OAKMONT, Pa. Nick Grabelcik played 38 holes to win three games Friday, sending the second part of North Florida to the semifinals of the American amateur in Oakmont.
With an excellent freshman year that included three wins and a place in the Palmer Cup, Grabelcik is one game away from a release from the Masters and the US Open.
It was not easy on a sweltering hot day, at least without storm delays and allowed the American amateur to get back on track.
Grabelcik needs one hole to secure a 2-on-1 victory over former US junior amateur champion Michael Thorbjornsen. He had to hit 19 holes against Hugo Townsend of Sweden and hit him with a wedge that turned up to 3 feet at number 10 for birdie.
And when he led the entire game, Grabelcik lost two straight holes and was tied with Davis Chatfield with four holes to play. Grabelcik hit 9-iron to 5 feet for an allowed birdie on the 15th and halved the final three holes – twice with bogey – for a 1-pointer.
That puts him in the semifinals against James Piot of Michigan State, who beat Matthew Sharpstene, 3 and 1.
“I had high expectations this week and I’m glad it’s going well,” Grabelcik said. “Just the huge success in my freshman year definitely helps to turn around this week, and gives me more experience than most first time shows.”
Florida, born and raised, Grabelcik’s parents grew up in the Pittsburgh area, and his game kept them in the city for a long journey back home.
The other semifinals include Travis Vick, who carries the flag for the Texas Longhorns, against Austin Greaser, the only player who has not yet played the 18th hole at Oakmont in game.
Greaser went his last 38 holes without being left behind.
Vick had to work harder than he thinks in a game against Brian Stark that started to get sloppy after a long, hot day of doubles.
Vick took control with a 10-foot birdie that broke sharply left at number 10 for a lead of 2. Three of the next four holes were won with pars and Vick was up with 3 and it looks like he is holding the decisive on the 15th would deliver.
He hits the lip for a fairway bunker, the ball ends up in the fairway. He hits his third shot to 10 feet and holds it for an equal point to stay 3 behind with three holes to play.
Vick, who plays in the Oklahoma States, hit a four-footed tap on the 16th for an allowed birdie. He hits a great bunker shot on the achievable par-4 17th for another allowed birdie to close the gap to 1 hole. And then Vick finds a fairway bunker from the 18th tee and lies in the field with Stark in the middle of the fairway.
“I thought we were going to get extra holes,” Vick said. “He made a turn. He came down from two birds in a row. I thought he got something and he gave me a present.”
With a right-hand pin at the back of a green that slopes hard from left to right, Start went left of the flag and over the green. He drops the club out of his hands and stares at it on the ground, realizing the chance he has lost.
Vick hits the wedge up to about 40 feet to the left of the flag and hits a beautiful delay for his bogey. Stark’s only hope was to land it in the collar and drip onto the green. He fell short, and his next slide for par to extend the game never had a chance.
Vick, a three-sport star in Houston, is used to tough fights. The Longhorns are stacked with Cole Hammer and Pierceson Coody, who both played in the Walker Cup. None of them came out of the qualification, though Vick takes the lead.
“Qualifying (in Texas) is very intense with the stacking of our team,” Vick said. “If you do not throw decent numbers, you most likely sit on the bench. I like it a lot. I like that you have to play good golf when you wake up every day.”
He attributes this mentality to one of his mentors, former American amateur champion Hal Sutton, with whom he works at the Champions Golf Club in Houston.
The finalists earn places in the Masters and the American Open, and the winner of the American Amateur wins the British Open. The semifinals are Saturday afternoon, with the 36-hole final on Sunday.