Western Amateur semifinals set after thrilling day at Exmoor CC
The semifinals are set at the Western Amateur, which is back at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Illinois, for the first time in a decade.
The stroke-play portion of the 120th Western Am got underway Tuesday and lasted through Thursday’s 36-hole stroke-play marathon, leaving us with 16 players teeing it up Friday morning for match play.
The round of 16 featured the upset of defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen, who made headlines earlier this summer when he finished fourth at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship. Vanderbilt’s Cole Sherwood bested Thorbjornsen, 4 and 3, to advance to the quarterfinals.
Joining Sherwood in the quarters were Ross Steelman, Travis Vick, Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, Austin Greaser, Kelly Chinn, William Mouw and Derek Hitchner.
Vick and Steelman were the first match in the afternoon, and Steelman got off to a hot start. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket was 4 up through eight holes and Vick was on the wrong side of an Exmoor tennis court after an errant tee shot at the ninth.
After finding his way back to the fairway and saving par to close his front nine, Vick went on a run that included five birdies in eight holes, ultimately climbing out of the hole he found himself in at the turn to beat Steelman, 2 and 1, and advance to tomorrow’s semifinals.
The same side of the bracket found Fernandez de Oliveira facing Sherwood, and Sherwood couldn’t keep up the hot streak he displayed in his upset of Thorbjornsen. Fernandez de Oliveira built a comfortable lead and emerged, 3 and 1, over Sherwood.
The other side of the bracket saw Greaser facing Chinn, and provided a matchup of college teammates, Mouw and Hitchner.
Greaser was 1 up as both players played from the fairway at the 18th. Greaser, hitting first, played conservatively to the middle of the green. Chinn, knowing he likely needed a birdie to extend the match, took dead aim at a front pin tucked just over a bunker and pulled off the tough shot, leaving himself inside 10 feet for birdie.
After Greaser lagged his birdie try to 3 feet, Chinn couldn’t get his putt to drop. Greaser cleaned up for par and advanced, 1 up, to the semis.
Mouw and Hitchner, who are teammates at Pepperdine, played a close match start-to-finish. Neither player led more than 1 up through the front nine, and just when it appeared Mouw might go 2 up at the 10th, Hitchner chipped in for eagle to get the match back to all square.
Mouw took a 1-up lead through 15, but couldn’t hang on as his teammate won two of the final three holes for a 1-up victory and a Saturday morning tee time.
The semis will showcase Vick squaring off against Fernandez de Oliveira, and Greaser facing Hitchner.
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Tomorrow’s semifinal action will begin streaming on GolfChannel.com at 10 a.m. ET.