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U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Thrice as Nice: Medalists Roll into Round of 16 in Birmingham May 16, 2022 | Birmingham, Ala. By David Shefter, USGA

Chad Wilfong (right) and Davis Womble were in a celebratory mood after their 5-and-3 win on Monday in the Round of 32. (USGA/James Gilbert) 

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What Happened

Being the medalist in a USGA championship can sometimes add a burden of expectations. The common belief is that the great performances from stroke play will continue in match play. But as most golfers at the elite level fully understand, match play can be fickle.

All three sides who shared medalist honors in the 7th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Country Club of Birmingham were tested in Monday’s Round of 32 on the venue’s West Course. But fortunately for them, they did not see an abrupt end to their weeks.

Top seeds Torey Edwards, 40, of Long Beach, Calif., and Bret Parker, 42, of Alpine, Utah, had the toughest first-round tussle, edging Chad Branton and Kyle Hosick, 4 and 2, in a match they never led until the 11th hole. They were 6 under over their final seven holes after playing 1-over-par golf on the outward nine.  

Second-seeded Carter Loflin, 18, of Duluth, Ga., and Wells Williams, 18, of West Point, Miss., had a much easier time in defeating twins and New Mexico State teammates Trey and Tyler Diehl, 6 and 4. Loflin and Williams, headed this fall to the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University, respectively, were the equivalent of 6 under par with the usual match-play concessions. On Saturday, they set the 18-hole championship scoring record with a 9-under 61 on the shorter East Course.

Both the East and West courses were used in stroke play with the more-challenging – and longer – West hosting all of the matches.

Wake Forest alums and No. 3 seeds Chad Wilfong, 41, of Charlotte, N.C., and Davis Womble, 28, of Winston-Salem, N.C., pulled away from Joseph Lloyd and Drew Mabrey on the second nine, 5 and 3.

It was a far cry from their opening match four years ago at Jupiter Hills Golf Club in Tequesta, Fla., when they suffered a heartbreaking 24-hole decision to Steven Groover and M. Tyler McKeever. Despite a tight match for nine holes, Wilfong and Womble exited the course after 15 holes on Monday with far less sweat on their brows.

“Chad kind of got the momentum going on eight, hit it really close on the par 3 [with an 8-iron] and made a 2,” said Womble. “After that, the momentum was on our side. I hit a really nice shot on 10 (par 5) from the right rough to 35 feet for eagle. We did tie that hole, but we just started to hit some really nice shots.”

Wells Williams (right) and Carter Loflin (far left) played 6-under-par golf over 14 holes in their 6-and-4 win on Monday. (USGA/James Gilbert)

A winning par on 13, and then two consecutive winning birdies sent the duo into the Round of 16.

“Everybody starts over in match play, so you have no advantage,” said Wilfong. “We know from the very beginning you have to get after it because if you don’t, you can be 2 or 3 down pretty quick. Just judging by [our opponents’] swings on the first couple of holes, they were very capable of beating us.”

Loflin and Williams, a three-time American Junior Golf Association All-American and 2021 USA Junior Ryder Cup competitor, trailed after the opening hole when their opponents stuffed an approach shot to 6 feet for a birdie. But relying on experience from last year’s opening-round loss, the two junior standouts never panicked, winning four of the next seven holes to pull away. They closed the match out by winning Nos. 12-14, the latter with a birdie. On a couple of occasions, they made clutch par putts of 6 or 7 feet to keep the momentum going.

“We were pretty loose,” said Loflin, a two-time winner of the Press Thornton Junior Masters in Dothan, Ala. “Last year we played pretty good in stroke play, too, but when we got to match play, we tightened up a little bit. Neither of us had ever been to USGA match play before, so neither of us knew what was really going on.”

Edwards, a left-hander, and Parker, a reinstated amateur, began their rally when the latter converted a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth to keep their deficit at 1 down. The duo used the short walk between the ninth green and 10th tee to regroup. They kickstarted their second-nine rally with an eagle 3 on the par 5, followed by a winning birdie on the 172-yard 11th. Edwards drove the green on the 315-yard 14th hole and drained the 10-footer for eagle to put the side 2 up. Another winning birdie on the par-5 15th and a winning par on No. 16 ended the festivities.

Strong play over their final six holes carried top-seeded Torey Edwards (left) and Bret Parker into the Round of 16. (USGA/James Gilbert)

“I think it gets to a point where you realize that you're probably playing a little tight, and it's hot [outside],” said Edwards, of the slow start. “You've got to find another gear. You're playing for your [championship] life, so you either find your game or you're going home.”

Texans Jace Moore, of Keller, and Jordan Woolf, of Fort Worth, who matched the 18-hole championship record set by Loflin and Williams with a 61 on the East Course in Sunday’s second round of stroke play, needed 19 holes to oust 2019 semifinalists Andrew Medley and Taylor Wood.

It was one of two Round-of-32 matches to be extended beyond 18.

The other extra-hole match saw former University of Michigan teammates Matthew McLaughlin, of Barrington, Ill., and Christian Vozza, of Orlando, Fla., defeat the last local side in the championship, Samford teammates, Andrew Sullivan and Davis Woodliff, in 20 holes. Samford University is located 3.8 miles from the Country Club of Birmingham.

Scottsdale, Ariz., residents and reinstated amateurs Drew Kittleson and Drew Stoltz, who were last-minute alternates into the field, played the equivalent of 1-under-par golf in pulling out a 1-up win over playoff survivors John Ramsey and Chadd Slutzky.

“I don't think they had their best stuff, either,” said Kittleson, the 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up who regained his amateur status seven years ago. “But we've done this enough to know that normally if you're going to win one of these things, you've got to either win [one match] in extras or play a bad one and get through.”

What’s Next

Match play continues Tuesday morning with the Round of 16 starting at 7 a.m. CDT, followed by the quarterfinal matches in the afternoon that are scheduled to commence at 1 p.m. The semifinals and 18-hole championship match are set for Wednesday. The public is invited to attend, and admission is free.

Matthew McLaughlin (left) and Christian Vozza made some noise with their matching shirts and 20-hole win on Monday. (USGA/James Gilbert) 

Notable

  • The 10-for-9 playoff to decide the final spots in the match-play draw lasted just one hole (No. 1 on East Course). Kevin Koerbel and Matt Vogt were the odd side out.
     
  • Joseph Lenane, who advanced to the Round of 16 on Monday with partner Aidan O’Donovan, competed in the 2015 Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club, finishing fourth in the Boys 10-12 age division. The Denham, Mass., resident is headed to North Carolina State this fall. O’Donovan, of Somerville, Mass., has signed to play for the University of Rhode Island.

  • Of the 32 sides to qualify for match play, 23 were of mid-amateur age (25 and older), while four were currently members of a college team (one has a college player and another an incoming freshman). Five sides were made up of high school golfers either headed to college in the fall or in the case of Charlie Palmer, 2023. Palmer hopes to attend Princeton University. The current college players were Ty Gingerich and Cole Harris (University of Cincinnati); Andrew Sullivan and Davis Woodliff (Samford University); and twin brothers Trey and Tyler Diehl (New Mexico State). Sullivan and Woodliff got into the field last Monday when Lee Knox and Bobby Wyatt withdrew.

  • Gingerich and Harris produced the largest margin of victory in the Round of 32, defeating Sean Langham and Andrew Von Lossow, 7 and 6.

  • Drew Mabrey, who advanced out of the playoff with partner and University of Utah-bound Joseph Lloyd, is extra excited about this coming week’s PGA Championship. His father, Scott, is the president of Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla., which is hosting the event. The historic club will also host the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2024. Mabrey, who is graduating this spring, has yet to make a decision on college. The side was eliminated in the Round of 32.

  • Stewart “Buddy” Alexander, the former University of Florida men’s golf coach who won the 1986 U.S. Amateur at Shoal Creek, was out watching ex-players Tim McKenney and Will Strickler take on 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up at Shoal Creek Evan Beck and ex-Wake Forest assistant Dan Walters. In 1986, the Country Club of Birmingham served as the stroke-play co-host. Alexander resides in Auburn, Ala., about a two-hour drive from Birmingham.

  • Two individuals among the 32 sides to qualify for match play have advanced to Final Qualifying for this year’s U.S. Open: Torey Edwards and 2021 U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinalist Nicholas Maccario. Both advanced to the Round of 16 with their respective partners.

Quotable

“In 18 holes anything can happen. Somebody gets a hot putter, somebody starts hitting some wedge shots really close – it doesn't matter what seed they are – they can be a very tough team to beat. Everybody in the field is perfectly capable of doing that. We've done it long enough that you know what can happen, and we've seen it happen to us in this event before. We ran up against a really hot putter four years ago [at Jupiter Hills]. You don't take any of that for granted, just go play the best you can and hope it's good enough.” – Chad Wilfong (partnering with Davis Womble) on the mindset of match play

“We didn't even know we were the 1 seed to be honest with you. In match play it almost doesn't matter at that point. We were a little tight on the front, but glad we figured something out and are moving on.” – Bret Parker when asked about playing as one of the medalists

“Once we got ahead, we kept on playing aggressive.” – Wells Williams on the 6-and-4 victory with partner Carter Loflin

“That [show] is going to hell in a hand basket pretty quickly. I don’t know if I am still employed quite honestly. It’s been in his hands for 24 hours. God knows what could happen.” – Drew Stoltz, tongue firmly in cheek, on missing his SiriusXM Radio show (Gravy and The Sleaze) with Colt Knost on PGA Tour Radio due to advancing to the Round of 16 with partner Drew Kittleson

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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