Medalist Smalley Edges Past Mid-Amateur Stalwart Harvey
August 17, 2016 | Bloomfield Township, Mich.
By Pete Kowalski, USGA
Medalist Alex Smalley defeated a formidable opponent in fellow North Carolinian and 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Scott Harvey , 2 and 1, in the first round of match play in the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship on the South Course at Oakland Hills Country Club.
“I played with Scott earlier this summer at the North Carolina Am, so I'm familiar with him,” said Smalley, a 19-year-old Duke University sophomore from Wake Forest, N.C. “So, I knew it was going to be a tough day, and it was. I'm just glad I got out of there with the win.”
In the tight match, in which neither player had more than a 1-up lead, Smalley was 1 up through seven holes. Then dangerous conditions forced a suspension of play at 3:43 p.m. EDT. After a nearly two-hour delay, play resumed. Harvey, who gained the last berth in the field by playing seven playoff holes in the morning, fought off his fatigue and won holes eight and nine (with a conceded birdie) for a 1-up lead.
“It's basically another tournament, a brand-new tournament,” Smalley said. “It's a new day. Seeds don't really matter in match play. It was nice getting medalist. It was an honor, but I just had to start right all over again.”
Smalley won No. 11 with a 6-foot birdie putt and No. 14 with a par to regain a 1-up lead.
Both players sank birdie putts on the 15th hole before Harvey’s approach to the water-guarded 16th green spun back into the hazard, leading to a double bogey and a 2-up lead for Smalley, which held for his victory when both players made par on 17.
Harvey, a 2015 USA Walker Cup Team member and three-time Mid-Amateur medalist, admitted he felt the effects of the playoff and the rain delay.
“I was OK for a couple holes, and then it's like it just caught right back up to me,” said Harvey, 38, of Greensboro, N.C. “It's just the longest – one of the longest days on the golf course I've ever had.”
Smalley, an All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic choice, shot 7-under-par 133 in stroke play to tie for the second-lowest 36-hole score in the history of the championship on Tuesday. That score was one stroke behind the all-time mark of 132 shared by Hank Kim (1994), Gregor Main (2011) and Bobby Wyatt (2012), and tied with Brett Coletta (2015).
“He's medalist; he's obviously playing well,” Harvey said. “I don't think he played great today, either, honestly, but if he hits it a little bit sharper, I think he's got a chance to go deep in the tournament.”
Among the high-seed winners were No. 2 Dawson Armstrong, of Brentwood, Tenn., and No. 5 Davis Riley, 19, of Hattiesburg, Miss.
Armstrong, the 2015 Western Amateur champion, edged Bradley Moore, of England, 1 up; and Riley, a two-time U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up, outlasted Matthew Wolf, of Agoura Hills, Calif., in 19 holes.
“It feels very good,” said the 20-year-old Armstrong, who plays college golf with his two younger brothers at Lipscomb University. “I now know that not only can I play well in match play, I can play well in match play under stressful situations. Even when my game isn't at its best, I feel like I can do whatever it takes to make sure I get through.”
Riley, who held a 4-up lead through nine holes, endured a post-suspension rally by Wolf. Over a six-hole stretch, Wolf erased the deficit, punctuated by a birdie on the 15th hole to square the match. Riley won the match with a par on the first extra hole.
“I've played a lot of match play and anything can happen,” said Riley, a University of Alabama sophomore who shot 63 on the North course Tuesday in stroke play to tie the course record. “You never have a match won, no matter how many up you are. So, I just told myself to stick to my routine.”
Winners from the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking™ included Sam Horsfield, of England (No.2); Scott Gregory, of England (No.6); Curtis Luck, of Australia (No.7); and Joaquin Niemann of Chile (No.10). Matthias Schwab, of Austria (No.3), and 2015 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Team member Jack Hume, of the Republic of Ireland, (No.5) were eliminated.
Nick Carlson, a University of Michigan sophomore from Hamilton, Mich., was the only player from the host state who advanced to the second round.
The 23-man playoff for the final eight berths in match play was completed in 4 hours, 5 minutes over seven holes on the North Course. Among those eliminated were Maverick McNealy, No.1 in the WAGR, and 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz.
Blair Hamilton, of Canada, recorded the 22nd hole-in-one since 1993 with an 8-iron on the 156-yard, par-3 ninth hole.
The first round of match play was suspended at 3:43 p.m. and resumed at 5:40 p.m. for a delay of 1 hour, 7 minutes.
The South Course plays to a par of 35-35-70 and 7,334 yards.
The 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, concluding with Sunday’s 36-hole championship.
The U.S. Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.