MIDWAY, Utah (July 12, 2012) -– Paul McConnell and T.J. Vogel were among eight golfers to win two matches on Thursday at Soldier Hollow Golf Course to reach the quarterfinals of the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
Nothing could slow McConnell, not even a broken strap on his golf bag. The 21-year-old from Garland, Texas, won his morning match against Zac Blair, of Ogden, Utah, bought a new bag from the Soldier Hollow pro shop, then beat Benjamin Griffin, 16, of Chapel Hill, N.C., in the afternoon, 4 and 3.
McConnell felt right at home at the 7,670-yard, par-71 course when the afternoon brought a southwesterly breeze. While the wind frustrated many players, McConnell controlled the trajectory of his shots, a skill honed from years of practice in Texas.
“The wind really picked up, so I just tried to hit the ball low,” said McConnell, a senior at the University of Texas-Arlington. “I’m used to it so I know how to hit certain shots because I work at it all the time.”
After losing the first hole to Griffin, McConnell hit a 9-iron within 3 feet for a conceded birdie on the par-4 second, birdied the par-5 third and drove the par-4 fourth, which was shortened to 306 yards, for a two-putt birdie. He will face Kevin Aylwin, 23, of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., in Friday morning’s quarterfinal.
T.J. Vogel, 21 of Miami also survived two matches, edging 50-year-old Greg Condon, 1 up, in the morning before beating Anton Arboleda, of La Canada, Calif., 3 and 2, in the afternoon.
Like McConnell, Vogel drove the fourth green in the afternoon round and two-putted for birdie to take a 1-up lead he would not relinquish. He moved to 2 up on the par-3 fifth when he drained a 15-foot putt from the fringe. In all, Vogel won six of the first 11 holes and closed the match with a birdie to halve the par-5 16th.
“I know if I’m hitting it well, I’m going to be hard to beat,” said Vogel, who was named a NCAA Division I second-team All American for the University of Florida in 2012. “I’m playing great this week.”
Vogel also has support in the form of his father, Joe, who is caddieing for him throughout the championship. The elder Vogel doesn’t just carry T.J.’s clubs; he’s been his golf instructor since T.J. picked up the game at age 5.
“I tend to do my own thing on the greens, but my dad is there for reinforcement,” said Vogel of his father, the women’s golf coach at Florida International University. “That’s huge to have someone there to back you up.”
Despite winning both his matches, Vogel was feeling fatigued after two tours around Soldier Hollow, which sits at more than 5,500 feet above sea level.
“I’m exhausted,” said Vogel, a Floridian who is familiar with heat but not altitude. “It’s way different out here. Thirty-six holes in one day is brutal. It feels like the altitude sucks all the air out of you. I probably had 25 bottles of water out there.”
Kyle Beversdorf, 20, recorded the largest margin of victory in the third round, defeating Cody McManus, 6 and 5. Not only did the Plymouth, Minn., resident win his first four holes against McManus, he didn’t drop a hole since losing the par-5 eighth to a birdie by Jace Long in his morning match.
Beversdorf’s performance may come as a bit of a surprise considering the lack of competitive golf he has played over the past year. After transferring to the University of Minnesota from Northern Iowa, Beversdorf had to sit out a year and did not play any tournaments during the fall or spring semesters. Despite the respite, Beversdorf has been sharp this week, relaying on his experience in past USGA championships.
“It’s definitely helped me,” said Beversdorf, who played in both the U.S. Amateur and APL in 2011. “Playing here is a totally different level compared to state stuff. Making match play last year at Bandon was a great learning experience even though I lost.”
Last year’s runner-up, Derek Ernst, had a relatively easy day, playing just 28 holes in a pair of 5-and-4 victories over Richard Hattori and Xander Schauffele.
The quarterfinal round of match play begins Friday at 7 a.m. MDT. The winners will advance to the semifinals, which are scheduled to begin Friday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. MDT. All quarterfinalists are exempt into the 2013 APL. The 36-hole final is scheduled for Saturday.
The APL is one of 13 individual national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.