Griffin defeated Andrew Perez, the final player in the field who earned the last spot in a 13-for-6 playoff, despite not playing nearly as well as he had the first two days. He felt pressure from Perez, 20, of Oxnard, Calif., throughout the round.
He’s a great player, said Griffin, whose biggest lead was a 2-up margin heading into the last two holes. He never really went away. He’s just going out there and slinging it and I have the added pressure of being the medalist.
Griffin, a rising senior at Georgia Tech University, shot the equivalent of even-par 71, allowing for the usual match-play concessions, with two birdies and two bogeys. Perhaps his most important putt came at the par-5 11th, where Griffin hit his approach into a wooded area and was forced to declare his ball unplayable and take a penalty drop. He saved par by holing a 15-foot downhill putt to keep the match all square.
The first round is always the hardest. You just kind of get your feet wet, and I think it was important for me to not get behind, said Griffin, who faces fellow Atlantic Coast Conference golfer Wesley Graham, who plays for Florida State University, in the second round. I was all square through 13 holes, so to know you’re not hitting it well and to still pull it out is a good feeling.
Langley defeated Greg Condon, 48, of Monte Vista, Colo., 2 and 1. A rising senior at the University of Illinois, Langley is in the midst of a banner summer, having tied for low-amateur honors at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in addition to his victory at the NCAA Championship. He was philosophical about the experience he’s gained this year.
Both of those weeks gave me confidence to know that I could play with some of the best, said Langley. The reception I got at the 18th green [at Pebble] on the last day, it was the experience of a lifetime. To have all of those people cheering for you and know that I had finally accomplished what everyone was newsContenting me on to do, to finish so well in the Open. That was a cool moment for me. You try and draw on the past success you’ve had and try to do the same thing today.
Reed, a rising junior who went 3-0 in his singles matches during Augusta State’s NCAA team victory, was a 7-and-6 winner over Travis Gahman, 21, of Souderton, Pa. Reed never lost a hole or made a bogey, won four holes in a row at one point in the match, and made five birdies in 12 holes en route to an emphatic victory.
It was one of those days, said Reed, a 2010 Division I All-American selection. I didn’t really have a chance to look at bogey. Every putt I had for par was either given to me or it didn’t really matter. It’s comforting. It doesn’t take a lot of mental stress and whenever you can get through matches like that it’s good, because this can turn into a very long week.
Derek Ernst, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas junior who led the field after the first round of stroke-play qualifying, advanced to the second round of match play thanks to a 2-and-1 victory over Clayton Rotz, 21, of Chambersburg, Pa.
It was a rough start and really good finish, said Ernst, 20, of Clovis, Calif., who didn’t gain the lead until the 13th hole. The stretch of nine to 11 where I birdied three straight holes got me back on track, back into a better mindset than I had in the first few holes.
Other notable players to win their first-round matches included Bhavik Patel, 19, of Bakersfield, Calif., who was a semifinalist at the 2009 U.S. Amateur; Chris Williams, 19, of Moscow, Idaho, the 2010 Phil Mickelson Award winner as the most outstanding freshman in NCAA Division I men’s golf; Jim Liu, 14, of Smithtown, N.Y., who remains the youngest player in the field; and Tim Sheppard, 49, of Peoria, Ill., who remains the oldest player in the field.
The match of the day was between Sean Knapp, 48, of Oakmont, Pa., a member of Pennsylvania team that won the 2009 USGA Men’s State Team Championship, and Chase Wright, 21, of Muncie, Ind. Though Wright prevailed, 1 up, and scored the equivalent of 6-under par 65, allowing for the usual match-play concessions, it was Knapp’s round, which included no score higher than 4 on the card, that was the talk of the championship, proving that even a great round in match play does not guarantee a win.
The second and third rounds of match play will take place at Bryan Park Golf & Conference Center on Thursday, followed by the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday. The championship will conclude with Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final.
The U.S. Amateur Public Links, established in 1922 for bona fide public-course players, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.