John Augenstein, 21, of Owensboro, Ky., posted victories over Akshay Bhatia and Ricky Castillo, the No. 5 and No. 9 players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), respectively, on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 119th U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.
Augenstein, 21, a senior at Vanderbilt University and No. 38 in the WAGR, reeled off birdies on holes 6-8 of the renowned Course No. 2 at Pinehurst to seize control in his 3-and-2 morning victory over Bhatia, the runner-up in the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur and the highest-ranked played left in the field. In the afternoon, Augenstein built a 4-up lead over Castillo, and after an eagle-birdie-birdie blitz by Castillo brought him within one hole, the players tied the final six holes with pars.
“I just tried to stay in the moment and understand that I’m still winning the match,” said Augenstein. “[Castillo] still has to win two holes to beat me, and as long as he doesn’t do that, I’m going to win. I think in match play, everybody is going to go on a run. I think you expect it, and that way you’re not surprised when it happens.”
Fellow Kentuckian Austin Squires, of Union, joined Augenstein in the quarterfinals as the No. 64 seed. Squires, who topped No. 1 seed and world No. 11 Brandon Wu in the Round of 64 on Wednesday, edged Stefano Mazzoli, of Italy, in 19 holes and held off John Pak, of Scotch Plains, N.J., 2 up, on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
“Just to be in the position last year was pretty cool, but to be back here again, I know what I’m up against, and ready to get after it [on Friday],” said Squires, a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati. “John [Pak] is one of my best friends in amateur golf. I knew what I was up against today when I played against him. I just got in a zone early and then kind of tried to coast, but he didn’t let me coast.”
Squires set up a quarterfinal matchup against the youngest player left in the field, 17-year-old Cohen Trolio, of West Point, Miss. Trolio ousted Blake Wagoner, of Cornelius, N.C., 2 and 1, in the morning and rode six birdies to a 5-and-4 win over Alex Fitzpatrick, of England, in the afternoon. Fitzpatrick was a quarterfinalist in 2018 and was vying to join his brother, Matthew, for whom Alex caddied in his 2013 U.S. Amateur victory.
Another Mississippian, Andy Ogletree, of Little Rock, joined Trolio in the quarterfinals with a 19-hole win over Maxwell Moldovan in the morning and a 5-and-4 triumph over Blake Hathcoat in the afternoon. Ogletree, 21, a senior at Georgia Tech, will take on Spencer Ralston, of Gainesville, Ga., and the University of Georgia, who ousted Julien Sale, of France, and Parker Coody, of Plano, Texas.
Twin brothers Parker and Pierceson Coody were seeking to join their grandfather, 1971 Masters champion Charles Coody, who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur on Pinehurst No. 2 in 1962. But No. 12 seed Ralston eliminated Parker, 6 and 5, and No. 46 seed William Holcomb V, of Crockett, Tenn., ousted Pierceson, 2 and 1.
Augenstein will face Palmer Jackson, 18, of Murrysville, Pa., who went to the 18th hole in both matches, but defeated Jacob Solomon, 1 up, and Isaiah Salinda, 2 up.
The final quarterfinal matchup will feature Holcomb and Karl Vilips, 18, of Australia, who posted matching 3-and-1 wins over Steven Fisk, of Stockbridge, Ga., and Brad Dalke, of Norman, Okla., the 2016 runner-up in this championship.
The quarterfinal round will be contested starting at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, and televised on FS1 from 4-7 p.m. The winners advance to Saturday afternoon’s semifinals, beginning at 2:15. The 36-hole championship match will be played over Course No. 4 and Course No. 2, with the morning round starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday coverage is on Fox, from 3-6 p.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m., respectively.
The quarterfinal round includes two players from Kentucky and two players from Mississippi. The other four players are from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas and Australia.
The round features a matchup of a Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket (Andy Ogletree) and a University of Georgia Bulldog (Spencer Ralston). “We’re really good friends, so we’re looking forward to that,” said Ogletree. “We actually said earlier in the week, hope it gets to that point. We’re both happy just to make it this far, but obviously we want to move on and get to that championship match.”
At No. 12, Spencer Ralston is the highest-seeded player remaining in the match-play bracket. John Augenstein, at No. 18, is next. Austin Squires is tied for the highest-ever finish by a No. 64 seed in the U.S. Amateur since 1979. Nathan Smith (2014) and David Lind (1988) both advanced to the quarterfinals as the No. 64 seed but lost there. No. 57 Cohen Trolio is the next-lowest remaining seed in the quarterfinal round.
“Yesterday I was 4 down through 10 [to Thomas Forster], and I just hung in there and basically I just didn’t lose. I learned what I’m doing and understanding match play because I didn’t understand it at all before. I’ve just been kind of having fun. A lot more loose than I was yesterday.” – William Holcomb V, on his comeback in the Round of 64 on Wednesday
“My game has gotten a lot better since I got there. I was not very well-rounded with my game, I would say. I had some incredible rounds because I could hit it pretty good. But I wasn’t an all-around player. I’ve learned and gotten better with my short game, and my scoring average has gone down a stroke a year.” – Andy Ogletree, on his improvement at Georgia Tech
“Michael is a really good player, and one of the best junior golfers there is right now. When I beat him, I really knew, OK, you can pretty much compete with all these kids. I’ve played in a lot of match-play events in my last couple years and I’ve been successful, so I had a lot of confidence coming in.” – Palmer Jackson, on his victory over defending champion Michael Thorbjornsen in the U.S. Junior Amateur last month
“I did a good job of sticking to my expectations and not letting the whole, ‘This is a big USGA event’ take over my brain. So I kind of stuck to what I did.” – Cohen Trolio, 17, of West Point, Miss.
“He helps me a bunch. I trust him. He’s my man. So I know that he’s got my back. As long as you separate the difference between being a dad and a caddie and a swing coach, you’re all good.” – Cohen Trolio, whose father, V.J., is his coach as well as the head teaching professional at Old Waverly Golf Club
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