Former Clovis East High star Bryson DeChambeau beat Stanford junior Maverick McNealy 3 and 2 in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur on Thursday, with his second victory of the day advancing him into a quarterfinal at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill.
DeChambeau earlier beat University of South Carolina senior Matt NeSmith 5 and 4 in the Round of 32.
Next up for the reigning NCAA champ is 22-year-old Irishman Paul Dunne, a 2015 Alabama-Birmingham graduate who this year became the first amateur in 88 years to lead the British Open after 54 holes. Dunne, seeded 18th after stroke-play qualifying, knocked off No. 2 seed and former University of Colorado golfer David Oraee 3 and 2 in the Round of 16.
“I’ve tried nine times in USGA amateur events, and I’ve qualified for match play in every single one of them and gotten to the quarterfinals only in the Pub Links last year at Sand Creek Station,” DeChambeau said. “So to make it to the quarterfinals in the Am is pretty special, something that I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time now, being my fifth U.S. Am. It’s been quite a struggle, but I’m here finally, and I’m excited to see what there is tomorrow.”
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DeChambeau’s win over McNealy, who had advanced by beating Maverick Antcliff of Augusta, Georgia, 5 and 4 in the Round of 32, was one of the more closely watched matches of the championship.
McNealy last year earned the Jack Nicklaus Award and Haskins Award as the NCAA Player of the Year. He is No. 2 in this week’s World Amateur Golf Ranking while DeChambeau is No. 7. The two will be U.S. teammates during the Walker Cup next month at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in Lancashire, England.
“You know, Maverick is a classy guy, awesome kid – well, kid, young adult,” DeChambeau said. “But we’re going to have a lot of fun over in England.”
Twice in the first three holes, McNealy took 1-up leads, and through 10 holes the match was all square. But a DeChambeau birdie on No. 11 gave him the lead for good. A par on No. 13 pushed the lead to 2 up and a birdie on 14 gave him a three-hole advantage.
McNealy bogeyed 16 and DeChambeau had two putts to win or halve the hole and clinch the match. The first went long but the second dropped, advancing DeChambeau to the quarterfinals.
“Eleven, absolutely 11” was the turning point, DeChambeau said. “I made a 20-footer from off the back right of the green, and he missed it. That got me to 1 up, and it changed the momentum a little bit.”
Against NeSmith, DeChambeau birdied the first hole then went 2 up after NeSmith bogeyed No. 2. DeChambeau built his lead to 6 up with a birdie on No. 8 – the fifth birdie of his round to that point.
The semifinals are Saturday and the championship Sunday.