CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. — Justin Thomas righted himself after nearly falling out of contention in stroke-play qualifying, and he carried his momentum into the first round of match play Wednesday at the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills.
The 19-year-old Thomas, a member of the golf team at the University of Alabama, beat Barry Dyche of Charlotte, N.C., 3 and 1 to advance to the round of 32.
“It was a well-fought match, but this is the U.S. Amateur and there are no easy matches,” said Thomas, whose Alabama teammate, Bobby Wyatt, entered match play as the top seed in the 64-player field.
Wyatt, who teed off against Taylor Hancock of Clearwater, Fla., later in the day, tied the tournament record by shooting a 9-under 132 in the two-day, 36-hole qualifying rounds.
Thomas, seeded 16th, said he was brimming with confidence after managing to turn his play around midway through the final round of stroke play.
Clearfield’s Devon Purser and California golfer Michael Weaver had to survive an early-morning playoff just to get to match play, then stayed alive with impressive upsets in the round of 64.
Purser, a former Syracuse High and current BYU standout, whipped No. 4 seed Sebastian Vasquez of Mexico, 4 and 3.
Purser built a 3-up lead through seven holes and cruised into the next round, where he will meet Adam Schenk from Indiana this morning.
Weaver, 21, of Fresno, Calif., recorded a birdie to get into match play, then dispatched No. 5 seed Zac Blair, 2 and 1.
Blair led briefly on the ninth hol, but had to battle the final nine to catch Weaver. A bogey at No. 17 ended his hopes.
Thomas has certainly shown the ability to go far in the tournament. He shot a 5-under 65 on the first day of qualifying at the CommonGround course and followed with a 3-over 74 at Cherry Hills on Tuesday.
Thomas will face Max Homa of Valencia, Calif., today. The two met this year when Homa, who plays for the University of California, beat Thomas in a match at the NCAA Division I tournament, though Cal lost to Alabama in the overall semifinal match.
The 17th-seeded Homa, playing in the amateur for the third year in a row, got past Canadian Corey Conners 5 and 4 to set up the rematch with his college rival.
Homa also has dedicated his play in the amateur to childhood friend David Stroud, also of Valencia, Calif., who died last year at age 20 following a three-year battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
“He was a good friend of mine,” Homa said about Stroud, whom he had known since they were 8-year-old teammates on a flag football team. “The way he went through that whole experience makes you appreciate a lot of things and see what resiliency really is, so I’d just like to always remember that. I just want to play well, to make him proud.”
On his hat, he said he has written a reminder: “Stroud Strong.” That, he said, sums up the approach he’s taking to his play.