Writing from Lake Forest, Illinois
Saturday, August 6, 2016
This time, there wasn’t an impromptu water bottle shower from Illinois teammate Nick Hardy.
This time, there was a bear hug Hardy applied to Dylan Meyer on the 17th green after Sam Horsfield had conceded the 114th Western Amateur championship match at Knollwood Club on Saturday afternoon.
The margin was 3 and 1, largely because Horsfield, after missing the green on the par-3 17th with Meyer on the putting surface and dormie 2, felt it necessary to go for the cup to win the hole and keep the match alive. Horsfield overshot the mark and after one more stroke, took off his hat and offered his hand.
“He was 20 feet away and I had to make it,” Horsfield said. “I tried to get aggressive. It didn’t work out.”
“I didn’t expect that,” Meyer said. “I thought I’d be putting.”
It also might not have been expected that Horsfield, the world No. 2 amateur from Manchester, England via Florida, would surrender the 2-up lead he’d forged after five holes, especially after roaring back from four down on the back nine of his morning semifinal match against Davis Riley with eight holes to play.
But that happened, Horsfield ousting Riley, who scored 5-under 30 on the front, 2 and 1 by winning six of the last seven holes.
Then, four hours later, the reverse happened, elevating Meyer into the upper ranks of American amateurs. His name now resides on a trophy with the Nicklaus-Woods-Mickelson-Evans crowd.
“He played his butt off,” Horsfield said of Meyer.
The turnabout aside, neither Meyer nor Horsfield played particularly brilliant golf. Including the usual concessions, Meyer was 1-under, Horsfield 2-over, with Meyer hitting six of 13 fairways off the tee and just nine of 17 greens in regulation. Horsfield hit seven fairways and 10 greens.
Where the 140-pound Meyer excelled was in overcoming Horsfield’s prodigious distance off the tee with a tantalizing short game that outperformed his foe.
“That doesn’t bother me at all,” Meyer said of being outdriven consistently. “I know my place. I’m not going to be a Dustin Johnson. I’m going to be a Zach Johnson. I’m going to short-game the death out of a golf course.”
Meyer’s only bogey of the day came on the par-4 fifth, when he failed to get up-and-down from 18 feet to save par, and handed Horsfield his 2-up advantage.
After that, Meyer authored five par saves in seven holes, starting the run by winning the sixth – which Horsfield three-putted for the fourth time in eight competitive rounds – and seventh to square the match. He took the lead on the par-5 10th with his best approach of the day, a saucy wedge to two feet to set up a birdie 4, then ran down a 20-footer to save par on the 11th, punctuated by a fist pump.
“We had the game plan all week of being relentless, just keep on hitting fairways and greens and putting my self in good positions.”
“There was no point that I had total control, because anything can happen in the championship match,” Meyer said. “But going to 17 tee box I felt I had a pretty good chance.”
Horsfield was around the hole all day, but the putts weren’t falling on Knollwood’s stressed-out greens as they had during stroke play qualifying, when he collected 27 birdies. Now a putt would roll by the hole or lip out rather than topple in.
“I had four lip-outs on the back nine,” Horsfield said. “I didn’t play bad at all. Dylan played great. It was a couple bad breaks here and there and a couple lipped-out putts.
“It hurts right now. I’ve never really felt like this in a tournament.”
Meyer’s putts fell.
“I was rolling the rock this week, as Coach (Mike Small) would say,” Meyer said.
Asked what Small would say to him, Meyer said, “Next? Today you won but tomorrow nobody really cares. Enjoy it tonight and tomorrow get back after it.”
Meyer is the first Fighting Illini team member, or alum, to win the Western Amateur. He’s from Evansville, Ind., and grew up playing public courses like Fendrich and Oak Meadow. More recently, he plays out of posh Victoria National, a frequent host of the Big Ten championship.
“If it wasn’t for the support of the city of Evansville and the golf courses back in town, this wouldn’t be possible,” Meyer said.
Meyer’s 4 and 2 semifinal victory over William Gordon was relatively simple. He won the first, fourth and seventh holes and never led by less than 2-up the rest of the way. ... By 5 p.m., about 90 minutes after his victory, Meyer was trending on Twitter, and with a handle like @DJ_DFunk, why not? ... Meyer ranked this as his best victory, ahead of the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields. ... Horsfield on the sixth green, scene of his three-putts: “Me and that green didn’t get along.” ... Play on the 16th hole was briefly held up because someone had absconded with the flag. ... Both Meyer and Horsfield are in the field for the U.S. Amateur, played this year at Oakland Hills in Birmingham, Mich. ... Along with No. 2 Horsfield, Gordon was 51st in the world amateur rankings, Riley came in 52nd, and Meyer was 68th.
– Tim Cronin