Yang shocks Schniederjans to advance at U.S. Am

Gunn Yang took down Ollie Schniederjans in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur on Thursday.

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – David meet Goliath. Rocky meet Apollo Creed. Russia meet the 1980 U.S. national hockey team.

Ollie Schniederjans meet Gunn Yang.

"Who is that guy?" said Schniederjans, the world's top amateur completely befuddled after the 776th-ranked player toppled him, 1 up, on Thursday in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur.

"He is the best player in the world I think, today."

Playing in front of nearly 300 fans that were vocally pro-Schniederjans, the Georgia Tech senior looked to be making it a hometown romp over Yang, bursting out to a 2-up lead through only four holes.

But Yang just wouldn't go away, winning Nos. 5 and 7 with birdies, followed by two hole victories on Nos. 8-9 with simple pars.

All of a sudden, the buzz around Atlanta Athletic Club was changing, the tournament's most recognizable name was on the ropes at the turn.

But Schniederjans would rite the ship at Nos. 11 and 12, winning both holes to square the match before winning the behemoth par-3 15th hole – it played at 260 yards from the back tee – to regain the outright lead.

Yang, playing loose because there was little pressure on him, responded in kind on No. 16. Both players went right off the tee, Schniederjans flirting with a tree and Yang finding a fairway bunker. Schniederjans stuck his shot to 12 feet right of the hole, but Yang would get inside that, leaving himself 10 feet below the hole.

After Schniederjans' birdie putt scared the hole, Yang buried his birdie putt in the throat of the cup to square the match.

"He's so mentally tough," said Yang's caddie and AAC board member Richard Grice. "For him to rebound like that with the crowds around us, that was incredible"

After using his pitching wedge from 143 yards on No. 16, he faced the same shot on the tee at the par-3 17th, and got this one to 5 feet. Schniederjans followed by getting his ball to 10 feet, but again missed the putt and opened the door for the San Diego State sophomore. Yang took full advantage, again putting it in the middle of the hole.

On paper, the par-5 18th should have been an advantage for the long-hitting Schniederjans, but Yang pounded a driver down the middle of the fairway while Schniederjans found a fairway bunker on the right. After the All-American sent his approach just off the back of the green, Yang still chose to go for the green in two, sticking a 6-iron to about 20 feet left of the hole.

"He's sort of a pedal-to-the-metal type of guy. There's no back off in him," Grice said.

A two-putt birdie secured the victory, leaving the crowd in shock.

An unknown on Thursday morning, Yang was now a name that was worthy of a Google search. Yang didn't mind his underdog status.

"So what? I am at my peak right now, and I know that I can improve from now on," said Yang, who will face Cameron Young in the quarterfinals at 11:20 a.m. Friday.

"There were a ton of people out there for Ollie. Lots of 'Go Jackets!' But I am an Aztec and I showed them that I can beat them."

Yang hasn't had much of an opportunity to beat anyone in his two years at San Diego State, having to undergo surgery on his back – similar to Tiger Woods' surgery earlier this year – and has made the Aztecs' lineup four times for head coach Ryan Donovan.

Donovan says the surgery was tough on the Korean native, who arrived in the U.S. only three years ago by way of a five-year stint in Australia.

"It definitely was a low point for him. We had to have a lot of conversations," said Donovan. "Golf is a very isolating sport, and rehab can be even more so. I had to get him out for movies and just make sure that I was there for him. He had a long road back."

With his parents in Korea and going through the recovery process mainly on his own, Yang has dedicated himself to getting his education, working on a psychology degree.

"There's a lot of things running through my head," Yang quipped.

On Thursday, unexpectedly, he was the one messing with the golf world's mind.

• • •

In other matches

• Nathan Smith took 23 holes to knock off U.S. Amateur Public Links champ Byron Meth, advancing to his first quarterfinals in 14 tries at the U.S. Amateur.

• Frederick Wedel won Nos. 12 through 14 to knock off England's Jimmy Mullen and will face Smith at 11 a.m. on Friday morning.

• Cameron Young won five holes on the back nine to post a 1-up win over Kyle Jones and will face Yang on Friday at 11:20 a.m.

• Corey Conners took control late in his match against Arizona State's Jon Rahm, posting a 3-and-1 win with Golf Canada teammate Taylor Pendrith on the bag.

• Zachary Olsen cruised in his Round-of-16 match, posting the most lopsided score in beating Will Zalatoris, 5 and 3. Olsen takes on Conners at 11:40 a.m.

• Houston's Roman Robledo knocked off two collegiate heavyweights on Thursday, taking down Alabama's Robby Shelton in the morning and then dispatching of SMU's Bryson Dechambeau, 3 and 1, in the afternoon.

• Denny McCarthy won four of his final five holes to post a 1-up victory over Eli Cole, setting up a noon tee time with Robledo in the process.

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