Midway • All eight soon-to-be, just-graduated or current college golfers who survived two rounds of matches Thursday at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship said hilly and high-altitude Soldier Hollow Golf Course is the most difficult layout they have ever had to walk.
Perhaps no player among the Elite Eight battled the terrain, 90-plus degree temperatures and elevation as much as 23-year-old Brad Schneider, who just completed his college eligibility at Central Florida.
After ousting BYU’s Justin Kieley 3 and 2 Thursday morning, Schneider blew by Korky Kemp of Greensboro, N.C., 4 and 3 in the afternoon.
Remarkably, Schneider plays with a heavy brace on his left leg, his constant companion since he fractured a femur and suffered a limb-threatening condition known as compartment syndrome after a football injury in 2006. He also has a peripheral nerve injury that makes it difficult to bend his left ankle.
“I’ve played a lot of 36-hole days in college, so I came in prepared for this,” Schneider said. “I knew what I was getting into and everything, but this [course] still takes a lot out of you.”
With Ogden’s Sheldon Barker on his bag, Schneider is confident he can play well in Friday’s quarterfinal against UNLV golfer Derek Ernst of Clovis, Calif., who has to be considered the favorite to win considering that he was runner-up last year at Bandon Dunes, Ore. Schneider made the semifinals of last year’s North and South Amateur, which has a similar format.
Whoever wins the first USGA event conducted in the state of Utah will not have Utah ties, after Ogden’s Zac Blair, a rising senior at BYU, joined Kieley on the sidelines with a 3 and 2 loss to Paul McConnell in the morning.
The champion will be a young guy, though, because the oldest remaining competitors are 23-year-old Schneider and 23-year-old Kevin Aylwin of New Smyrna Beach, Fla. Aylwin recently completed his eligibility at North Florida and will meet the 21-year-old McConnell, a Texas-Arlington golfer, in Friday’s first match.
The youngest golfer left is Arizona State-bound Alberto Sanchez, who beat good friend and fellow 18-year-old Jacob Knapp, bound for UCLA, 1 up in what Sanchez called “a really comfortable match.”
The young guns walked off the 18th green with their arms around each other’s shoulders after Sanchez’s short putt closed out the match.
Sanchez, from Nogales, Ariz., played in the U.S. Open last month and missed the cut by just one stroke. He will now face another good friend, 21-year-old T.J. Vogel, who competes for Florida after playing for USC his first two college seasons.
“It’s probably the hardest walk ever,” Vogel said after downing Anton Arboleda 3 and 2 in the afternoon with his father, Joe Vogel, on his bag. “I’m exhausted. … I drank about 25 bottles of water, or Powerade, out there.”
The fourth quarterfinal will pit 22-year-old Columbian Carlos Rodriguez against 20-year-old Kyle Beversdorf of Plymouth, Minn., a University of Minnesota golfer who began his college career at Northern Iowa.
“I’m definitely very confident, although I haven’t played a lot of competitive golf [after having had to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules] this past year,” Beversdorf said. “I hit a cut [shot] off the tee, and this course sets up perfectly for me.”
The field will be whittled from eight to two on Friday. The 36-hole championship match is Saturday.
R The field is trimmed to eight Thursday after two rounds, with BYU golfers Zac Blair and Justin Kieley ousted in the morning matches.
• It is a young man’s tournament from here on out: All eight remaining competitors are between 18 and 23 years old.
• The quarterfinals and semifinals will be Friday, with the 36-hole championship match Saturday.