THE GOG BLOG by RORY SPEARS, Director of Content and Creation, with Patrick Flavin at Sunset Ridge Country Club, home of this weeks 116th Western Amateur. Follow Rory on Twitter @GogBlogGuy and on Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram.           _____________________________________________________________________

Cole Hammer on green (L) with Spencer Ralston on green (m) walk to their golf balls on the 17th green.

IT’S DOWN TO THE FINAL FOUR after another 36 hole day for most of the players that were left in the Sweet 16, that is unless your Davis Riley of Alabama who won his matches 4&3 and 5&4 and is the only player remaining that did not have to play 30 holes on Friday.

Medalist Cole Hammer headed to the University of Texas as a freshman, had a long day. His first match went 20 holes and had to survive a missed putt by his Sweet 16 opponent  and 16 seed Davis Shore. In afternoon match he was 2 Dn after 13 holes, but hung on to defeat University of Georgia Junior Spencer Ralston.

Ralston had to make a comeback on the back nine of his morning match against local favorite Patrick Flavin of Highwood, who is a recent graduate of the Miami of Ohio. Flavin the only Illinois player to make the match play, led 2 UP at the turn, before Ralston roared back to win 3&2.

After rolling in a 10 birdie putt on the 13th hole to go two up, Ralston’s drive on 14 was in the fairway but found a divot. His approach shot was a low liner that dove right of the green and behind a tree. That was the opening that Hammer needed to get back in the match. Hitting his approach shot 6 feet and making the birdie cut Ralston’s lead to 1 Up, and the momentum changed.

On the par 3, 15th Ralston missed a short putt and the match was squared. The par 5 16th saw Hammer get home in two shots, and make birdie to win his third straight hole and go 1 UP. After both players missed birdie and par putts on 17, the match went to the 18 hole.

After Hammer missed the green with his approach and the ball ended up in the high green side rough, Ralston hit his approach into 12 feet. Hammer almost holed his chip leaving the shot about 2 inches short of the cup. Ralston looking to force extra holes ran his putt over the edge of the cup, and Hammer moved on to Saturdays semi-finals and Ralston to Pebble Beach and the U.S. Amateur in two weeks.

Click here to hear interviews with Cole Hammer, and Spencer Ralston after their quarterfinal match.

Hammer will play Stanford’s Brandon Wu in the first semi-final on Saturday, with Riley the winner of the 2017 Fighting Illini Classic at Olympia Fields, playing Georgia Tech Jr. Tyler Strafaci, a 2 Up winner over Kaiwen Liu a freshman at California in the other semi-final. Liu’s teammate at Cal the highly ranked Collin Morikawa lost 4&2 to 13th seed John Augenstein in the Round of 16.

Tee times for the semi-finals are 8:00 Am and 8:12, and the championship match could start late in the noon hour. The championship presentation will start immediately after the conclusion of play. It’s the last day of Western Amateur play in the Chicago area until the year 2021. Next year the championship returns to Point O’Woods Country Club in Benton Harbor Michigan.

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About Rory Spears

Rory spent over 8 years growing up working at Rob Roy Golf Club in Prospect Hts.IL, then two years at Chevy Chase in Wheeling. He has covered golf in Chicago since 1986. Rory was one of the initial members of WSCR all-sports radio Chicago and covered golf there for 5 seasons, before moving on to work for ESPN/Sportsticker and ESPN Radio. In addition to hosting Golfers on Golf Radio on WNDZ Am 750 Chicago, he writes for both Chicagoland Golf and the Chicago District (CDGA) Magazine. Rory has played over 460 courses in 37 states, and rates golf courses. He does golf course management and communications consulting, in the golf industry.