BENTON TOWNSHIP — Davis Thompson coasted in with a four-shot lead to win medalist honors Thursday at the Western Amateur. Karl Vilips had to get through four playoff holes just to stay alive.
But when the two square off at 8 a.m. today in the match play portion of the tournament at Point O’ Woods Golf & Country Club, they’ll be back on even footing.
“Usually after 72 holes I’d be pretty happy with being No. 1,” Thompson said. “But I feel like I’m halfway through and the tournament just starts all over. I’m ready to get after it tomorrow.”
The 16 remaining golfers will compete in two rounds of match play today, with the four remaining players moving on to Saturday’s semifinals and finals.
Thompson finished 13-under par for the 72 holes of stroke play, including 8-under during Thursday’s 36 holes.
Daniel Wetterich and Eric Bae were tied for second at 9-under, and both said they are looking forward to the shift to match play.
“I love match play,” Wetterich said. “You have a game plan for the golf course, but you can change your strategy a little bit depending on how your opponent’s doing.”
“I just need to focus on my game and keep the pressure on,” Bae said. “In match play, once you let go of the pressure, that’s when momentum shifts.”
Vilips and Philip Barbaree tied for 16th at 4-under, forcing a sudden-death playoff for the final match play berth.
“Playing (No. 18) straight into the teeth of the wind, it’s pretty nerve-wracking,” Vilips said. “Playing against Philip, he’s really good. You really have to just make birdie, you know you’re not going to win with par.”
Both parred the first three holes, though Vilips had chances to win. His long birdie putt on No. 18 on the second hole narrowly missed. He had a shorter putt to win on No. 17, the third playoff hole, but again just missed.
Vilips finally sank a birdie putt on No. 18. Barbaree had a chance to match him but missed by inches, ending the playoff.
“I got used to (barely missing putts) the whole day pretty much,” Vilips said. “Everything burned the edge. The last two holes lipped out to be in this situation, but I knew that they were good putts and I knew that one was going to fall eventually.”
Though just 17 years old, Vilips is playing in his fourth Western Amateur. He reached match play for the first time this year. The Australian golfer has committed to play at Stanford.
Thompson started the day in a nine-way tie for third, one shot back of Wetterich and David Laskin. He quickly moved to the top of the leaderboard, shooting a 5-under 65 on his first 18 holes, and held the lead the rest of the way.
Wetterich threatened the lead on the second 18-hole round, getting as low as 11-under, but couldn’t sustain the charge.
“I had a shot coming in at the last couple holes, and I just couldn’t seem to find the fairway,” Wetterich said. “That’s important out here. If you don’t hit in the fairway you can’t really get it close.
“But I grinded it out. I played pretty well this 36-hole day so I’m pretty happy about it.”
Bae shot 1-under each of the first two days, but made his move on Thursday with rounds of 67 and 66.
“The first two days I kind of had to grind to make the cut,” Bae said. “I made a lot more putts (Thursday). I got up and down from some spots early, kept the momentum going. I made a lot of 5-, 6-footers that I needed to keep the round going.”
First-round leader Hidetoshi Yoshihara bounced back from a 3-over round on Wednesday, finishing 5-under to reach the playoff.
Chun An Yu, the top-ranked golfer in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking, finished 3-under to miss the cut by one shot.
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders