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McConnell Hangs On in Birdie Fest to Bump Blair from Amateur Public Links; Keiley Also Falls

By Michael Trostel, USGA July 12, 2012
Midway, Utah – Benjamin Griffin, the youngest player remaining in the field, is moving on to the third round, while Zac Blair, the last remaining Utah resident, was eliminated Thursday morning in the round of 32 at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links being conducted at 7,670-yard, par-71 Soldier Hollow Golf Course.
Griffin won a hard-fought match against Alex Edfort, of Somerset, N.J., in 19 holes. The match was close throughout, as neither player had more than a 1-up advantage. Griffin parred the ninth hole to square the match, and the players halved all nine holes on the second nine. On the first playoff hole, Griffin stuck a pitching wedge from 135 yards to 4 feet to set up the decisive birdie.
“In regulation, I snap-hooked my tee shot off No. 1,” said Griffin, 16, of Chapel Hill, N.C. “So going up to the tee was a little interesting. But I hit a good drive down the right side, had a good number [to the hole] and put it in there a few feet away.”
Griffin, who received his driver’s license just six days before the APL began, has enjoyed his experience playing against older competition at Soldier Hollow.
“It’s been awesome playing with all the big boys,” said Griffin, who is playing in his first USGA championship. “Ever since I was a little kid I’ve played with some older guys and coming in as a little bit of an unknown there’s a little less pressure on me.”
For the second consecutive day, Edfort’s match went to extra holes; but this time he could not finish off his opponent.
“It was close all day,” said Edfort, who defeated the qualifying medalist James Erkenbeck in 21 holes on Wednesday. “I had a lot of good looks at birdie but couldn’t get anything to drop.”
Like Edfort, Zac Blair, of Ogden, Utah, could not advance to the round of 16. The BYU standout, who grew up in nearby Park City, lost to Paul McConnell, 2 and 1.
McConnell, 21, of Garland, Texas, never trailed in a match that featured a combined 10 birdies over 17 holes. Trailing 3 down, Blair birdied holes eight, nine and 10, but was only able to win one of those holes (the par-4 10th) due to clutch putting by McConnell.
“Zac knows this area real well and can strike back at any time – and he did in the middle of the round,” said McConnell. “I felt a little pressure because he’s the hometown kid and everyone is rooting for him, but the crowd was really respectful. With match play you just have to stay calm all the time.”
McConnell is playing in his second consecutive APL. In 2011 at Bandon Dunes, McConnell finished tied for third in stroke play qualifying, but lost his second-round match to Herbie Aikens, of Pembroke, Mass. The one adjustment he will need to make before the third round is to his golf bag, which broke on the eighth hole. McConnell and his father were scrambling after the round to secure another bag from the Soldier Hollow pro shop for his Thursday afternoon match with Griffin.
T.J. Vogel, the University of Florida standout who was named a second team All-American this year, was pushed to the 18th hole for the second consecutive day.
Vogel, 21, of Miami, turned back a spirited effort from a player more than twice his age:  50-year-old Greg Condon, of Monte Vista, Colo., the oldest player to qualify for match play. Vogel was 2 up through 12, but found himself all square standing over a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th. He made it and parred the final two holes for the victory.
“[Condon] tested me and almost beat me,” said Vogel, who will face Anton Arboleda on Thursday afternoon. “I definitely want to try to hit more fairways this afternoon. I missed three on the back nine in the thick stuff and had a hard time scrambling for par.”
The third-round of match play began at 12:30 p.m. MDT. The winners will advance to the quarterfinals, which are scheduled to begin Friday at 7:30 a.m. MDT. All quarterfinalists are exempt into the 2013 APL.
The APL is one of 13 individual national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Michael Trostel is the curator/historian at the USGA Museum. Email him at [email protected] 
Midway, Utah – Results from Thursday morning’s second round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links  Championship being held at 7,670-yard, par-71 Soldier Hollow Golf Course. 
Upper BracketBenjamin Griffin, Chapel Hill, N.C.  (144) def. Alex Edfort, Somerset, N.J.  (146), 19 holes Paul McConnell, Garland, Texas  (145) def. Zachary Blair, Ogden, Utah  (140), 2 and 1 Steven Fox, Hendersonville, Tenn.  (142) def. Brett Patterson, McMinnville, Tenn.  (138), 2 and 1 Kevin Aylwin, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.  (139) def. Scott McNeil, Philadelphia, Pa.  (144), 3 and 1 Kyle Beversdorf, Plymouth, Minn.  (143) def. Jace Long, Dixon, Mo.  (137), 4 and 3 Cody McManus, Phoenix, Ariz.  (142) def. Tyler Klava, Pace, Fla.  (145), 1 up Michael Kim, Del Mar, Calif.  (138) def. Payne Gniewek, Austin, Texas  (143), 1 up Carlos Rodriguez, Colombia  (142) def. Garrett Rank, Canada  (140), 4 and 3 
Lower BracketT. J. Vogel, Miami, Fla.  (136) def. Greg Condon, Monte Vista, Colo.  (143), 1 up Anton Arboleda, La Canada, Calif.  (141) def. Alex Williams, Seattle, Wash.  (145), 6 and 5 Alberto Sanchez, Nogales, Ariz.  (144) def. Jordan Wetsch, St. Charles, Ill.  (138), 2 and 1 Jacob Knapp, Costa Mesa, Calif.  (146) def. Bryson Dechambeau, Clovis, Calif.  (142), 1 up Korky Kemp, Greensboro, N.C.  (143) def. Sam Saunders, Albuquerque, N.M.  (146), 3 and 2 Brad Schneider, Orlando, Fla.  (141) def. Justin Keiley, Haiku, Hawaii  (140), 3 and 2 Xander Schauffele, San Diego, Calif.  (143) def. Cheng-Tsung Pan, Chinese Taipei  (138), 1 up Derek Ernst, Clovis, Calif.  (140) def. Richard Hattori, Honolulu, Hawaii  (144), 5 and 4  
Midway, Utah – Pairings and starting times for Thursday’s afternoon’s third round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being held at 7,670-yard, par-71 Soldier Hollow Golf Course. All times MDT.12:30 p.m.           Benjamin Griffin, Chapel Hill, N.C.  (144) vs. Paul McConnell, Garland, Texas  (145) 12:40 p.m.           Steven Fox, Hendersonville, Tenn.  (142) vs. Kevin Aylwin, New Smyrna Beach Fla. (139) 12:50 p.m.           Kyle Beversdorf, Plymouth, Minn.  (143) vs. Cody McManus, Phoenix, Ariz.  (142) 1:00 p.m.             Michael Kim, Del Mar, Calif.  (138) vs. Carlos Rodriguez, Colombia  (142) 1:20 p.m.             T. J. Vogel, Miami, Fla.  (136) vs. Anton Arboleda, La Canada, Calif.  (141) 1:40 p.m.             Alberto Sanchez, Nogales, Ariz.  (144) vs. Jacob Knapp, Costa Mesa, Calif.  (146) 1:50 p.m.             Korky Kemp, Greensboro, N.C.  (143) vs. Brad Schneider, Orlando, Fla.  (141) 2:20 p.m.             Xander Schauffele, San Diego, Calif.  (143) vs. Derek Ernst, Clovis, Calif.  (140)