BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Brad Dalke found himself in unfamiliar territory on Saturday during his U.S. Amateur semifinal showdown with Jonah Texeira: He was actually trailing in a match at Oakland Hills Country Club, something that had only happened for three of the first 71 holes he had played in match play.
Two down after nine holes, the University of Oklahoma sophomore didn’t let the moment or what was on the line—a spot in the 36-hole championship match along with invites to the Masters and U.S. Open—overwhelm him.
“I knew I just needed to keep grinding,” Dalke said. “You just never know what happens in match play. And obviously this is kind of a big hump in the U.S. Amateur, making it to the finals, just because of all the stuff that you get along with it. I mean, I think it’s in everybody’s head, no matter how hard you try to push it out of your head. So I knew that he was probably thinking the same thing.”
Sure enough, Dalke’s steady mindset helped him mount a comeback. Winning the 10th and 11th holes with pars, he quickly squared the match, then won Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to seize control before putting Texeira away, 3 and 2.
“He started making some putts for birdie, and I started kind of [not getting] up-and-down for par,” said Texeira, a rising junior at USC. “He beat me fair and square.”
Asked about the spoils of victory, Dalke, who celebrated his 19th birthday on Friday, said the opportunities that await were just settling in. He has played Augusta National once before, invited with his father by a member in December 2014, when Brad was only 17. But being able a participant in the Masters is something different altogether.
“Honestly, I didn’t envision myself there, not this early [in my career],” Dalke said. “I knew I had the game to do it, but it’s a long road at the U.S. Amateur and you never know what could happen. Now that I’ll be there, it will be the week of my life.”
There is still more to play for in Michigan, however. A victory over his opponent, Australia’s Curtis Luck, in Sunday’s championship match would bring with it an exemption into next year’s Open Championship. For Dalke, it also would lock up a spot on the three-man USA squad that will compete at the World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico next month.
“I’m confident in myself,” said Dalke, who planned to celebrate his semifinal win by attending the Tigers-Red Sox baseball game on Saturday night in nearby Detroit. “I think my game right now, I can beat anybody in the world. I’m excited for it, and I’ve just got to go out there and play well and execute, and we’ll see where that takes me.”