Writing from Lake Forest, Illinois
Friday, August 5, 2016
There was a time when Dylan Meyer and match play didn’t get along.
That’s a long time back.
Meyer, going into his junior year at Illinois caught on through the good offices of Fighting Illini head coach Mike Small. Since then, he’s been stout, and proved it again Friday afternoon, when, despite not hitting the ball quite as well as in his morning match, dispatched Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights and Texas 5 and 4 to advance to the Saturday’s semifinal match in the 114th Western Amateur at the Knollwood Club.
“I played pretty solid,” Meyer said. “I started to hit the driver good, and Doug, he played solid all the way.”
There were two turning points. The first was the combination of Ghim’s three-putt green at the third and Meyer’s birdie 2 at the fourth, which gave Meyer a 2-up advantage. He would never let it shrink.
“I gave him a little bit of momentum with the three-putt,” Ghim said. “I don’t feel I played that poorly. Dylan was playing great.”
The second was the dagger Meyer threw at Ghim on the 13th hole, a par-4 with the tees moved up to 309 yards to encourage players to go for the elevated green.
Meyer laid up in the fairway, 91 yards distant. Ghim went for it and came up just short.
Then Meyer took a 52-degree wedge in hand and stuck the approach 18 inches from the cup for a conceded birdie. Ghim chipped four feet past and missed the comebacker to halve the hole, which meant Meyer was dormie 5. When they halved the 14th hole, it was handshake time.
“He did what you have to do in match play,” Ghim said of Meyer.
It goes back to the lessons learned from Small, and the experience gained in the NCAA tournament’s team match play competition, as well as the made-for-TV East Lake Cup, the last few years.
“After my match with Aaron (Wise in the NCAA final) I got a big boost in confidence,” Meyer said, too modest to mention he beat Wise, the NCAA individual champion, 1 up in the team portion of the proceedings. “I used to do too much in match play. You can think too far ahead in that. Match play is shot-by-shot. Stroke play, you can plan out your entire round.”
Meyer will meet William Gordon, a sophomore at Vanderbilt who hails from Davidson, N.C., in Saturday’s second semifinal, an 8:15 a.m. start. That showdown will be preceded by an 8 a.m. match between runaway medalist Sam Horsfield, who escaped a pair of jams on Friday, and Alabama sophomore David Riley of Hattiesburg, Miss.
With Englishman Horsfield carrying Florida colors, there are three Southeastern Conference representatives in the Final Four, along with Meyer, who waves the flag of the Big Ten.
Horsfield was a nine-stroke winner in the qualifying portion of the program, but that meant nothing when he met Joaquin Niemann, the 17-year-old from Santiago, Chile, in the opening match of Friday morning’s Sweet Sixteen. The lead changed hands three times, with Niemann’s par on the par-3 17th squaring the match for the fourth time. Horsfield had to birdie the 19th to advance to the quarterfinals. There, Horsfield ran out to a 4-up lead on countryman J.J. Grey, a recent Georgia State grad, only to see Grey whittle it away on the back nine, squaring the match when Horsfield hooked his tee shot out of bounds on the 16th.
But Grey squandered his break, bogeying the final two holes to allow Horsfield a 2 up victory.
Riley took down Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, 4 and 2, in the round of 16, then scored a 1 up victory over John Coultas in the quarterfinals.
Gordon toppled Andy Zhang of Beijing, China, 4 & 3 in the morning, and survived 1 up against Baylor’s Braden Bailey in the afternoon.
Meyer, Riley and Gordon all survived Thursday's playoff for the final match play spots. ... The result of the other morning matches: Grey defeated Greyson Sigg 3 and 2, Coultas beat Vincent Whaley 2 and 1, Meyer knocked off Michael DeMorat 1 up, Ghim beat Max McGreevey with a birdie on the 19th, and Bailey subdued Eric Ricard 1 up. ... There were small galleries with each of the quarterfinal groups, but no more than 250 people were on hand at any one time for a day of splendid golf. Admission is free. ... Among the rules officials on hand were recently-retired PGA Tour veteran Jon Brendle, who was the set-up man for the Western Open / BMW Championship for years, and former USGA director of rules and competitions Tom Meeks. ...
– Tim Cronin