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Veteran Smith Advances in U.S. Amateur
Four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, the final player to make the 64-man match-play field, defeated co-medalist Lee McCoy, of Clarkesville, Ga., Wednesday to lead the 32 winners advancing to the second round of match play at the 2014 U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club's 7,382-yard, par-71 Highlands Course.
"I was so excited to get into match play," said the 36-year-old Smith, an investment advisor. "It was kind of nothing to lose and I just got lucky. I played well."
Smith, who has also represented the USA three times in the Walker Cup, won in 19 holes by sinking a three-and-a-half-foot par-saving putt to eliminate McCoy, 20, a second-team All-American at Georgia. McCoy shared co-medalist honors with Taylor Moore, of Edmond, Okla., who was also eliminated.
McCoy and Moore took medalist honors with a 36-hole stroke-play total of 8-under-par 135.
Playing in his 14th U.S. Amateur, Smith squared the match with a birdie on the water-fronted par-3 17th and converted a critical up-and-down par on the 18th to force extra holes.
"I saw the list and I saw four-time Mid-Am winner and a guy that's played in the Masters four times, and I was like, I get to play the grizzled veteran in the first round, fantastic," said McCoy.
"I don't think he had his best stuff today and neither did I. I didn't play nearly as well as I did the last two days. He made some incredible up-and-downs and he just scored unbelievably well, like a veteran would."
Jesse Heinly, 22, of Bend, Ore., playing in his first USGA championship, defeated co-medalist Moore, 3 and 2.
Three of the four players surviving the 17-man playoff advanced later in the day. One of last year's semifinalists, Corey Conners, 22, of Canada, defeated 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Scottie Scheffler, of Dallas, 1-up.
Facing a one-hole deficit on the 12th tee, Conners birdied four consecutive holes - three for wins - that gave him a 2-up advantage. The Kent State All-American made a swinging 15-foot putt on No. 12 and a 30-footer on 13. He hit the ball close enough on 14 and 15 for conceded birdies.
In a match-up of USGA champions, 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur winner Will Zalatoris, 17, of Plano, Texas, outlasted 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion and USA Walker Cup Team member Jordan Niebrugge, 2 and 1.
"For the first time being in the match play in the U.S. Am, it's obviously everything from here is a learning experience," said Zalatoris, who earlier this year won the Trans-Miss and Texas State amateurs. "Anytime you're playing a Walker Cupper, doesn't matter if they are injured or sick or whatever, it's going to be a challenge and that was an absolute blast."
San Diego's Byron Meth, 21, the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, also advanced, as did the top-two ranked amateur golfers in the world, Ollie Schniederjans, 21, of Powder Springs, Ga., and Robby Shelton, 18, of Wilmer, Ala.
No. 1 Schniederjans, a Georgia Tech All-American, defeated Matt Teesdale, 6 and 5 after birdies on the first two holes and building a 4-up lead through nine. "I haven't made it past the first round in the Amateur or U.S. Junior yet," Schniederjans said. "I've struggled to get to match play and then to win the first match, so this is the farthest I've gone already in one of these. I'm excited to get that out of the way."
No. 2 Shelton, the NCAA freshman of the year and SEC player of the year after his first season at Alabama, beat Dan Stringfellow of Roselle, Ill., 2 and 1.
Cheng-Tsung Pan, a 22-year-old native of Taiwan, senior at the University of Washington and two-time U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist (2007 and '12), also won his first-round match.
Among the notable players eliminated were 2014 Western Amateur winner Beau Hossler and 2013 USA Walker Cup Team member Todd White.
The above report is courtesy of the USGA. For more information and complete scoring details, visit www.usga.org.