JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Corey Conners, 22, of Canada, and Gunn Yang, 20, of Korea, each won their semifinal-round matches to advance to Sunday’s 36-hole championship match of the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club’s 7,167-yard, par-71 Highlands Course.
Conners, who also reached the semifinals in 2013, beat University of Virginia All-American Denny McCarthy, 21, of Rockville, Md., 1 up. He is Canada’s first U.S. Amateur finalist since Gary Cowan won the title for the second time in 1971.
It feels pretty good to have made it a little bit further than last year, said the recent Kent State graduate, who lost to eventual champion Matt Fitzpatrick in the 2013 semifinals. It was a lot of fun last year and I learned a lot. But yeah, I’m just really excited about this year. I am playing some nice golf and I am really pumped up for tomorrow to have some fun and try and finish it off.
Yang, playing in his first U.S. Amateur, defeated Pepperdine University junior Frederick Wedel, 19, of The Woodlands, Texas, in 19 holes.
I want to win the tournament, said Gunn, who had disc surgery in his back in May 2013. Obviously I want to put my name on the trophy with all the best players around the world. Yeah, that's my goal.
The 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. The second 18 holes is scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m.
Conners is the first player to advance to at least the semifinals in back-to-back years since Patrick Cantlay in 2010 (semifinals) and 2011 (final).
He won two of the first three holes and held that 2-up advantage through seven holes, but back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 by Conners squared the match. On holes 12 and 13, McCarthy suffered consecutive bogeys to give Conners, the 2014 Mid-American Conference co-player of the year, a 2-up edge.
The pivotal hole was maybe on 13, said Conners, who is a member of the Canadian national golf team. We both hit nice approach shots and I was able to win the hole with a par, and it gave me a little bit of a lead.
Conners’ caddie is fellow national team member and Kent State teammate and roommate Taylor Pendrith, who advanced to the first round of match play at Atlanta Athletic Club and has caddied for Conners since the second round of match play. Previously, Conners had carried his own bag.
McCarthy, a 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur semifinalist, birdied the par-4 16th hole to narrow the lead and both players made par at the 17th.
Off the tee on the par-5 18th, Conners hit his ball in the left water hazard but recovered with a 5-iron shot to 24 feet. With two putts, he won the match after McCarthy converted a 7-foot par putt.
Yang, who grew up in Korea and played competitive amateur golf in Australia for five years, is a sophomore at San Diego State University. He built a 2-up lead through four holes but Wedel, who defeated four-time USGA champion Nathan Smith in the quarterfinals, won three of the next four holes for a 1-up lead.
Yang regained the lead by winning holes 12 and 13 when Wedel carded bogeys. The match was squared on the par-3 15th when Yang made a bogey. Wedel then missed a short putt for par on the 17th for another lead change. With a 1-up lead on the 18th, Yang hit his fairway bunker shot into the water and Wedel hit a 5-iron from the same bunker to 8 feet, which became a conceded eagle to force extra holes when Yang couldn’t convert his par putt.
! knew Frederick was going for the green for sure, said Yang about his decision to go for the green from the bunker. I just wanted to put more pressure on him, really. That was the reason why I made that decision. I thought I made the right decision, but it just didn't work.
On the first extra hole, both players drove in the fairway. Wedel’s 8-iron from 167 yards landed 40 feet from the hole on the fringe and Yang hit a 56-degree wedge from 114 yards to 3 feet. Yang won the match with birdie after Wedel converted his putt for par.
By virtue of reaching the U.S. Amateur Championship final, Conners and Yang have each earned an exemption into the 2015 U.S. Open – provided they remain amateurs – and a likely invitation to next year’s Masters Tournament. The champion receives an exemption into the 2015 British Open Championship.
All quarterfinalists earn an exemption into the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club.
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Results from Saturday’s semifinal round of match play at the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship at 7,167-yard, par-71 Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands Course).
Gunn Yang, Republic of Korea (141) def. Frederick Wedel, The Woodlands, Texas (144), 19 holes
Corey Conners, Canada (142) def. Denny McCarthy, Rockville, Md. (141), 1 up
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Pairing for Sunday’s championship round of match play at the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship at 7,400-yard, par-71 Atlanta Athletic Club (Highlands Course) (All times EDT):
Championship (36 holes)*
9 a.m. –Gunn Yang, Republic of Korea (141) vs. Corey Conners, Canada (142)
* Afternoon round is scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m.