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Four Move on to U.S. Amateur Semifinals
Pepperdine University junior Frederick Wedel, 19, of The Woodlands, Texas, defeated four-time USGA champion Nathan Smith, of Pittsburgh 4 and 3 on Friday to advance to the semifinals in the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club's 7,360-yard, par-71 Highlands Course.
Wedel's opponent Saturday morning will be San Diego State sophomore Gunn Yang, 20, of Korea, who beat high-school senior Cameron Young, of Scarborough, N.Y., 2-up, in the quarterfinals.
Canadian Corey Conners, a 22-year-old who recently graduated from Kent State, made it to the semifinals for the second straight year following a 2 and 1 win over Oklahoma State sophomore Zachary Olsen. Conners will face University of Virginia All-American Denny McCarthy, 21, of Rockville, Md., who eliminated University of Houston All-American Roman Robledo, 3 and 2.
The lanky Wedel, an all-West Coast Conference choice, won two of the first three holes against Smith and never trailed. His birdies at the 12th and 13th holes all but sealed the victory.
"I just wanted to shut the door immediately," said Wedel, who advanced to an NCAA Regional in 2014. "Fortunately, I stuffed it to about 6 inches on the (13th). And after that, the match was mine."
Playing in his 14th U.S. Amateur, Smith, 36, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and three-time USA Walker Cup Team member, advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time. "Even though he's a four-time USGA champion, it didn't faze me one bit," said Wedel, whose last tournament win - surprisingly - was his high school district championship.
"I felt like I had an advantage being that it's this deep in the tournament and I feel like I'm more fresh than he is. Especially since this course can be long, and I have a big advantage off the tee. So, I just wanted to make sure I drove it well and put pressure on him early."
Smith, the final player to make it to the 64-man match-play field after surviving a playoff Wednesday morning, was the oldest remaining player in the field. "When you look back at it, it was a great week," he said. "I ran into a buzzsaw today. (Wedel) did a lot of things that maybe I did in the first couple matches.
"He scored; he made the putts and made things happen and hit a lot of big-time shots coming down the stretch there, getting home in two on 12 and then he stuffed one on 13. So, he's going to be a tough out down the stretch for anybody. But, it was a great run. It meant a lot to me and I'll remember this week forever."
Conners never trailed, breaking open a tight match by winning the 10th and 11th holes, then closing things out against Olsen with a conceded birdie on the 16th. A member of the Canadian national team along with his caddie, college roommate and teammate Taylor Pendrith, Conners is the first player to reach the semifinals in back-to-back years since Patrick Cantlay in 2010 (semifinals) and 2011 (final).
"I guess my game has been clicking at the right time," said Conners, a co-player of the year in the Mid-American Conference in 2014. "All summer, you have this on the calendar and you are looking forward to it and trying to get your game in top shape. It's the biggest amateur event in the world. Yeah, I just felt great about my game coming in the last few years."
The 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play, followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Sunday, starting at 8:30 a.m. The semifinal round begins at 8 a.m. Saturday.
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 complete scoring information, visit www.usga.org.
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