Christopher Crawford is continuing to ride the wave of his U.S. Open appearance at Oakmont Country Club at this week’s 13th R. Jay Sigel Match Play Championship presented by Allegheny Health Network, which is being staged at St. Davids Golf Club in Tredyffrin Township.
Crawford, who capped the finest career in the history of the Drexel program this spring, cruised to qualifying medalist honors Tuesday as he blitzed the challenging Donald Ross design with rounds of 66 and 67 for a 7-under 133 total, four shots clear of the field.
As temperatures soared into the 90s Wednesday, Crawford began his day with a 3 and 1 victory over Eric Williams of Honesdale Golf Club.
Then the heat really got turned up, both on the thermometer and the level of competition as Crawford’s quarterfinal opponent was none other than Nathan Smith, four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and three-time winner of the Sigel Match Play.
Smith, the 1994 PIAA champion as a sophomore at Brookville, had survived a tough test from Overbrook Golf Club’s James Kania Jr. in the opening round, holding on for a 2 and 1 triumph. Kania, winner of the 2009 William Hyndman III Award as the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Player of the Year, fell into an early 3-down hole against Smith and was never able to get closer than a two-hole deficit.
It set up a heavyweight showdown at the top of the bracket between Crawford, the reigning Patterson Cup champion, and Smith, who will arrive at Stonewall in September seeking a fifth U.S. Mid-Amateur title.
And Crawford showed he can handle the heat as the pulled out a 3 and 2 victory.
After some early sparring, Crawford surged to a 3-up lead on the strength of birdies at five and six and an eagle at the par-5 11th. Smith cut the deficit to 2-up by winning 13 with a par, but Crawford answered right back by winning 14 with a birdie.
Smith, who plays out of Pinecrest Country Club, again cut it to 2-up by winning 15 with a par, but Crawford again had the answer and his birdie at the par-5 16th closed out his classy opponent.
Crawford, who plays out of Spring Mill Country Club, is coming off a solid performance at another Donald Ross design as he reached the quarterfinals of the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
Crawford’s opponent in Thursday morning’s semifinals will be Matt Holuta, a junior at Rutgers who plays out of Indiana Country Club. Holuta reached the semifinals with a 2 and 1 victory over Scott McLaughlin of LuLu Country Club.
Another quarterfinal winner Wednesday was Huntingdon Valley Country Club’s Kyle Sterbinsky, the Peddie School product who had a solid freshman campaign at Wake Forest, helping the Demon Deacons nearly make the final eight teams that competed in match play at the NCAA Championship.
Sterbinsky advanced to the semifinals with a 6 and 4 win over GAP veteran and St. Davids favorite Stephen Dressel.
Sterbinsky’s semifinal opponent will be Chad Warmbein, a former Ohio University standout who plays out of Hickory Heights Golf Club.
Warmbein had the toughest road to the semifinals, pulling out a win on the 20th hole over Luke Miller of St. Clair Country Club in the quarterfinals after surviving a test against Arnie Cutrell of Greensburg Country Club with a 1-up win. Cutrell survived a six-hole playoff to earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open in a qualifier held at Applebrook Golf Club a couple of weeks ago.