2 Sun Devils in AZ Am quarterfinals
The last time Jin Song went this far into the Arizona Amateur’s bracket of 64 players, he was just like his future teammate, David Lowe – an 18-year-old fresh out of high school kid just two weeks away from going to Arizona State.
But here it is three years later, and there’s Song again in the quarterfinals of this major championship sponsored by the Arizona Golf Association. And there’s Lowe, too, trying to do his best imitation of Song, who won the 2008 AZ Am.
“Yeah, it feels a little different this time around,’’ said Song after winning two tough matches on Thursday at the Country Club at DC Ranch, the toughest being a 2-and-1 win over veteran Chris Kessler of Scottsdale.
“I was just a kid when I won at Troon Country Club and I’m a little older now and, hopefully, a better player. But the one thing that stays the same is that, when you get past the first round, everybody’s playing good so you’ve got to be at your best.’’
That’s where Lowe is right now, as the Scottsdale teen-ager took down his two opponents with relative ease on a hot, muggy day.
“Actually both of my matches were against solid players, but thankfully my lag putting was spectacular and I didn’t beat myself,’’ said Lowe, an 18-year-old who played for Brophy Prep and already is wearing Sun Devil garb.
Asked what his strong suit has been this week, Lowe showed why he’ll be living in the Barrett Honors College dorm this season, although he gave all the credit to his dad, Allen, who doubles as his caddie.
“My dad and I kind of talked about it, and in match play you want to make the other guy beat you; don’t beat yourself. And that’s kind of what I’ve been able to do, play solid, don’t make bogeys, and make the other guy try to beat me.’’
Because they are in the same bracket, it’s possible that Song and Lowe could meet in the semifinals after a third ASU freshman, Austin Quick, was eliminated. That would be just fine with Lowe, although. . . .
“A win is never that great over a teammate,’’ he said. “At the same time, this would be a great tournament to win and maybe get some momentum going into college.’’
Certainly it would be a big bonus for his new coach, as ASU’s Tim Mickelson has been a more than casual spectator at the Amateur throughout the week.
But if you’re looking for the inside favorite, don’t look past veteran Michael Wog, who was the AGA’s player of the year in 2009 and would like nothing more than to add the Amateur to his resume after coming close on several occasions.
“So I’m the old guy, ‘the veteran,’ ‘’ chuckled the 29-year-old Scottsdale resident, who pulled off a brilliant, 2-and-1 win over Quick, to play another day.
“I guess I just keep sneakin’ them out, huh? Well, they’ve all been really tough, and (Quick) was the toughest. He’s a very good, solid player. I mean, most kids his age can’t hit a fade the way he does, and he hits it with total control.’’
How good is Quick? In his morning match, when he eliminated the sensational Peter Kyo Won Koo of Chandler, the 15-year-old who earlier this year captured the Arizona State Stroke Play Championship, Quick shot 28 on the front nine with five birdies and an eagle from the fairway at No. 9. That led to possibly the best quote of the week, and it came from Koo.
Asked how he played, Koo shrugged his shoulders: “Well, I was two-under and 5-down after nine holes. And believe it or not, that was with him making a bogey (at No. 2).’’
But that’s match play, said No. 1 seed Adam Walicki, a former pro from Scottsdale who got his amateur status back last year.
“At this stage, you can’t just play well, you have to play great,’’ said Walicki, who just slipped past another former pro, Mark Bellhorn, 1-up, to reach his next big challenge — Song.
“I mean I had to eagle the 17th hole just to win my second match, and that just got me back to even par after playing my first match 3 or 4 under. ‘’
Asked if being the No. 1 seed was a boon or a bane, Walicki shook his head and laughed.
“I don’t think when you get to this part of the tournament you’re really going to intimidate anybody by being the No. 1 seed,’’ he reasoned. “The only way I’m going to get an easy match is if somebody falls out of bed and gets hurt.’’
Yes, you just never know what each day will bring in mano y mano, or who will be the next big thing. Like little Zachary Sardina of Goodyear, the No. 63 seed who is alive and kicking after holding off AGA points leader Camron Howell, 1-up.
“I’m hanging in there,’’ said the 18-year-old Sardina, who is on his way to Scottsdale Community College this fall. “I think I’m handling adversity really well.”
Asked if he’s surprised he’s made it this far, Sardina kept it real: “Honestly, I am. I knew I had some potential, but to pull it off, well, yeah, it’s really surprising.’’
The quarterfinals tee off at 7:30 a.m. Friday followed by a short lunch break and then the semifinals. The championship match is set for Saturday at 7:30 a.m.