By MATT HARNESS
GLENVIEW, Ill. (July 29, 2021) – Michael Thorbjornsen, of Wellesley, Massachusetts, wasn’t thinking about winning medalist honors during the 119th Western Amateur at Glen View Club on Thursday.
In fact, at several points during his afternoon round, the 19-year-old Stanford sophomore was just focused on making the cut for match play. But Thorbjornsen birdied four holes on his final nine, including a tap-in on No. 17 to take the lead, to earn medalist honors at 13-under par in his first Western Amateur appearance.
“Winning this ranks very, very high up,” said Thorbjornsen, who won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2018.
The 46 players who survived Wednesday’s 36-hole cut played 36 holes Thursday to determine the Sweet 16 for match play, which begins Friday. Defending champion Pierceson Coody, of Plano, Texas, and David Ford, of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, tied for second at 12 under. Trent Phillips, of Inman, South Carolina, finished fourth at 11 under, and Johnny Travale, of Ontario, Canada, took fifth at 10 under.
After a bogey at No. 8 dropped him to 8 under, Thorbjornsen rolled in a birdie at No. 9. He followed with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13 before adding another at the 16th.
“The one at the ninth turned things around,” Thorbjornsen said. “I was a little down on myself, but I was not trying to force anything.”
Coody, a senior at Texas, became the first defending champion since Jamie Lovemark in 2006 to qualify for match play the following year. He shot a bogey-free 64 in the third round Thursday morning to take the lead by two strokes over Thorbjornsen. But Coody carded a 70 in the afternoon to miss out on being medalist.
“This is the most competitive tournament, maybe along with NCAAs, around,” he said. “I’m excited to be back in match play. The big thing I will do is play my own game and assess what I need to do to close out each match.”
Ford, another Western Amateur rookie, was one of five players in the Sweet 16 to card all four rounds in the 60s. The North Carolina freshman gave himself a chance to be medalist with a birdie at No. 18 to shoot 65.
“I didn’t play my best or hit it my best,” Ford said. “If I’m playing my best, I believe nobody can beat me.”
Pepperdine senior Joe Highsmith, of Lakewood, Washington, should be as happy as anyone who survived stroke play. He qualified for the Sweet 16 for the first time in four appearances at the Western Amateur. Highsmith birdied 16 in the fourth round to reach 7 under and closed with two pars to avoid a playoff.
“I never scared match play, so this is really cool,” he said. “I’ve looked up to the guys who’ve made the Sweet 16 because I was a million miles away at one point. It’s cool to see how far I’ve come.”
The cut fell at 6 under. Johnny Keefer, of San Antonio, Texas, and Maxwell Moldovan, of Uniontown, Ohio, earned the final two spots following a four-player playoff.
First played at Glen View Club in 1899, the Western Amateur is the world’s third oldest amateur championship, behind the British Amateur (1855) and the U.S. Amateur (1895). It regularly attracts the top players from across the country and around the world, with past champions like Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
This year, the match play competition will be streamed live on Golf Channel’s digital platforms, with more than 12 hours of coverage on Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31. Powered by WGA proud partners BMW and Peter Millar, the stream will be available on GolfChannel.com and thewesternamateur.com, with replays on the Peacock streaming service and golfpass.com.
Attendance and parking at the Western Amateur are free.
For the full leaderboard, click here.
For Friday tee times, click here.
Florida junior Ricky Castillo, of Yorba Linda, California, is making his third trip to the Sweet 16, the most of any player left in the tournament. He advanced to the semifinals the past two years. Castillo shot better than par in all four rounds and finished eighth at 8 under.
Coody and Castillo are the highest-ranked players in the Sweet 16. Coody is No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, and Castillo is No. 5.
Luke Potter, of Encinitas, California, is the youngest player in match play at 17. Potter, who graduates high school in 2022 and is verbally committed to Arizona State, shot 66 in the fourth round to post 9 under and finish sixth.
North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Stanford all have two players in the Sweet 16. Austin Greaser, of Vandalia, Ohio, and Ford are Tar Heels; Leo Oyo, of San Diego, California, and Brian Stark, of Kingsburg, California, are Cowboys; Karl Vilips, of Perth, Australia, and Thorbjornsen play for the Cardinal.
MATCH PLAY PAIRINGS
8:00 a.m. – No. 1 Michael Thorbjornsen vs. No. 16 Maxwell Moldovan
8:12 a.m. – No. 8 Ricky Castillo vs. No. 9 Joe Highsmith
8:24 a.m. – No. 4 Trent Phillips vs. No. 13 Austin Greaser
8:36 a.m. – No. 5 Johnny Travale vs. No. 12 Brian Stark
8:48 a.m. – No. 2 David Ford vs. No. 15 Johnny Keefer
9:00 a.m. – No. 7 Gordon Sargent vs. No. 10 Leo Oyo
9:12 a.m. – No. 3 Pierceson Coody vs. No. 14 Karl Vilips
9:24 a.m. – No. 6 Luke Potter vs. No. 11 James Piot