The word that kept coming out of Eddie Olson’s mouth was “grind.”
The local kid from Aptos had just outlasted Stanford recruit Sihwan Kim on the first playoff hole of the Olympic Club’s Lake Course, advancing into the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur on Thursday. And once he had been whisked away on a golf cart and brought into the press room, he wore a smile of relief and satisfaction.
“Oh, my, I’m exhausted,” Olson said. “It was a grind out there today and I’m glad it’s over and glad I came out on top.”
Olson is the last Californian standing in the prestigious event and will face Casey Clendenon of Houston in today’s quarterfinals. Olson, a 20-year-old UNLV sophomore, had a 70-foot putt from the fringe lip out on the playoff hole before coolly draining a 9-footer for par. He won when Kim’s 6-footer just missed.
“I knew I had to make the putt or it was over,” Olson said. “And I stepped over it and just told myself ‘Just make it.’ I’ve hit this putt a thousand times and I did it.”
Earlier in the day, Olson defeated Gene Elliott of West Des Moines, Iowa, 4 and 2 and he is one of just eight players to advance to the fifth day of the tournament.
Cheng Tsung Pan of Taiwan also advanced to the quarterfinals as the 15-year-old continues his surprising bid to become the youngest player in the 107 incarnations of the tournament to take the title. Tiger Woods was 18 when he won in 1994 at the TPC at Sawgrass. Pan defeated Ji Moon 1-up early Thursday before topping Derek Ernst 5 and 4 in the afternoon.
Other players to qualify for today’s quarterfinals were Derek Fathauer (a 6 and 4 winner over stroke-play medalist Jason Kokrak), Michael Thompson (who eliminated David McDaniel 2 and 1), Jhonattan Vegas (a 6 and 4 winner over Kyle Dickey), Colt Knost (who beat 54-year-old George Zahringer 2 and 1) and Nick Taylor (a 3 and 2 winner over Jamie Lovemark).
Thompson’s match against McDaniel was one of the more intriguing of the day, as both players grew up in the Tucson, Ariz., area and occasionally competed against one another in junior tournaments.
The fifth-year senior at Alabama trailed early before drawing even on the eighth hole and taking the lead for good with a beautiful drive on the par-3 13th.
Thompson, who began his collegiate career at Tulane before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina forced the school to discontinue its golf team, credits confidence gained playing with the Crimson Tide for his best showing at a U.S. Amateur. He had qualified twice before, never advancing past the first round of match play.
“We work well together in a real fun environment, which is real important to me,” Thompson said. “My goal coming into this tournament was just to make match play and now I’m just hoping to keep it going.”
He’s not your prototypical golfer
If there is a such a thing as a counterculture in golf, it was walking down the fairways at the Olympic Club’s Lake Course on Thursday clad in pale blue shorts, a shirt that wasn’t always tucked in and a full brown beard.
David McDaniel was not the typical competitor at the U.S. Amateur, but the 22-year-old education major at Arizona acquitted himself quite well at the prestigious event. McDaniel — who does not play college golf and said he typically only gets on the course for one or two casual skins rounds a week — advanced to the third round of match play before falling to Michael Thompson 2 and 1 Thursday afternoon.
“It’s definitely been a lot of golf for me,” McDaniel said. “I felt pretty good all day, I just didn’t execute when I had to.”
He led the match through the seventh hole and was even through 12 before Thompson, who plays at Alabama and competed against McDaniel in junior tournaments when the two were growing up around Tuscon, Ariz., took control by winning two of the next four holes.
McDaniel pulled off an upset Thursday morning when he defeated Kyle Stanley — a first-team All-American at Clemson as a freshman — 1-up to advance.
“I felt like an underdog in that match,” McDaniel said. “My goal coming into the week was just to be one of the top 64 qualifiers, so I do feel pretty good.”
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