ERIN, Wis.—John Peterson and Scott Langley have spent an entire summer waiting for a call from the USGA telling them they'd earned a spot on the 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team. The next two days, however, might be tougher than the last two months after each was knocked out in the third round of the 111th U.S. Amateur Friday morning. With no more holes to play, they'll both have to hope they've proven themselves worth of a pick.
Peterson has won both a prestigious amateur and college event in 2011, taking the Jones Cup title in February and the NCAA Championship in June. He nearly won at the Nationwide Tour's stop in Columbus in July, making a bogey on the last hole to finish second to __Harris English__. Still, when the USGA announced the first seven players to be picked for captain Jim Holtgrieve's, his name was missing.
"It's been on my mind the entire week," said Peterson, who won the 16th and 17th and take his match with Max Buckley to extra holes at Erin Hills GC, but missed an eight-foot birdie try to lose the match on the 19th. "It's been kind of tough to play. Hopefully I've showed I can fight pretty hard in a match and give them everything they need for the team."
Peterson and Buckley, a rising senior at SMU who had just three top-25 finishes this past season for the Mustangs, played solid golf during their round, making just three bogeys between them. Buckley, however, never gave Peterson an opportunity to build an momentum, making birdies on the first three hole to take a quick 3-up edge.
"He putted the ball really well," Peterson said. "I knew pretty quickly I was going to have to step it up if I wanted to win."
Which he proceeded to do by winning the fourth, sixth and seventh holes to get the match squared up, only to see Buckley birdie the eighth and 12th holes to take a 2-up lead.
A birdie by Peterson on the par-3 16th, after sticking his approach tight to the hole, cut into the lead, one he made disappear with a par to win the 17th.
After the two halved the 18th hole with pars, they returned to the first. Peterson hit his approach shot to 20 feet and looked to have the upper hand when Buckley's third, played from an awkward lie in the rough, rolled 20 feet from the hole. But in a textbook match play reversal, Buckley unexpectedly rolled in his putt and Peterson missed his.
For as well played a match as the Buckley/Peterson match was, Langley's third-round tilt with defending champion Peter Uihlein left a little to be desired. Both players struggled off the tee.
"I just couldn't find many fairways," Langley said. "You can't do that against a player of Pete's caliber."
Langley found himself 3 down after seven holes, but crawled back into the match, eventually squaring it on the 11th hole. From there, however, Langley made three bogeys and a double, losing 2 and 1.
At the start of 2011, Langley seemed to be a lock to make Walker Cup team, Langley and Holtgrieve both being natives of St. Louis. After winning the 2010 NCAA championship and sharing low amateur honors at the U.S. Open, the 22-year-old Illinois collegian reached the quarterfinals of the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay.
Yet in the spring of 2011, Langley's swing sudden disappeared and his results left lots to be desired. Langley admits falling into bad habits by moving in his swing while trying to hit low shots in the wind.
After graduation in May and a T-129 finish at NCAAs, Langley moved to Florida, where be rededicated his efforts to fixing things. At the Western Amateur last month, Langley said he finally felt as if things were starting to turn around.
Still, he knew that this week's championship would be critical if he were to justify using a pick on him. "I wanted to come into this week and give them a good reason to pick me. And I feel like i did that," Langley said. "I needed to step up and I did. It would have been great to beat Peter today. Obviously I wanted to. I think it would have helped my chances. But I'm happy with what I did. To come back from what I did this summer and do this here means more to me, whether or not I make the team."
Unlike Peterson and Langley, Jordan Spieth has another match to try to prove to the selection committee that he too is deserving of being selected for the team. The 18-year-old from Dallas took out Ben Geyer, 7 and 5, in the third round to advance to Friday afternoon's quarterfinals.
Spieth was runner-up to Peterson at the Jones Cup in February and fifth at the Azalea, but had no other top finishes in amateur events this summer. He did, however, claim the U.S. Junior title for the second time in his career, becoming just the second player to win the championship multiple times.
"I know the pressure is on," Spieth said Thursday after winning his second round match against Lee Bedford. "I know if I win it I'll be selected, so I'm just going to try and do that."
When 26-year-old Bobby Leopold lost on the 19th hole against Jordan Russell in their third round match, it guaranteed that a mid-amateur would not reach the quarterfinals for a fifth straight year, extending the longest streak in the championship's history in which a mid-am has failed to reach the final eight. The last mid-am to be a quarterfinalist was Trip Kuehne in 2006 at Hazeltine National.
The previous longest streak without a mid-am in the quarters? Just two years, most recently happening in 2001-02.