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Len Ziehm On Golf

Knapp finds two ways to win matches in Western Am

There won’t be any player with local ties in Saturday’s conclusion to the Western Amateur. Charlie Danielson, the University of Illinois stalwart, was eliminated in Friday’s Round of 16 matches at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.

With Danielson out, the coveted title in the 113th playing of the championship will go to one of four college stars – Alabama’s Robbie Shelton, Lipscomb’s Dawson Armstrong, Oregon’s Aaron Wise or UCLA’s Jake Knapp.

Shelton, medalist in the 72-hole stroke play portion of the competition, meets Dawson and Wise meets Knapp in semifinals matches, which begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The winners meet for the title in the afternoon.

Wise set the course record with an 8-under-par 64 on Wednesday in the second round of stroke play. If Shelton wins the title he’d be the first medalist to also rule in match play since Chris Williams in 2012. Knapp could come in tired. He needed 24 holes to survive his quarterfinal match with Texas’ Gavin Hall and eliminated Danielson in the morning.

Danielson’s ouster ended another Illini bid for the Western crown. Last year the Illini had three players reach the Round of 16 – Danielson, Brian Campbell and Nick Hardy. Both Campbell, who has since turned professional, and Hardy, a soon-to-be sophomore from Northbrook, both made the cut at the U.S. Open in June. Hardy didn’t survive this year’s first cut in the stroke play portion of the Western Am.

That left Danielson, who is about to enter his senior season for coach Mike Small’s Illini powerhouse. He contended for medalist honors in the 72-hole stroke play competition held Tuesday through Thursday until he was thwarted by a bogey on his last hole.

His loss in match play, however, had little to do with his own performance. Knapp was just too good. Danielson didn’t make a bogey, but still lost 3 and 2. Knapp put Danielson behind for good when he made a hole-in-one at the third hole.

“Hats off to Jake Knapp. He played unbelievable,’’ said Danielson. “There wasn’t much I could do. He makes a hole-in-one and then reels off four birdies after that. He kept sticking it and making his putts.’’

Danielson, who is from Osceola, Wis., won’t hurry off, however. He’s also a qualifier for the U.S. Amateur, which begins on Aug.17 at Olympia Fields.

“I might try to get to Whistling Straits (the Wisconsin course that hosts the PGA Championship next week), but mainly I’ll hang out in this area,’’ said Danielson. “The U.S. Amateur is a great chance to play against the best players, just like here.’’

Danielson was hoping for two high finishes in the big Chicago area events to convince U.S. coach Spider Miller that he belongs on the Walker Cup team for upcoming matches against Europe. Miller scouted prospective candidates for his team this week in a visit to Rich Harvest.

“I know I’ve got to play better, but I’ve got one more week,’’ said Danielson. “I’ll just practice and prepare.’’

Danielson, though, has probably played the Western Amateur for the last time. With no Walker Cup in 2016 to use as an incentive to remain an amateur, Danielson plans to turn pro after his senior year at Illinois.