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The medalist is still alive in Illinois, and oh will he be in for a potential battle Saturday at Skokie Country Club.
Norman Xiong posted a 3-and-2 victory over Dawson Armstrong on Friday morning in the Round of 16 at the Western Amateur and then eked out a 1-up win over Brendon Jelley in the quarterfinals.
A day after coming from nine back over the final 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying – posting closing scores of 66 and 65 – to capture medalist honors, Xiong is now onto the semifinals at the Western Amateur. He’ll be up against a match-play stalwart in Derek Bard.
Saturday could prove to be a banner day in Glencoe, Ill., as Xiong and Bard face off in the semifinals and, on the other side, Cameron Champ will take on Doc Redman – one of the top incoming sophomores in college golf along with Xiong.
It will all conclude with a Saturday afternoon final that should hold intrigue no matter the matchup.
Friday’s action saw more players eliminated than we’ll see Saturday of course. The day started with 17 competitors, as delays in the final two rounds of stroke play meant those 72 holes of qualifying barely got finished before dark Thursday. When that all settled, four players were tied for 14th … but only 16 players total earn spots into match play.
That meant a four-for-three playoff that would have to wait until Friday morning. That extra-holes session had Dawson Armstrong, Joaquin Niemann, Min Woo Lee and Mason Overstreet. As it turned out, Overstreet was the one to be knocked out in the playoff.
The other three, though, have since been eliminated as well. Armstrong, the 2015 Western Amateur champion, fell to Xiong. Lee and Niemann both got knocked out in the quarterfinals. Lee fell, 2 and 1, to Redman while Niemann dropped a 3-and-2 match to Champ.
Redman had to fight just to get out of the Round of 16. The Clemson player was 2 down through 11 to Vanderbilt’s Will Gordon but would win three of the next six holes to take the lead and then drain a 30-footer for birdie at the last to seal a 1-up win. His quarterfinal match against Lee also included a late surge, as Redman won Nos. 14-16 to move from 1 down to 2 up. A birdie on 17 ended the match.
Redman was ACC Freshman of the Year (and was one of five nationally to be named to the All-Freshman Team) for the Tigers in 2016-17, as he racked up two wins and six other top 10s. (Redman finished the year No. 31 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.)
His semifinal opponent, on the other hand, is a veteran.
Champ had few problems in reaching the semifinal against Redman. The incoming Texas A&M senior defeated Alabama’s Lee Hodges, 3 and 2, to start the day and won by the same margin against Niemann, the World No. 1 amateur. Champ only trailed a single hole combined in those matches.
Champ finished the 2016-17 season as Golfweek‘s No. 27 but has truly been a revelation this summer. He burst onto the scene with an eye-opening performance at the U.S. Open before backing it up with a victory at the Trans-Miss Amateur and a runner-up at the Pacific Coast Amateur.
In the other semifinal match, we have another veteran vs. youth matchup.
Bard is already finished with college golf, having completed his senior season at Virginia in 2016-17 and garnering a No. 41 ranking in his final year with the team. The departed senior is accustomed to success in high-level amateur events, having made the final at the 2015 U.S. Amateur. He would earn spots into the following year’s Masters and U.S. Open via that performance.
Bard’s Friday began with a 4-and-3 win over departed Iowa State senior
His opponent Xiong, meanwhile, is coming off a freshman campaign at Oregon in which he joined the team a semester early in the spring and then produced a win and six other top 10s in a campaign that earned him a No. 16 end-of-season ranking and the Phil Mickelson Award for top newcomer in men’s college golf.
So it’ll be four strong semifinalists. That could lead to a final of two superstar sophomores (Xiong vs. Redman), two renowned veterans with glowing resumes (Champ vs. Bard) or ones with interesting contrasts in experience (Champ vs. Xiong or Bard vs. Redman). Champ vs. Xiong would an especially potent final considering the potential each has shown this spring and summer.
Some additional notable casualties Friday included Nick Hardy, an Illini star and local boy, who ran into a buzzsaw in a 7-and-5 Round of 16 defeat to Lee. Brad Dalke, the No. 2 seed, fell to Niemann, 2 and 1, in the same round.