__TULSA, OKLA.--__Comeback Charlie was at it again Thursday afternoon at Southern Hills.
For the third straight match at the 109th U.S. Amateur, Texas senior Charlie Holland fell behind early only to rally to victory, defeating Christopher Ross of Canada, 2 and 1, Thursday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals of the USGA's oldest championship for a second straight year.
"I should just start on the fifth tee and say I'm 2 down," Holland joked.
In his first-round match versus Oklahoma State All-American Morgan Hoffmann, Holland was 3 down after six holes only to turn things around on the back nine and win on the 19th hole. Against__Tim Jackson__ this morning in the second round, Holland was 2 down after three holes, but kept his composure to pull out a 1-up victory on the championship's medalist.
Against Ross, Holland lost the first hole, one the second, then lost the third. He was still 1 down at the turn, before winning the 10th hole with a par and the 11th with a birdie. Holland took the lead for good on the 14th hole with another birdie before closing out the match on the 17th with his third birdie of the afternoon.
The "comeback" part for Holland actually could also apply to the aftermath of his junior year with the Longhorns. In his last four college tournaments, the 23-year-old Dallas native shot no better than a 73. The most ignominious moment came at the NCAA Championship, where he finished 156th out of 156 players, shooting a 29-over 242 at Inverness Club.
The poor play was the byproduct of swing changes he had begun to implement at Christmas with his instructor, Cameron Doan, gone awry. "I was trying to improve my ball striking, which was the weakest part of my game," Holland said. "But I was just getting too technical with my swing. I'd always been a feel player. Finally after nationals, I just decided I had to go back to [my old swing]. For the first time in my life I didn't want to play any more."
Holland returned after a two-week respite, playing a full amateur schedule highlighted by a T-13 finish at the Porter Cup.
Suffice it to say, match play seems to suit Holland well, having reached the quarterfinals of the Amateur in back-to-back years. "I'm a lot more free out there," Holland said. "You're playing against just one other person. You can hit shots you normally wouldn't hit. I like that."
Holland will play Oklahoma State sophomore Peter Uihlein in the quarterfinals Friday, Uihlein having won his third-round match with Connor Arendell, 2 and 1. Uihlein can relate to Holland's struggles this past college season. The two-time AJGA player of the year arrived at Oklahoma State last fall thinking he'd be a regular in the Cowboy lineup only to find OSU's home course, Karsten Creek, a tougher test than he imagined.
"The course beat me up pretty good," Uihlein said.
Having played only two of OSU's six events, coach Mike McGraw "encouraged' Uihlein to participate as an individual at an NAIA tournament in Oklahoma City in early April, the hope being to build some confidence. Uihlein went out and won the tournament, beginning a stretch of three top-10 finishes in his final four events of the school year.
Uihlein continued to play well this summer, posting top-15 finishes at the Sunnehanna Amateur, Northeast Amateur, Southern Amateur and Porter Cup. In the process, his name entered the discussion for U.S. Walker Cup team consideration. Asked if earning one of the two remaining spots on the American team that will play at Merion GC next month was in the back of his mind this week, Uihlein contends it's not really the case.
"After where I was six months ago," he said, "I'm just proud of the fact that I'm in the discussion to make the team."
In the other quarterfinal matches Friday, David Lingmerth, an Arkansas senior by way of Sweden faces Clemson's__Ben Martin__; fellow Tiger__Phillip Mollica__ squares off against Fresno State sophomore Bhavik Patel; and__Steve Ziegler__, a Stanford junior, will play__Byeong-Hun An__, a quarterfinalist at the Western Amateur.