Meyer Flips a Switch to Find Match-Play Stride
August 17, 2016 | Bloomfield Township, Mich.
By Stuart Hall
There was little need for Dylan Meyer to go deep into his memory bank to recall the pressures of match play.
Twelve days ago, Meyer was in a first-round tussle at the Western Amateur in Lake Forest, Ill. He persevered, 1 up, and went on to win the prestigious title.
"So I knew how to handle the pressure,” said Meyer, who opened U.S. Amateur match play on Wednesday at Oakland Hills Country Club with a 2-up victory over Connor Syme, of Scotland.
“[Winning the Western Amateur] was a good experience that I had and to have it as a springboard coming into this event is nice, but that’s in the past. I can’t bring the game I had there to here. I have to go with what I have now and keep working with it."
What Meyer had in his match against Syme, the reigning Australian Amateur champion and British Amateur medalist, was a gritty just-make-par disposition.
Of the match’s 10 holes won on the vaunted South Course, six were won with par – five by Meyer, including four on the back nine when he flipped the momentum of the match.
Meyer pointed to a par save on the par-4 11th that halved the hole as a turning point.
"I knew I was catching my stride, I could feel him getting a little bit frustrated because I was getting up and down from some pretty tight spots,” he said. "So at that point and time, me and my caddie [Nate Phelps] were saying we needed to put it down to him and be relentless."
The victory keeps alive the possibility of Meyer, 21, of Evansville, Ind., becoming the first player since Danny Lee in 2008 to win both the Western Amateur and U.S. Amateur in the same summer.
For as well as Meyer, No. 35 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, has been playing in this extended fortnight of championships, he has done so without his typical accuracy off the tee. The short game, he said, has been his insurance policy.
That was not always the case.
As a headstrong freshman at the University of Illinois in 2014, Meyer’s fall campaign did not go as well as hoped.
“I was very stubborn,” he said. “Coming in as a college golfer and being a freshman, I thought I knew it all. Then I got knocked down a few pegs in the fall and I realized that I needed to come full circle.”
Meyer begrudgingly met with Illini head coach Mike Small, a former tour player and noted PGA teaching professional, and relented.
“I was tired of shooting 75, so I said ‘Coach, I’m ready,’ and we had a meeting together,” Meyer said. “Ever since then, I have gradually gotten better. Thank God I turned that corner.”
While the wins did not come immediately, Meyer continued to trust the process. A possible sign that Meyer was ready for this summer’s national match-play stage came on June 1 in the Illini’s NCAA Match Play semifinal loss to the University of Oregon. Meyer defeated newly crowned NCAA individual champion Aaron Wise, 1 up.
“It’s definitely the mental attitude I have on the golf course,” Meyer said of his biggest transformation. “And just the mindset that every shot matters.”
Now that he’s advanced to the Round of 32, those shots matter even more.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on USGA websites.