CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Not even a hole-in-one by his opponent could derail Albin Choi from advancing to the Sweet 16 of the U.S. Amateur.
Choi, the 2010 Canadian Amateur champion, knocked off Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, 4 and 3, in the Round of 32 on Thursday morning at Cherry Hills Country Club.
With steady play and workmanlike pars, Choi never trailed in the match. He grabbed an early lead with birdies at the first and third holes to go 2 up. But Pieters, the reigning NCAA champion from Illinois who eliminated Jordan Spieth a day earlier, wouldn’t go without a fight. He made a hole-in-one at the sixth.
The par 3, framed by twin cottonwood trees, measured 177 yards, with the hole located six paces from the back left of the deep, pear-shaped green. Pieters said he took a little off his 8-iron.
“It was in all the way,” Pieters said of his first-ever ace. “It landed about 20 feet short of the pin and rolled right in.”
Pieters smiled widely when a U.S. Golf Association official informed him that the club had offered him the pin flag as a memento.
Choi could’ve been deflated, but he was unfazed.
“I thought it was kinda cool,” he said. “Losing on an ace – I can handle that.”
Pieters evened the match at the eighth hole, but his bright mood didn’t last long. He lost his momentum with a 3-putt from 40 feet on the 10th hole. Pieters blamed his defeat on a shaky putting performance.
“I missed a few 6-footers and 3-putted twice,”Pieters said. “He took advantage of my mistakes.”
Choi won 10, 12, 14 and 15 with pars. Last month, the North Carolina State junior got a shot of confidence when he made the cut at the RBC Canadian Open.
“I realized my game isn’t too far off,” Choi said. “If I just polish a few areas, I could be (on the PGA Tour) in a few years.”
Choi called match play his favorite format. Next up, he faces Michael Weaver, a red-shirt junior from Cal, in the Round of 16.
“It’s been a great week so far,” Choi said. “Hope it lasts a little longer from here on out.”
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ROUND OF 32
Bobby Wyatt def. Matthew Stieger, 2 up
Justin Thomas def. Max Homa, 3 and 1
Bobby Leopold def. Devin Miertschin, 4 and 3
Oliver Goss def. Michael Miller, 20 holes
Devon Purser def. Adam Schenk, 21 holes
Ricardo Gouveia def. Patrick Duncan Jr., 3 and 2
Michael Weaver def. Patrick Rodgers, 2 up
Albin Choi def. Thomas Pieters, 4 and 3
Steven Fox def. Douglas Hanzel, 1 up
Zack Munroe def. Todd White, 2 and 1
Edouard Espana def. Justin Shin, 1 up
Chris Williams def. Adam Stephenson, 5 and 3
Cheng-Tsung Pan def. Gavin Green, 3 and 1
Andrew Presley def. Talor Gooch, 1 up
Brandon Hagy def. Paul Misko, 5 and 4
Patrick Newcomb def. Michael Hebert, 19 holes