Bandon, Ore. – The two top-seeded players, medalist Corbin Mills and Jonathan Randolph, were among the four golfers to win morning matches at Old Macdonald on Friday to reach the semifinals of the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Joining Mills and Randolph in the semifinals are fourth-seeded Harris English, of Thomasville, Ga., and Derek Ernst, of Clovis, Calif. The semifinal matches were scheduled for Friday afternoon at Old Macdonald.
Damp and calm conditions that dominated throughout much of the week gave way to abundant sunshine and stout winds that gusted up to 25 miles per hour at the 7,016-yard, par-71 layout.
Mills, 21, of Easley, S.C., was unaffected by the changing weather, however, not losing a hole in his 4-and-3 quarterfinal victory against 21-year-old Andrew Vijarro.
“I made a lot of pars and with conditions like this, pars will win a lot of holes,” said Mills, who wore his Clemson colors on Friday. “The wind dried the greens out and they were a lot faster today. I like them a lot.”
One might not know it from his exceptional play, but Mills has been battling several health issues over the past week.
First, he developed an ear infection two days before leaving for Bandon Dunes. Then, he missed his scheduled flight from South Carolina on Wednesday. He was able to catch a flight the following day, but developed pink eye, for which he is still taking antibiotics.
“I haven’t been able to hear out of my left ear the whole week,” said Mills. “I don’t know if all this has me in some sort of zone, but whatever it is, it’s working.”
Mills’ victory ended an impressive run for Vijarro, the only Oregonian to advance to match play. Both Vijarro and his teammate, Dan Miernicki, of Santee, Calif., who fell to Ernst in the quarterfinals, will be seniors at the University of Oregon this fall.
Ernst did not make any dramatic hole-in-ones on Friday morning, as he did at the par-4 eighth at Bandon Trails during the first round of match play on Wednesday, but the reigning Mountain West Conference champion from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas led from start-to-finish in a 6-and-4 triumph.
Ernst four-putted the par-5 sixth and three-putted holes seven and eight, but Miernicki could never square the match. After Miernicki conceded the ninth hole when he hit his drive into the gorse, Ernst rolled in a 15-foot-putt for birdie on No. 10 and a 12-footer for par on No. 11 to stretch his lead to 4-up.
“Those putts were huge for my confidence,” said Ernst. “After that I was able to get in a focus zone and close him out.”
After losing the first three holes in his opening round match against Joseph David, Ernst has won the first hole in his last three matches.
“I got off to slow starts in stroke play and in that first match,” he said, “so I’ve keyed in on getting the momentum going early and I’ve been able to do that the last couple of matches.”
Randolph, 22, of Brandon, Miss., has arguably been the most dominant player this week, needing just 58 holes to win his four matches.
Randolph used birdies on holes three, four and five to build a three-hole advantage over Korean-born Todd Baek, of San Diego, Calif., and for the fourth consecutive match was not taken past the 15th hole, winning 5 and 3.
While his ball striking has been solid all week at Bandon Dunes, Randolph rode a hot putter on Friday morning, draining a long birdie-putt on the par-3 fifth and a 60-footer for eagle on the 350-yard par-4 ninth.
“Both had good speed with a fair bit of break,” said Randolph, who recently switched putters after struggling on the greens this spring. “In match play, you’ve got to make a couple of putts to separate yourself and I’ve been able to do that well this week.”
Randolph is finally healthy after injuring his chest twice in the past three years. He tore cartilage near his sternum during the 2008 Mississippi State Amateur, then re-injured it at the same course, Tunica (Miss.) National, the following year during a Hooters Tour event.
When it came time for U.S. Open qualifying in 2011, Tunica had a qualifier, but Randolph wasn’t about to tempt fate.
“I signed up for Maryland this year because I wasn’t going to go back there. No way.”
After playing 37 holes on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals, English survived another hard-fought match against J.J. Spaun of Los Angeles, 2 and 1.
English did not lead in the match until he birdied the 15th hole to go 1 up. On the par-5 17th, both players reached the green in two shots with English just inside of Spaun.
Spaun marked his ball and began lining up a putt he hoped would square the match, however, he was actually just off the surface of the putting green. He was assessed a two-stroke penalty and ultimately conceded the hole and match to English. The greens at Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald have white dots on the perimeter to tell players where the fairways end and putting surfaces begin.
“I guess you have to pay attention to stuff like that,” said English. “It’s hard to do when the grass all kind of looks the same and the greens run into the fairways. If my ball was his ball I probably would have done the same thing. You never want to win a match like that, but I’ll take it.”
This year’s APL is being played concurrently at Bandon Dunes with the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship. The WAPL field also played its quarterfinal matches at Old Macdonald on Friday morning. Medalist Cheyenne Woods, fell to Annie Park, 3 and 2.
The APL and WAPL are two of the 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association.
Michael Trostel is the curator/historian at the USGA Museum. E-mail him at email@example.com.