Matching Up

Coloradan Griffin Barela gives world’s 10th-ranked amateur a scare before falling at U.S. Am; CU’s Justin Biwer rallies to advance to round of 32

By Gary Baines – 8/17/2022

The 531st-ranked amateur in the world gave the No. 10 amateur on the planet all he wanted in Wednesday’s round-of-64 match at the U.S. Amateur in Paramus, N.J.

Griffin Barela of Lakewood, the first Coloradan since 2016 to advance to match play at the 312-man U.S. Am, pushed Spaniard David Puig, currently ranked No. 10 in the world among amateurs, to the 18th hole before Puig scored a 1-up victory.

The Arizona State University golfer was tied with Barela going through 17 holes, but won the 18th with a birdie while the Coloradan made a bogey.

Griffin Barela of Lakewood hits a drive during Wednesday’s round of 64 at the U.S. Am. (Photo: Grant Halverson/USGA)

Meanwhile, University of Colorado golfer Justin Biwer of San Diego rallied in a big way to defeat Khavish Varadan of Malaysia, a University of Alabama at Birmingham golfer, and advance to Thursday’s round of 32. Biwer, the first CU golfer since David Oraee (round of 16 in 2015) to make match play in the championship, was 2 down through 12 holes, but won the next four holes en route to a 2 and 1 victory.

Biwer, who is going into his sophomore year at CU, prevailed on No. 13 with a birdie and on 14 through 16 with pars to go from 2 down to 2 up. He then tied Varadan with pars on No. 17 to closed things out. 

Biwer had lost the first two holes of the match to pars, but came back to tie things on holes 4, 7, 10 and 14. 

In Thursday’s round of 32 — starting at 8:30 a.m. (MT) — Biwer will face Walker Isley of Oak Island, N.C., a 3 and 2 winner over Ireland’s Mark Power on Wednesday. Isley plays his college golf at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

The winner of that match will play in the round of 16 on Thursday afternoon. The U.S. Am’s 36-hole final is set for Sunday.

In the beginning of the Barela-Puig match, it didn’t look like it would be a down-to-the-wire affair. Puig won three of the first four holes — all with birdies — and was 3 up through six holes. But Barela, the 2021 CGA Amateur champ who played his college golf at the University of Wisconsin, slowly chipped away from the deficit, prevailing on Nos. 7 and 9 with pars and on 12 and 13 with birdies to go 1 up.

Puig, who twice has represented Europe in the Arnold Palmer Cup competition, won No. 14 with a par to square things, then the players tied 15 and 16 with pars and 17 with birdies.

Barela finished the round 1 over par at Ridgewood Country Club, while Puig was 4 under, having won individual holes by two or three strokes on three occasions.

Barela had finished tied for 14th out of 312 golfers in the stroke-play portion of the event, which concluded on Tuesday.

Next year’s U.S. Amateur will be held in Colorado at Cherry Hills Country Club.

Here were the stroke-play scores for all the players with strong Colorado ties who competed in the U.S. Amateur:

Advance to Match Play

14. Griffin Barela of Lakewood 70-72–142

21. CU golfer Justin Biwer 70-73–143

Failed to Advance to Match Play

121. Cole Nygren of Longmont 78-72–150

136. Gavin Hagstrom of Fort Collins/CSU 77-74–151

151. CU golfer Dylan McDermott 74-78—152

208. Dillon Stewart of Fort Collins 77-78–155

222. DU golfer Carson Griggs 75-81–156

254. Sam Marley of Centennial 82-76–158

For all the scores from the U.S. Am, CLICK HERE.