MIDWAY, Utah – UCLA’s Anton Arboleda is rolling at the U.S. Amateur Public Links. He beat Alex Williams, 6 and 5, in Thursday’s second round of match play, his second consecutive victory by a six-hole margin. He has played just 27 of a possible 36 holes in the first two rounds of match play at Soldier Hollow.
Arboleda, of La Canada, Calif., was 3 up after four holes against Williams, and was 5 up through six holes in his first-round match with Thomas O’Bryan. Williams was coming off a first-round victory over Chris Williams, the world’s second-ranked amateur (and no relation to Alex).
“I was fortunate to get up early in both matches,” said Arboleda, No. 21 in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking. “That cushion’s been nice. I’ve been able to play steady after that.”
Arboleda’s early finishes are important because fatigue will start to become a factor here. This is the first of three consecutive scheduled 36-hole days. Soldier Hollow – constructed on the site of the biathlon and cross-country skiing competitions at the 2002 Winter Olympics – is located at more than 5,000 feet above sea level. The course is at the base of mountains circling the Heber Valley, leading to a lot of steep hikes. Arboleda’s father, Tony, is caddieing for him, using a push cart to transport his son’s UCLA stand bag.
“The walk’s pretty brutal,” Arboleda said. “Getting it done as early as possible is always a plus because the walk is tough here and saving my legs, and my dad’s legs, is important.”
Arboleda, an honorable mention All-American this past season, was the 18-hole leader at the recent NCAA Championship at Riviera Country Club before finishing 13th. He finished 17th in stroke play here. Arboleda will have a tough third-round match, though. He will face Florida All-American T.J. Vogel in the afternoon.
“I’ve been playing pretty consistent. I haven’t really made many mistakes,” Arboleda said. “I’ve been able to put pressure on my opponents when they’ve tried to force things to happen, where I’ve just been pretty steady. At first I thought anyone could play out here because it’s so open. You could miss shots and get away with them, but as the greens have gotten firmer, which I like, it shows who the better players are.
“I know that if I just hit fairways and greens and give myself a lot of looks at birdies, I’ll be tough to beat.”