Greg Earnhardt, 46, of Greensboro, N.C., and partner Sherrill Britt, 49, of West End, N.C., continued their run at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship by defeating reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and fellow North Carolinian Scott Harvey, 36, of Greensboro, and Todd Mitchell, 36, of Bloomington, Ill., in 19 holes on Wednesday morning to reach the championship match on the Olympic Club’s Lake Course.
Semifinal No. 1 Highlights
Turning Point: With the match all square on the par-3 13th hole, Mitchell and Harvey looked to be in good position to take a 1-up lead. Earnhardt short-sided himself on his tee shot and left himself a 15-foot par putt, which he converted for a halve. Mitchell said there was a “1-in-30 chance” he could get it up and down. “It kind of stopped the bleeding because they had all the momentum,” said Earnhardt.
Another Big Putt: The match was still all square at the par-5 17th hole when Mitchell ripped his 252-yard 3-wood second shot to the center of the green, leaving him 30 feet for eagle. Earnhardt was 12 from the flagstick with his third, but on the back fringe. Mitchell’s eagle try rolled inches past the hole for a conceded birdie. Earnhardt then calmly rolled in his birdie putt for another halve.
U.S. Open Flashback: Three years ago, Graeme McDowell faced a 15-foot downhill putt to force an 18-hole playoff with Webb Simpson. His putt veered just to the right. The hole was cut in the same location on Wednesday and Harvey’s approach landed nearly in the exact spot from where McDowell putted. Harvey didn’t recall the putt, but it didn’t matter. This time, the ball went into the hole for a birdie. Earnhardt, however, had stuffed his 9-iron approach from 138 yards to 3 feet left of the flagstick and made nearly the same putt that Simpson did to win the U.S. Open.
Shot of the Match: Facing a 183-yard shot from the right rough on the par-4 19th hole – No. 9 on the course – Earnhardt lofted a perfect 8-iron approach and watched the ball trickle to 6 feet right of the hole. After Mitchell failed to convert his 10-footer for birdie, Earnhardt stepped up and holed his putt. Earnhardt and Britt played the final seven holes of the match in 4 under par.
Delayed Homecoming: For the third time this week, Britt and Earnhardt were forced to change their plane reservations. During the lunch break, they called their airline and switched flights.
Quotes: “I just had it today. I saw my line and hit it down my line. It just worked out.” – Greg Earnhardt
“On this stage for him to do what he did was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen.” – Todd Mitchell on Earnhardt’s putting performance
In the other semifinal, four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith, 36, of Pittsburgh, and Todd White, 47, of Spartanburg, S.C., eliminated 18-year-olds Sam Burns, of Shreveport, La., and Austin Connelly, of Irving, Texas.
Semifinal No. 2 Highlights
Turning Point: On the par-4 11th hole, Smith and White looked as if they might lose a third consecutive hole with Connelly just 3½ feet away for birdie. But the veteran Smith rolled in a 28-foot uphill birdie putt to keep the match all square.
Forging Ahead: Smith and White took the lead for good at the par-4 12th hole. Burns had a chance to halve the hole, but missed an 8-foot par putt. Smith and White then took a 2-up lead on No. 14 when White rolled in a 26-foot birdie putt.
No Quit in These Kids: Burns and Connelly are ranked among the top 10 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for a reason, and the former converted an 8-footer for birdie at the par-3 15th to trim the deficit to one.
Missed Opportunity: Connelly had a chance to square the match at the par-5 16th hole, but his 8-foot birdie putt veered left of the hole.
Closing Out in Style: Fittingly, White drained a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-5 17th hole, forcing Connelly to make a 28-footer to keep the match going. He missed and the contest was over.
Quotable: “They stepped on the back nine. They made three putts outside of 25, 30 feet at really key times. Every putt they hit today had a chance to go in.” – Austin Connelly