Notes: Sanchez continues success at APL

Alberto Sanchez

Alberto Sanchez

MIDWAY, Utah – Alberto Sanchez’s success in U.S. Golf Association events continues. Sanchez is making his first tournament start since the U.S. Open, where he missed the cut by a single shot, at the U.S. Amateur Public Links. He beat Jacob Knapp, 1 up, to advance to the quarterfinals.

Sanchez hasn’t played since the Open at Olympic Club, where he shot 72-77, but he hasn’t been resting. He says his play there inspired him to work even harder on his game. Sanchez’s week included a practice round with Phil Mickelson. Sanchez is an incoming freshman at Arizona State, where he will be coached by Mickelson’s brother, Tim.

“It was quite the experience,” Sanchez said. “I learned a lot. I learned I could hang with those guys. That gave me a lot of confidence. This course is tough, but coming here from Olympic, you feel comfortable.”

Knapp, who shot 61 earlier this year in U.S. Open qualifying, also is an incoming freshman at a Pac-12 school. He is headed to UCLA.

Sanchez said an increased focus on his short game has helped him this summer. Like most top players, he loves to hit balls, but has been trying to focus on the scoring parts of his game.

“Playing in the Open made me want to get better so that I could get back there,” he said. “I missed the cut on Friday, got back home Saturday and was out there practicing early in the morning Sunday.”

Sanchez shot a first-round 76 at Soldier Hollow, including a back-nine 41. A second-round 68 that featured six birdies helped him tie for 33rd in stroke play. He beat Michael Blair, 4 and 3, in the first round, then defeated Jordan Wetsch, 2 and 1, in Thursday morning’s second round.

• • •

Derek Ernst is making another run at the U.S. Amateur Public Links title. Ernst, last year’s runner-up at Bandon Dunes, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-and-4 victory over San Diego State’s Xander Schauffele. It was Ernst’s second consecutive 5-and-4 victory. He’ll face Central Florida’s Brad Schneider in the quarterfinals.

Ernst lost to Corbin Mills on the first extra hole of the 2011 final. Ernst made a 7-foot par putt on the 36th hole to force extra holes in that match. He had a 50-foot birdie putt on the first hole, but hit it 10 feet by the hole to make bogey and lost to Mills’ par.

Mills is making his pro debut this week at the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship, about an hour from the Public Links. He shot 73.

• • •

T.J. Vogel decided to take it easy before a long week at the U.S. Amateur Public Links. That vacation, plus a swing tweak during that week, has helped him reach the quarterfinals at the U.S. Amateur Public Links.

Vogel’s father, Joe, is the women’s golf coach at Florida International University and a PGA member. Joe Vogel has been on his son’s bag all week. The hills have been trying for someone from flat South Florida. Joe Vogel iced his right knee after Thursday’s two rounds.

Vogel emailed video to his father and another instructor last week. “I was taking it too far and I was hitting it everywhere,” Vogel said. “I got it all set, and it feels good.” Joe Vogel also said they widened T.J.’s stance and slightly weakened his grip.

Vogel was No. 9 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and a second-team All-American. He had a 71.3 stroke average and two victories. He was one of five All-Americans in the Round of 16 at Soldier Hollow. Vogel beat UCLA All-American Anton Arboleda, 3 and 2, in the Round of 16. Arboleda had beaten his first two opponents by six-hole margins.

Vogel and Sanchez will play in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Vogel transferred to Florida before the season. Florida head coach Buddy Alexander has been a good influence on him, and helped him improve his short game. Alexander is recruiting in Sweden this week, but he has texted Vogel as he has advanced.

“He’s always there to lift me up when I’m not doing well,” Vogel said. “That’s the thing that I need. I need someone to be there when things aren’t good.”

Things are going well this week for Vogel.

• • •

Kevin Aylwin knows his golf swing is a bit different. But it works. And that’s what’s most important. Aylwin uses a 10-finger grip and takes the club back to well past parallel. “My grip’s jacked up," Aylwin conceded. "I play a little unorthodox, but I know what my shots are going to do and how far it’s going to fly. Everybody at every tournament pretty much hits it farther than me, but I hit it pretty straight.”

Aylwin, an honorable mention All-American as a senior at North Florida, is in the quarterfinals after a 1-up victory over Chattanooga’s Steven Fox. Aylwin grew up on the first tee of New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) Golf Club.

Aylwin said this is his sixth U.S. Golf Association championship – dating to the 2006 U.S. Amateur at age 17 – but only his second time making match play. He lost in the first round of the 2008 Public Links. He also qualified for last year’s Publinks but played that week’s Florida Amateur instead because of the difficulty in traveling to Oregon from his Florida home. Aylwin finished second to Florida’s Tyler McCumber at the state amateur. Aylwin bogeyed the final hole to lose by one.

Aylwin will play Paul McConnell in Friday’s quarterfinal.

Quarterfinal matches

7 a.m.: Paul McConnell vs. Kevin Aylwin

7:15 a.m.: Kyle Beversdorf vs. Carlos Rodriguez

7:30 a.m.: T.J. Vogel vs. Alberto Sanchez

7:45 a.m.: Brad Schneider vs. Derek Ernst

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