OAKMONT, Pa. — Notre Dame fifth-year Davis Chatfield won two U.S. Amateur Championship matches Friday.
Not something that happens every day. But even more surprising: It wasn’t enough to advance to the next day.
Weather delays pushed the end of most Round of 32 matches to early Friday morning, setting the stage for a marathon day at Oakmont Country Club.
After beating Englishman Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of PGA Tour player and 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, Chatfield beat UCLA’s Devon Bling in a thrilling comeback a few hours later.
But his run ended later that day, when North Florida’s Nick Gabrelcik beat Chatfield 1 up in a back-and-forth battle. Chatfield trailed by three on the 11th tee, only to tie the match in a span of four holes.
“Yeah, Davis, he’s a fighter,” Gabrelcik said.
For most of his Round of 16 bout, Chatfield looked outmatched.
Bling, who recently finished his senior season at UCLA, had experience on his side. He made it all the way to the championship match of the 2018 U.S. Amateur, falling to future PGA Tour winner Viktor Hovland. He bested his opponent on the front nine Friday, making smart decisions and bombing long drives.
Chatfield didn’t come in as some unexperienced rookie, though. He made it to the round of 32 in 2018, and the round of 16 in 2020. He dialed in on the back nine Friday and started making strong shots as his opponent began to unravel.
“I just made it simple,” he said. “Fairways and greens will most of the time do you pretty well out here.”
With a 3-up lead through 12 holes, Bling began to struggle off the tee. Poor tee shots on holes No. 13, 14, 15 and 16 led to four consecutive bogeys, and four straight holes won by Chatfield.
Bling got the match to all square on No. 17, but a three-putt on 18 cost him the match.
Chatfield’s Notre Dame teammate and U.S. Amateur Four-Ball partner Palmer Jackson followed his friend the whole day. The Murrysville product Jackson failed to make it past stroke play in this year’s event, but had plenty of course knowledge to share with Chatfield this week, having played Oakmont in countless local events over the years.
“I didn’t get to play holes 3 through 9 in the practice round because it got rained out,” Chatfield said. “(Jackson) gave me a rundown on every single one of those holes. It was tough to go into those blind for stroke play, but he gave me the rundown of pretty much every single hole on both courses.”
Just 50 minutes after beating Bling, Chatfield teed off against Gabrelcik in the quarterfinal. Once again, the Notre Dame star fell behind early, trailing by three holes through 10.
But once again, he mounted a comeback. He got the match to all square with a birdie on No. 14.
Gabrelcik bounced back with a birdie to regain the lead on No. 15. He had hit a strong drive in the fairway, while Chatfield missed the green and conceded Gabrelcik’s short birdie putt after making bogey.
“I was struggling with the tee shot on 15 all week and we decided to finally aim it down the right and not play the wind,” Gabrelcik said. “We just said when I was in the fairway we need to make birdie here. I hit it to about five feet.”
After missed short putts from both players resulted in the tough 16th hole being halved, Gabrelcik put his drive on the green of the short par-4 17th. With the match on the line, Chatfield sank a putt from about 12 feet to halve the hole and keep the match alive.
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Chatfield’s constant perseverance impressed his teammate.
“Coming back from 3-down in back-to-back matches takes incredible grit,” Jackson said. “Today, Davis showed what he is made of.”
Chatfield needed to win the 18th hole to extend the match, but his approach found the greenside bunker. Needing an improbable up-and-down to save par, his lengthy par putt burned the edge of the cup to the disappointment of the many Fighting Irish fans in attendance.
After a week full of weather delays, the tournament is now finally back on schedule. Gabrelcik will now face James Piot in the semifinals at 2:20 p.m. tomorrow, a spot in Sunday’s championship match on the line.
With his parents both hailing from Pittsburgh, winning a U.S. Amateur at Oakmont would be a dream come true.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I never really played golf in Pittsburgh. (My parents) are back home for a week, so definitely moving on in match play just gives them a little more time back home, spending time with their families.”