Pepperdine junior Frederick Wedel advanced to the U.S. Amateur semifinals Friday, beating 36-year-old Pittsburgh financial adviser Nathan Smith 4 and 3 at Atlanta Athletic Club.
The 19-year-old Wedel, from The Woodlands, Texas, won two of the first three holes against Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. Wedel took a 4-up lead with consecutive birdie wins on Nos. 12 and 13 and closed out the match with a par halve on the par-3 15th.
”I knew I had to get off to a hot start and take control of the match early, and once I had it, I never gave it up,” Wedel said. ”That was the key.”
Wedel, making his first appearance in the event, will face South Korea’s Gunn Yang in the semifinals. Yang beat high school senior Cameron Young of Scarborough, New York, 2 up.
In the other semifinal, Canada’s Corey Conners will play Denny McCarthy of Rockville, Maryland. Conners beat Zachary Olsen of Cordova, Tennessee, 2 and 1, and McCarthy topped Roman Robledo of Harlingen, Texas, 3 and 2.
Smith, the oldest player to advance to match play, was making his 14th appearance in the event.
”Even though he’s a four-time USGA champion, it didn’t faze me one bit,” Wedel said. ”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. I just wanted to make sure I drove it well and put pressure on him early.”
Yang, a sophomore at San Diego State, took the lead with a par win on the par-3 17th and finished off Young with an eagle on the par-5 18th. Yang’s tee shot on 18 bounced off the top of the brick wall bordering the adjoining lake and left him with a 130-yard approach.
”This course is all about the last five holes, because it can change the match around just the right way,” said Yang, who birdied the final three holes Thursday to beat top-ranked Ollie Schniederjans. ”I’m just trying to focus on my game and execute every single shot and see how it goes.”
Connors, coming off his senior season at Kent State, reached the semifinals for the second straight year. He took a 2-up lead with a birdie win on the par-4 16th and matched Olsen with a par on 17.
”Obviously, it feels great to be back in the same position as last year,” Connors said. ”I’m really excited and happy with my play and pumped up for the next couple of days.”
McCarthy, a senior at Virginia, is playing in the event for the sixth straight year and was a semifinalist in 2013. He won three of the first five holes and never allowed Robledo, a senior at Houston, to square the match. McCarthy closed the match with a birdie win on the 16th.
”It feels pretty good,” McCarthy said. ”I haven’t been on the best end of the U.S. Amateur. It has not been too kind to me in the past, but that’s all the past. I’m kind of just focused on what I’m doing right now at this moment and that’s my semifinal match against Corey Connors.”