Top Seeds Harwell and Abbott Advance to Match Play Final
Sports fans love a good Cinderella story. From South Carolina basketball taking the NCAA tournament by storm in March, all the way back to lowly David slaying Goliath, the intrigue of the little guy taking down a mighty titan has always been present. But at the 2017 Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play, there are no such storylines. On Saturday, the top two overall seeds – No. 1 Colby Harwell and No. 2 Scott Abbott — advanced to the championship match with their gutsy performances.
Both Harwell and Abbott had to grind out their victories in order to set up their showdown Sunday morning.
Harwell took care of No. 25 seed Gene Williams in his morning match, cruising to a 4 and 3 victory. But his afternoon bout with No. 5 Danny Simmerman would not be so simple.
Harwell and Simmerman – both members at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio — play together frequently, which added to the stakes of the match.
“It puts a little extra pressure on you, because you want to win,” Harwell said. “He’s a good friend and I want him to succeed. But then again the competitor in me wants to win too.”
The top-seeded Harwell took control of the match early and stretched his lead to 2-up heading to the 10th tee. But Simmerman came back with a flurry of punches on the back nine, starting with a birdie on No. 10. He followed it by winning holes 12, 13 and 14 to take control of the match, leading 2-up with four to play. But then Harwell proved why he is the top seed in the tournament.
The San Antonio resident Harwell won the 15th hole, and halved the 16th hole, leaving a 1-down deficit going to No. 17 – a drivable, uphill par-4. He decided to go for the green with driver, which paid off as he found the green and two-putted for birdie to square the match going to 18.
“I knew if I hit my driver well I could get to the front of the green,” Harwell said. “It worked out perfectly.”
On 18, Harwell faced a difficult 60-yard bunker shot that he played to perfection, leaving himself an 18-footer for birdie. There was never a doubt. He walked the ball in the hole for a 1-up victory.
The drama for Abbott came early in the day.
Abbott hit a poor tee shot on 18 in his match against Barrett Sandefur, which was all square. He had to punch out, leaving himself a long putt from off the green. His goal was to get the ball close and send the match to extra holes. Fortunately for him, he wouldn’t need them.
“I wasn’t trying to make it at all – I’ll be honest,” Abbott said. “Maybe I should try to make putts, but this one I was just trying to lag up there, and it just rolled in.”
The key in the second match for Abbott was a sliding, 15-foot birdie putt on No. 16. He called it his best putt of the day. It got the match to dormie, which he closed out on the next hole.
Abbott has a bit of extra motivation heading into the championship match with the top seed. Harwell knocked him out of the tournament last year at Northwood Club in a match that took several extra holes.
“I’m going to have to give him a hard time in the morning about it,” Abbott said. “He’s a heck of a player. I look forward to hopefully playing my best – and think of it as a rematch.”
Harwell has his own motivation heading into tomorrow. He lost in the championship match to Zach Atkinson 1-down to keep his name off the trophy.
“It just kind of lights a little fire underneath me,” Harwell said. “I’d like to win – cause Zach and I both played really well (last year). I’d like to play well again and have a chance to hold the trophy at the end of it.”
The championship match will begin Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. off the No. 1 tee. For complete results and updated brackets, click here.
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