GOLF

“The Dog” versus the other dog (faster), Sam Bennett and Dylan Menante will meet in the All-Alpha Semi-Finals

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PARAMUS, NJ – North Carolina assistant coach Matt Clark stood about 50 yards from the green at the par-3 15e Friday hole at Ridgewood Country Club. His new player, transfer stallion Pepperdine Dylan Menante, putted in his American amateur quarter-final match against 15-year-old Nicholas Gross.

“I would be shocked if he missed that,” Clark said.

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“How long is it?” asked this reporter.

“I don’t know,” Clark replied. “He’ll just get by.”

Clark has been Menante’s coach for just over two months, but he’s seen him enough in an opposing uniform to know. Dean Menante, a veteran of that championship in 1984 and his son’s caddy this week, had the exact feeling.

“He’ll ask me questions,” Dean explained, “but when he doesn’t say anything, I know he’s connected. I’ve seen him many, many times.”

This time, from 15 feet, Menante, 21, did not miss. When the winning putt dropped to clinch Menante’s spot in Saturday’s first semifinal, which begins at 2 p.m. ET, the only question was who he would play.

It would take almost an hour to find the answer.

As the Menantes hopped on a trolley back to the three-story Ridgewood clubhouse, the match behind them, which started 15 minutes later, was still just 12 holes.


US Amateur Match Score


“I’m going to be slowed down tomorrow anyway,” Menante said of his potential semi-final opponents, fellow top-10 amateurs Sam Bennett and Stewart Hagestad. “I know that for a fact.”

A day earlier, Menante, widely regarded as the fastest player in amateur golf, had grown so impatient in his match against Maxwell Moldovan that he started hitting the chip-drivers on purpose just so he could play his second shots first and don’t have to wait.

Once Bennett knocked out Hagestad, 3&2, Menante was already preparing, at least for him, for another blow.

“Yeah, he plays fast,” Bennett said. “I can slow him down, but he’ll move on and do whatever he wants. I think I’m a pretty slow player, but I don’t know…it won’t matter much.

Bennett isn’t one to be easily fazed. He ignores criticism of his homemade swing, and he doesn’t care if people disagree with his decision to give up Korn Ferry Tour status in favor of returning to Texas A&M for a fifth year. He broke his collarbone playing intramural flag football as a sophomore, but that won’t stop him from joining an IM basketball team this fall.

So he certainly didn’t care that his path to the semi-finals was arguably the toughest in championship history, at least in the era of world amateur golf rankings, which began in 2007. .

This week he beat No. 13 Nick Gabrelcik, No. 27 Fred Biondi, No. 10 David Puig and now No. 9 Hagestad, who on Thursday morning birdied eight and scored an eagle in just 14 holes.

“They’re great players, but I’m a better player,” said Bennett, who isn’t wrong if you go by world rankings; Bennett is third, the highest-ranked American.

Bennett fell early against Hagestad but rarely moved as the game progressed. He won a hole with bogey (#8) to take his first lead and then enjoyed a lucky break at the par-5 13ewhere the flag prevented a badly hit corner from ending up well over the hole and helped save an even par.


Highlights: American amateur, quarter-finals


A hole later, Bennett delivered a huge punch pump after rolling in a 15-footer for a birdie to go up 3, and he then stuck his tee shot to give distance to the par-3 15e hole, forcing Hagestad to strike a blow; he did and birdied, but a potential comeback was called off a few strokes later.

“He’s got a lot of self-confidence,” said Hagestad, 31, who was trying to become the first mid-amateur to win the US Amateur since 1993, “and I think he’s got a good mentality for match play. ..ready to play the 12 rounds from the first tee.”

The guy in the other corner on Saturday will demand Bennett’s full attention. Ranked eighth in the world, Menante put in a dominating performance to defend his North East amateur title earlier this summer, posting a record 19 under.

He’s a little unorthodox, takes little time and sometimes gets his ball inches from the right starting marker, but there’s no doubt Menante can play. And he can go downright unconscious with the flatstick.

“Once I see one and like it, it’s like I feel comfortable doing it,” Menante said.

Even when Gross went on bomb after bomb, Menante never wavered. He was 2 on four holes before notching four consecutive birdies to tip the game to 2 in his favor. The first two were conceded as Gross, who could have become this Championship’s youngest ever semi-finalist, started to slide but Menante stuffed a 5ft one at No 7 and then drained his own long distance putt, 22 feet away. at No. 8.

From there, he made all the pars until his irrefutable closes victory.

“I was just more consistent,” Menante said. “I think he made those longer putts, but I was still on the green giving myself a chance, that’s what you have to do.”

Menante made headlines earlier this year when he entered the transfer portal after winning an NCAA title with the Waves the previous season. As Menante tells it, he needed a change of scenery.

“Two weeks before the nationals, I was like, ‘I’m done. I don’t want to be here anymore,” Menante recalls.

With some of his teammates turning pro and assistant coach Blaine Woodruff taking over as chief in Chattanooga, Menante entered the portal on June 2. He was contacted by about 50 schools, but he had a list of four desired destinations shortened fairly quickly. He signed with the Tar Heels a few weeks later.

What’s important this week is that former Menante teammate Derek Hitchner is still alive in the bottom half of the table, and Pepperdine head coach Michael Beard is Hitchner’s caddy. If Hitchner beat Ben Carr in their semi-final and Menante took care of business himself, they would meet for the Havemeyer Trophy on Sunday.

“I thought about it,” Menante said. “It’s interesting since Beard is on the sack. I would take this match very personally, like MJ. … I do everything I see. I grind. I make sure that every shot is the last.

If you think Menante doesn’t mince words, Bennett also couldn’t hold back on Saturday, telling Golf Channel on-course analyst Colt Knost on live TV after beating Hagestad: “I feel like I’m the dog in this race right now.”

Those who long for a clash between two alphas are licking their chops.

Bennett may have the biggest chunk left in this area, but he’ll have to follow Menante first to use it.

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