the encounter. But the two managed a winning par on the 490-yard closing hole for a 1-up win.

“Stressful,” said Denman. “We literally made nothing all day. We didn’t play bad. We couldn’t make any putts. We both struggled from the transition from the firm to the soft conditions [after the rain]. Even prior to all the rain, we weren’t really making anything.”

Two other extra-hole matches saw the lower seeds advance.

New Mexico State teammates and playoff survivors Javier Delgadillo, 20, of El Paso, Texas, and Aidan Thomas, 23, of New Laguna, N.M., ousted the No. 6 seeds from Colorado, Jimmy Makloski and Colin Prater, in 19 holes.

Meanwhile, Michigan natives Ricky Shilts, 40, of Byron Center, and Chester Vandenberg, 35, of Martin, took out the youngest side in this year’s field, 16-year-old North Carolina rising high school juniors Daniel McBrien and Smith Summerlin, in 20 holes.

The great “homecoming” continued for Tug Maude, 41, of Atlanta, Ga., and 39-year-old John Sawin, of Pebble Beach, Calif., who is the director of golf at the iconic resort. Both became friends through Merion Golf Club’s junior program, and each missed qualifying for the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion. But last fall, they qualified for the 9th edition of this championship and are thoroughly enjoying the reunion.

Their stay was extended with a 2-and-1 win over 2015 champions Nathan Smith and Todd White, two players who have competed in a combined four Walker Cups and registered a total of six USGA titles. White will defend his U.S. Senior Amateur crown in August.

Maude and Sawin overcame an early 1-down deficit with birdies on Nos. 5 and 7 and a winning par on Hole 6 to grab a 2-up lead. Even through the delay, they managed to tie the last 10 holes, including matching birdies on the par-5 12th.

“The support has been fabulous from friends and family,” said Sawin, who is staying with his parents and brought his wife and two kids with him. “And we feel at home on the golf course here, although it’s not our home course, having grown up in the area. It’s just been a lot of fun.”

One side didn’t have to sweat out extra holes or drama. U.S. National Junior Team member Blades Brown, 17, of Nashville, Tenn., and incoming University of Tennessee freshman Jackson Herrington, of Dickson, Tenn., quarterfinalists a year ago, shot the equivalent of 6 under par over 13 holes in eliminating Nicholas Jarrett and Trent Peterson, 6 and 5. Getting done relatively quick gave Brown a chance to indulge in some ice cream and take an afternoon siesta. Two marathon days await should they keep advancing.

“We kind of thought we had an advantage, just because of our age,” said Brown of their much-older foes. Jarrett is 45 and Peterson 37. “The guys that we were playing were significantly older than us, so we were going to have an edge coming back [from the delay], and I’m not going to lie, I hit the ball better when we came back. So yeah, the rain delay is unfortunate that it happened, but it definitely played in our favor.”

What’s next

Match play continues on Tuesday with the Round of 16 beginning at 7 a.m. EDT. The quarterfinal matches are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. The semifinals and 18-hole championship match are scheduled for Wednesday.

View results for U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
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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