THE FLATS – Georgia Tech’s Ross Steelman scored a big Round of 16 victory over Florida’s Ricky Castillo Friday morning but came up short in his quarterfinal match Friday afternoon against University of North Carolina junior Austin Greaser, 2 and 1, in the 121st U.S. Amateur championship at Oakmont Country Club.
It was the third straight year a Georgia Tech golfer has reached the quarterfinals, following Andy Ogletree and Tyler Strafaci, who won the U.S. Amateur in 2019 and 2020. But the Havemeyer Trophy will not return to the Tech campus in 2021.
Steelman, seeded 17th in the match play bracket and ranked No. 98 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, battled back after losing the first three holes, extending the match to the 17th hole before succumbing. Greaser, ranked No, 82 in the world and seeded 24th in the championship, birdied the first two holes and parred the third to quickly move ahead 3-up. After Steelman got one hole back with a par at the par-3 6th, Greaser carded another birdie at the par-4 7th.
Having played well on the back nine all week, Steelman shaved his deficit to a single hole with birdies at 9 and 10. After Greaser birdied the par-5 12th to go back up two, the Columbia, Mo., native answered with a birdie at the par-3 13th. A bogey at the par-3 16th allowed Greaser a 2-hole lead, and the match ended at 17 when both players made birdie.
“Just don’t hit the panic button yet. There are 18 holes for a reason,” said Steelman when asked his mindset after dropping the first three holes. “I was able to get it pretty tight down the stretch. I missed a makeable putt on 15 to square it up, and then got a bad break plug in the front bunker on 16 and he made a good birdie on top of me on 17 to win.”
Steelman felt his game was up to the rigors of Oakmont Country Club, at which par has been premium for each of the U.S. Open championships held there.
“Oakmont was absolutely incredible,” said Steelman. “You’ve got to think your way around that course pretty well, and I think I played the course pretty well every day. Austin just played very well today, made a lot of birdies. I thought I was going to be able to come back again today, but came up short.”
Steelman reached the quarters by eliminating the world’s No. 5-ranked amateur, Gators’ junior Ricky Castillo, who was seeded 33rd, by a 3 and 2 score. Castillo opened the match by winning the first hole, but Steelman never lost another hole. He squared the match with a birdie at the par-3 6th, then took his first lead with a birdie at the par-5 12th. He closed out the Yorba Linda, Calif., player with pars at 14 and 16.
Prior to Friday, Steelman defeated the world’s No. 30-ranked amateur, Louis Dobbelaar of Australia, in the Round of 64, and eliminated Auburn junior J.M. Butler in the Round of 32. His performance this week left Steelman confident and optimistic about joining his new team this fall.
“I’m very happy. I’ve played well since middle of the spring,” said Steelman, who transferred from Missouri after two seasons there. “I’ve been able to keep playing well, and the other guys of our team have played well too. I’ve always been a pretty good driver of the ball, hit it pretty long and straight, but my iron play has gone from decent to pretty darn good. My short game and putting are improving pretty rapidly too.”
Steelman qualified for the U.S. Amateur by winning medalist honors at Rome, Ga., with rounds of 66-66. His best finishes this summer were a tie for third at the Monroe Invitational and a tie for 11th at the Northeast Amateur. A second-team All-SEC selection as a sophomore in 2021 at Missouri, he won two collegiate events in two seasons there. He finished the 2020-21 collegiate season as the 28th-ranked player in the nation by Golfstat, and No. 33 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Index.
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Georgia Tech’s golf team has completed 25 years under head coach Bruce Heppler, winning 64 tournaments in his tenure. The Yellow Jackets have won 18 Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, made 29 appearances in the NCAA Championship and been the national runner-up four times. Connect with Georgia Tech Golf on social media by liking their Facebook page, or following on Twitter (@GTGolf) and Instagram. For more information on Tech golf, visit Ramblinwreck.com.