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Conners & Yang to Meet in U.S. Amateur Championship Match
Corey Conners, 22, of Canada, and Gunn Yang, a 20-year-old from Korea, will face off in the 36-hole championship match of the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club's 7,167-yard, par-71 Highlands Course.
Conners, who lost in the semifinals last year, 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 Matthew Fitzpatrick in 2013. "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."
Playing in his first U.S. Amateur, Yang defeated Pepperdine junior Frederick Wedel, 19, of The Woodlands, Texas, in 19 holes. "I want to win the tournament," said Yang, who underwent 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 first 18 holes of the championship match will start Sunday at 9 a.m., with the second 18 beginning at 2:20 p.m. following a lunch break.
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 a 2-up advantage through seven holes, but back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9 by Conners squared the match with McCarthy. On 12 and 13, McCarthy carded 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, 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. Up to that point Conners 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 to 24 feet. With two putts, he won the match after McCarthy converted his 7-foot par putt.
Yang grew up in Korea and played competitive golf in Australia for five years. The sophomore at San Diego State 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 to go 1-up.
Yang regained the lead by winning holes 12 and 13 after Wedel carded bogeys. The match was squared on the par-3 15th when Yang made bogey. Wedel then missed a short par putt 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.
"I 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 found 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 a birdie after Wedel converted his par putt.
By virtue of reaching the U.S. Amateur Championship final match, 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.
The above report is courtesy of the USGA. For more information and full match results, visit www.usga.org.