Ricky Castillo, youngest player left in U.S. Amateur Championship field, reaches Round of 32
PACIFIC PALISADES — It was no bother for Derek Castillo to be Ricky Castillo’s prideful older brother Wednesday.
As the family gallery nervously moved hole by hole at Riviera Country Club during the first day of match play at the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship, it all seemed relative when 16-year-old Ricky, the Valencia High junior and youngest player left in the field of 64, pulled off a bold 3-and-1 triumph over 16th seed Edwin Yi, a 21-year-old at the University of Oregon who was born in L.A.
“The way he’s been playing this summer, I’m not really surprised,” said Derek, a 19-year-old Cal State Fullerton golfer who came up just short of qualifying after two days of stroke play. “It’s disappointing that I didn’t do well enough, but at least one of us made it. I want to see him go all the way now. This is exciting.”
Yorba Linda’s Castillos made a little history with their combined entry into the field of 312, and they plan to keep tag teaming on strategy and support, along with their mother and father, as Ricky Castillo moves into the Round of 32 on Thursday at 7:25 a.m. against Scotland’s Connor Syme.
Syme’s 2-and-1 win over World Amateur Golf Ranking No. 2 Maverick McNealy was just as newsworthy.
A win Thursday morning means Castillo, seeded No. 49, would advance to the Round of 16 on Thursday afternoon at 1:15 p.m., possibly against top seed Hayden Wood of Oklahoma State, based on the bracketing.
“Even though he didn’t make match play, he was still generous enough to go out and support me,” Ricky, who made the 2015 U.S. Amateur field, said of Derrick. “I thought that was kind of cool. That gave me a little bit of confidence.”
Yi conceded the hole and match to Castillo after failing to make a par putt on the 17th green. Castillo nearly put the match away with a 15-foot downhill par putt on the 16th but just missed.
The two went from all-square after five to a 3-up lead for Castillo after the ninth hole. The turning point came on 15, when Castillo made a par save that secured a 2-up lead. Yi had made a superb chip shot on the 11th and also won the 13th hole to stay in contention.
“Some people think in match play that you’ve got to play against the other player, but I’ve learned you really just have to play your own game and whatever happens, happens,” Castillo said. “It is just about keeping it simple.”
Simple wasn’t how Pepperdine’s Sahith Theegala claimed victory in his opening match against 22-year-old New York native Gavin Hall.
Theegala, a 19-year-old Diamond Bar High graduate who has plenty of Riviera course knowledge having been the low amateur during the PGA’s Genesis Open and playing the final two rounds with Phil Mickelson, went one extra hole to win Wednesday.
Down by 1 going into the 17th, he dramatically tied it with a clutch 25-foot putt.
“I knew right when I hit it, the speed was going to be right,” Theegala said. “It was kind of a tricky putt. A double-breaker … just went in dead center. All my emotion came out there for sure.”
But to make things even more intriguing, Theegala launched his drive into the fairway at No. 18 then turned and sprinted in the opposite direction toward a row of port-a-potties.
“Just the adrenaline from that last hole, I was like, OK, maybe I can hold it in,” Theegala said. “But after I hit the tee shot, it was like, no, I got to go. I think I ran fast enough.”
Hall might have been distracted. His tee shot at No. 18 went far left and into the high grass. Finding the ball required several extra minutes, allowing Theegala extra time to rejoin play.
Hall sought and got some controversial relief from some TV camera scaffolding and seemed to actually improve his position, but neither he nor Theegala capitalized on the other’s missed shots near the 18th green, forcing the extra hole back at No. 1.
Theegala, who birdied that one to start the match with a 1-up lead, missed his par putt but won when Hall, whose second shot went into a trap, couldn’t recover.
Only one other player with a tie to Southern California advanced Wednesday. La Cañada Flintridge’s Collin Morikawa breezed to a 6-and-5 triumph over Australia’s Blake Collyner. Morikawa faces another Aussie, Dylan Perry, in a Round of 32 match on Thursday (8:25 a.m.).
No. 2 seed Norman Xiong, the 18-year-old out of Temescal Canyon High who now plays at the University of Oregon, saw a late rally fall short against No. 63 Billy Walthouse, a junior at the University of Rhode Island.
Walthouse, 4-up after the 12th hole, saw Xiong eagle the 17th hole to force the 18th hole to be played. Walthouse, who never trailed in the match, birdied the final hole as Xiong made par.
Agoura Hills’ Matthew Wolff also lost, 3 and 2, to Tyler Strafaci, a 19-year-old at Georgia Tech, and USC’s Justin Suh fell, 2 and 1, to 10th-seed Garrett Barber, a 17-year-old in-coming high school senior from Stuart, Fla.
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