GLENVIEW, Ill. – Christiaan Maas entered the 121st Western Amateur not knowing what to expect from his game.
The Texas sophomore has spent the last few months in his home country of South Africa, where the winter days of July are much chillier than the summer heat North Americans enjoy this time of year.
But on a long, hot Friday afternoon at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois, Maas’ game carried him through two victories over a pair of top-25 ranked players in Wenyi Ding and Nick Dunlap.
“I keep surprising myself this week,” Maas said. “I’m still very rusty from the winter back home, but I’ve just been finding ways to get the ball in the hole and having a lot of fun.”
After jumping out to the 18-hole lead Tuesday, Maas steadily remained in the top-10 through stroke-play qualifying to set up a Sweet 16 matchup with Ding. Maas went 4 up through nine holes and closed a statement 3 and 2 victory on the 16th.
“I was able to make a lot of birdies early on, and that momentum eventually carried over into the afternoon,” Maas said. “It gave me a lot of confidence knowing that I beat a great player.”
Facing Dunlap – who has already won two Elite Amateur Series events this summer – Maas found himself 3 down through five holes in the quarterfinals. Maas rediscovered his momentum on the sixth hole, draining a swinging downhill putt that ignited a flurry of birdies over the next six holes. He would swing the match and enter No. 16 with a 2-up advantage.
After sticking his tee shot on the 190-yard par-3 to 15 feet, Maas rolled in the birdie putt, pumped his fist in the air and celebrated a trip to the Western Amateur semifinals.
“Early on, I thought Nick would be shaking my hand on the 11th after my start,” Maas said. “It was a great feeling to watch that putt drop on 16 and win the match in style.”
Maas is no stranger to his semifinal opponent – Drew Goodman, of Norman, Oklahoma.
The two played together in the opening 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying and occupied the top two spots on the leaderboard after Tuesday’s first round.
“It’s going to be fun playing together again,” Goodman, an Oklahoma junior, said. “I know I can play with anybody here. I just need to go out, hit that first shot in the fairway and roll from there.”
Goodman employed that same mindset Friday while punching his ticket to another lap around North Shore with Maas.
Facing 2021 Western Amateur Champion Michael Thorbjornsen in the Sweet 16, Goodman built an early 2 up lead that eventually dwindled to a tie on No. 16. On the first playoff hole, Goodman tugged a drive into the left rough but made a stellar up-and-down to survive for another hole.
Goodman then capitalized on a mistake from Thorbjornsen on the 20th hole for a dramatic victory. He went on to defeat Jimmy Zheng 5 and 4 in the quarterfinals.
“I was really tense coming out today facing [Thorbjornsen], the best ranked player here,” Goodman said. “You want to beat the second best player in the world with all those people watching. Getting that win made the afternoon feel a lot easier. “
On the other side of the bracked Kazuma Kobori, of New Zealand, will take on Matthew McClean, of Northern Ireland, in the other semifinal match Saturday morning.
Kobori earned his spot in the semifinals by defeating Mac McClear in 20 holes in the Sweet 16 and dispatching Carson Bacha 2 up in the quarterfinals.
For McClean, the semifinals seemed as far away as his home in Northern Ireland when Preston Summerhays took a 3-up lead through five holes in their Sweet 16.
“I just reminded myself I haven’t played the first few holes well all week and there was a lot of opportunity left,” McClean said. “I made a 40-foot putt on six, which gave me a lot of confidence and helped me really get going.”
McClean, the 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, won five of the last seven holes to defeat Summerhays 2 up, the prelude to a dominant 5 and 4 victory over Gustav Frimodt in the afternoon.
For the full match play bracket, click here.
Semifinal action will be streamed live for free on thewesternamateur.com and Peacock (subscription required) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. CT. Coverage will resume at 1 p.m. and continue through the conclusion of the afternoon’s championship match.
First played at Glen View Club in 1899, the Western Amateur is the world’s third-oldest amateur championship, behind only the British Amateur (1885) and the U.S. Amateur (1895). It regularly attracts the top players from across the country and around the world, with past champions like Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
A grueling combination of stroke play and match play makes the Western Amateur one of the most demanding events in golf. The field of 156 players compete in 72 holes of stroke play over three days to determine the Sweet 16 for match play.
Attendance and parking at the Western Amateur are free. For more information, visit www.thewesternamateur.com.
Sweet 16 Results
Friday, August 4
Carson Bacha, York, Pa. def. Brendan Valdes, Orlando, Fla., 19 holes
Kazuma Kobori, New Zealand, def. Mac McClear, Hinsdale, Ill., 20 holes
Gustav Frimodt, Denmark, def. Stewart Hagestad, Newport Beach, Calif., 4 and 2
Matthew McClean, Northern Ireland, def. Preston Summerhays, Scottsdale, Ariz., 2 and 1
Drew Goodman, Norman, Okla., def. Michael Thorbjornsen, Wellesley, Mass., 20 holes
Jimmy Zheng, New Zealand, def. Caden Fioroni, San Diego, Calif., 5 and 3
Nick Dunlap, Huntsville, Ala., def. Cole Sherwood, Austin, Tex., 3 and 1
Christiaan Maas, South Africa, def. Wenyi Ding, China, 3 and 2
Friday, August 4
Kobori def. Bacha, 2 up
McClean def. Frimodt, 5 and 4
Goodman def. Zheng, 5 and 4
Maas def. Dunlap, 3 and 2