Given the strength and depth of the match-play bracket, it’s not surprising that the Round-of-64 encounters in the 122nd U.S. Amateur Championship at The Ridgewood Country Club on Wednesday produced drama to rival a Broadway play. The margin between the four co-medalists and last 11 survivors from the playoff for the last spots in the draw was only eight strokes.
That helps to explain why 22 of the 32 matchups went at least 17 holes and eight were extended beyond 18, including a 23-hole victory by Division III All-American Alex Price, of Hillsboro, Va., over Wenyi Ding, of the People’s Republic of China, who won the U.S. Junior Amateur last month at Bandon Dunes. It was the most extra-hole matches in the Round of 64 since 1994, when eight were contested at TPC Sawgrass.
One of the playoff survivors, Andrew Von Lossow, 34, of Spokane, Wash., delivered the biggest blow when he eliminated 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Michael Thorbjornsen, of Wellesley, Mass., 3 and 2. Thorbjornsen, No. 6 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR® and one of the co-medalists, played in the 2022 U.S. Open and finished fourth in the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship a week later.
Peyton Snoeberger, of Williamsport, Ind., became the second consecutive No. 64 seed to win a match in the U.S. Amateur when he upended top-seeded Luke Gutschewski, of Elkhorn, Neb., the son of two-time Korn Ferry Tour winner Scott Gutschewski, in 20 holes. Last year at Oakmont Country Club, Mark Goetz was eliminated by David Nyfjall.
No. 3 seed Hugo Townsend, of Sweden, an Ole Miss grad transfer, and University of Florida rising senior and No. 4 seed Fred Biondi, of Brazil, kept alive the possibility of a medalist winning the title for the first time in 18 years with wins over JonErik Alford and Frankie Capan, respectively.
Mississippi State graduate Ford Clegg, of Mountain Brook, Ala., took out his more decorated former high school teammate and fellow Country Club of Birmingham member Gordon Sargent in 21 holes. Sargent, the 2022 NCAA champion and a rising Vanderbilt University sophomore, had golden opportunities to win on Nos. 19 and 20 before a bogey on the par-5 21st ended the match.
Four matches featured two players among the top 30 in the WAGR.
Stewart Hagestad, 31, of Newport Beach, Calif., a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion (2016 and 2021) who is No. 9 in the WAGR defeated world No. 7 Sam Bairstow, of England, the runner-up in this year’s Amateur Championship conducted by The R&A, 3 and 1.
In a matchup of world No. 3 and world No. 16, 2022 U.S. Open qualifier Sam Bennett, of Madisonville, Texas, overcame a three-putt bogey on No. 18 to defeat 2021 semifinalist Nick Gabrelcik, of Trinity, Fla., in 19 holes. Bennett’s 66-yard wedge approach stopped 2½ feet from the flagstick for a winning birdie.
Another match that lived up to its billing saw 2021 USA Walker Cupper and world No. 20 Ricky Castillo, of Yorba Linda, Calif., outlast No. 2 Ludvig Aberg, 1 up. Neither player led by more than one hole all day. Castillo, who nearly hit his tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 18th, got up and down for par from 70 yards, while Aberg, of Sweden, barely extracted his ball from a greenside bunker and then failed to reach the green from the fronting rough, leading to a triple-bogey 7.
“That was pretty scary,” said Castillo, a rising senior at the University of Florida. “My ball on 18 was less than an inch inbounds and I took advantage of it, made a good par. It's not the way you want to see it end, but it was a really well-fought match.”
World No. 30 Connor McKinney, of Australia, birdied four of his first five holes in eliminating University of Texas All-American Travis Vick, of Hunters Creek Village, Texas, 3 and 1. Vick, who is No. 12 in the WAGR, reached the semifinals at Oakmont Country Club last year and was the low amateur in this year’s U.S. Open. McKinney, the 2022 Australian Amateur champion, buried a 25-footer on No. 1, a 15-footer on the second and a 10-footer at the par-5 third.
“One of my goals in match play, which I haven't been amazing at, is getting up early,” said McKinney, who lost a 21-hole match in the Sweet 16 in the Western Amateur 10 days ago despite being 5 under par. “So to do it today, it set the tone."
Incoming Arizona State University freshman Luke Potter, of Encinitas, Calif., a quarterfinalist in last month’s U.S. Junior Amateur, pulled off one of the day’s great comebacks, rallying from 2 down with two to play to defeat University of Georgia rising senior Nicolas Cassidy in 19 holes.
“It was a pillow fight from about hole 4 on,” said Potter, who is competing in his third U.S. Amateur. “Not my best stuff, but it's match play. Tomorrow I could play my best round ever. That's just the way golf is.”
The Round of 32 and Round of 16 will be contested on Thursday, followed by the quarterfinals on Friday, semifinals on Saturday and the 36-hole championship match on Sunday. Spectators wishing to attend any of the sessions can purchase tickets here. Peacock and Golf Channel have live coverage on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I really want to win. This is probably my last U.S. Am, and at Bandon [Dunes] two years ago I made it pretty deep to the Round of 16 and then last year Oakmont ate my lunch. Everybody told me coming into this week that this course really would suit my game. I got the hard part done yesterday getting to match play, and now the first match out of the way, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the way.” – Sam Bennett after his 19-hole win over 2021 semifinalist Nick Gabrelcik
“These guys are going to play professional golf and play in some big events for a long, long time. Just to be around them, I think it inspires me to raise my game and to rise to the occasion.” – two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad, 31, after his 3-and-1 win over 2022 British Amateur runner-up Sam Bairstow
“It can be pretty tiring at times, but I'm just enjoying it out here. How can you not enjoy being on a course like this, playing the competition I get to play? People would kill to be in the position I'm in, and I'm just happy that I'm here.” – Ricky Castillo
“I like being the underdog. I like having me be the only person, and my family, of course, who really knows that I can do it.” – Alex Price, No. 1,212 in the WAGR, on his 23-hole upset of No. 17 Wenyi Ding
“It's fun to have someone to chat with, especially during match play. Stroke play I feel like most guys out here are nice, but in match play it gets a little bit more hostile and maybe not talking as much, so it gets a little lonely if you don't have a caddie. Definitely helps with maybe some laughs here or there or just having some fun.” – Hugo Townsend on having Ole Miss assistant Austin Cody on his bag after going without a caddie in stroke play
“This is my loudest shirt. Maybe I'll go red shorts or something [for Thursday]. I don't know if it's turning into a signature. I might go a little brighter. My all-time favorite outfit is the milkman. It's all white. But I don't know if that's going to come out.” – Andrew Von Lossow on his eye-catching attire
“Very tense. Pretty cool having that crowd there. I made some putts today, so that kind of kept me in there. Frankie [Capan] is an awesome dude with a great game.” – Fred Biondi
“It was a little weird at first getting here so early and having that 15-for-11 playoff. That's something you don't have very often. But I was able to get through. Luke [Gutschewski] played a great match, and it was long, but I'm on to tomorrow.” – Peyton Snoeberger on surviving the playoff, then beating the No. 1 seed
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.