MIDWAY — He showed up wearing golf clothes, but Zach Blair’s workmanlike effort Wednesday morning at Solider Hollow was more befitting a hardhat and steel-toed boots.
The Ogden native advanced to the fourth round of the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links championship with a 4 and 3 match play victory over Byron Meth of San Diego.
Blair, an Ogden native and soon-to-be senior at BYU, looked calm and comfortable on Solider Hollow’s long, hilly track. And if playing in his home state is a benefit, he took full advantage by swinging out to a 3-up lead after four holes.
“I just made sure I made as few mistakes as possible and I knew if I did that I’d have a pretty good chance to win,” he said. “It worked out today.”
Blair birdied the first hole, then went up two after Meth bogeyed hole No. 3, a 568-yard par 5.
Blair’s tenaciousness over the next 11 holes proved to be the difference in the match.
Each time Meth picked up a hole, Blair immediately bounced back with a win, whether by his own doing or by capitalizing on a mistake by Meth.
He had a chance to put the match away after going 5-up on No. 13, but Meth rebounded for one last hole.
Finally Blair sealed the win with a par on 15, giving him a four-hole lead with three to play.
“It was a comfortable day,” Blair said. “It was good.”
Blair made it through the stroke play portion of the event at 2-under-par. He did so largely by focusing on hitting fairways and greens rather than risky shot-making.
It served him well on the first two days and did so again on Wednesday.
“A lot of people maybe switch it up in match play and play really aggressive,” he said. “I just think if you’re conservative and you have a lot of birdie looks, eventually they’re going to start going in.”
In addition to taking advantage of potential birdie opportunities, Blair also did a good job of avoiding too much trouble.
He did make a few bogeys, but that fairways-and-greens approach kept him in the match.
It also didn’t hurt that he went ahead early and continued to keep pressure on Meth throughout the match.
“If you don’t get yourself into trouble, you’re going to force them to have to make birdies and if they (end up) making bogeys, you’re going to get a lead,” he said.
Blair now is focused on what could be a grueling test today, where he could end playing two matches.
He’ll play a morning match with Paul McConnell of Garland, Texas in the round of 32. If he wins that match, he’ll play another in the afternoon.
Sandy’s Dan Horner fell in his match Wednesday, dropping a 3 and 2 battle to Jacob Knapp. BYU golfer Justin Keiley took 19 holes to top Ryan Werre of Canada and advance to Thursday action.
The top three seeds all lost their first match play battles on Wednesday. The 36-hole finale is Saturday.