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August 16, 2014

Corey Conners


PETE KOWALSKI: We'd like to welcome our second finalist for the 2014 U.S. Amateur, Corey Conners from Canada, who was a 1-up winner over Denny McCarthy in the semifinals match. Second year in the semifinals, but you made it a step further, and in fact you are the first Canadian finalist since Gary Cowan in 1971. You're in a good spot. Tell us a little bit about the fact that you actually did get to the point where you're playing for the championship tomorrow, and then we'll take some questions.

COREY CONNERS: All right, yeah. It feels pretty good to have made it a little bit further than last year. It was a lot of fun last year and learned a lot. But yeah, just really excited about this year, playing some nice golf, and really pumped up for tomorrow to have some fun and try and finish it off.

Q. Corey, you're in a pretty unique position to speak to this, but there's a lot at stake today, more than just getting into the finals with Augusta and the U.S. Open on the line. Last year you missed out. Can you speak to the difference in sort of emotional feelings of how much it stung last year to come so close and then this year to achieve those?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, definitely being so close last year, it did sting quite a bit. I still tried to keep my head up and be proud of making it to the semis. Quite an accomplishment in itself. But it did sting a little bit, so there was a little more motivation this year, I guess. I knew what it felt like. Just tried to bear down and do my thing out there.

Q. How good does it feel?
COREY CONNERS: I don't know, I don't even know yet. It hasn't really sunk in yet. But obviously it's going to feel awesome and be really special.

Q. To follow up on that, last year when you were so close and didn't make it, how much did you beat yourself up afterwards saying I was so close?
COREY CONNERS: I tried to minimize that as much as I could, just because making it to the semis I was very proud of how I played, and even that match that I ended up losing, I played really nicely and was really happy with how I did. I didn't really beat myself up at all.

Q. Looking ahead to tomorrow, I don't suppose you know much about Gunn. What are you expecting?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, I don't know too much about him. Never played together. I am expecting it to be another good match. He's obviously playing well. Everyone who makes it to match play is a pretty darned good golfer. He's obviously beat some talented guys, and I'm sure he's playing well, so it'll be fun. Excited.

Q. Do you put any stock in the amateur rankings, the fact that you are top 50, he's 600 whatever?
COREY CONNERS: Not -- I don't know, not at this point. It doesn't really matter. There's so many good players that you can't get too bogged down by the numbers.

Q. Corey, if you can just talk about the 18th hole and what went through your head when that ball went in the water, and were you thinking, oh, dear, I've possibly thrown this away?
COREY CONNERS: No, I wasn't real excited that it ended up kicking into the water but still knew I was going to be able to drop up there and be able to reach the green. After my drop would be my third shot. So I wasn't too upset about it. I just walked up there and figured out what I had and never -- I didn't really know that Denny's ball went in the bunker off the tee. Actually I thought it might have stayed short, but it was hard to tell from the tee. When he laid up, I was just trying to get my ball on the green, give myself a look for par, and not give the hole away, basically tried to stay in it, and knew that I'd be able to stay in it even with hitting the ball in the water.

Q. How would you describe how you played today, and what was the key hole for you?
COREY CONNERS: I played pretty nicely. The golf course was playing really, really difficult today. I had a lot of very tricky putts, even tricky to two-putt to get it close to the hole, tough to read. But yeah, pretty happy with how I played, obviously. Hit a lot of nice shots, especially the last couple holes. The two 5-irons on 17 and 18 were pretty nice. Pivotal hole, not -- I don't know, not really sure. Maybe on 13 we both hit nice approach shots and I was able to win the hole with a par, and it gave me a little bit of a lead.

Q. I know you've just been here hanging with your pals from the team, the national team, but will there be a rush across the border, anyone coming down to see the final?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, I think so. I think I'll have some hometown fans tomorrow. Some of my family might come down. I kind of told them they can just -- they didn't have to come. Just having fun with the guys and in a good place, and don't want to be too distracted, but if they come tomorrow, it'll be awesome to have some extra support.

Q. How important was it to get off to a fast start today?
COREY CONNERS: Really important. I like playing early in the morning. I had a nice warmup and was excited about starting and knew it was going to be really important to not give any holes away and try and win a few early and get myself into a groove. I birdied the first hole, but it felt good and kind of off and running. Yeah, it was a good match. Getting off to a good start was very important. Same thing tomorrow, it will be really important to play nicely on the first few holes and get into a rhythm and feel comfortable out there.

Q. They say in match play that you often want to play your own game, particularly when you don't know the player who you're playing against. In tomorrow's final, is there any aspect of this course where you feel like you can take advantage playing your own game?
COREY CONNERS: Just hopefully hitting the ball, hitting lots of fairways and hitting lots of nice iron shots, just keep putting pressure on your opponent, try to match their nice shots or whatever. But I've been hitting the ball pretty nicely, so just keep doing that and play to my strengths, just try and get the ball in the fairway and hit nice shots into the green.

Q. Can you go back to talking about how good your 5-iron was to you today and the decision process on the 17th tee to switch from the 6 to the 5?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, so it was 211, seven yards downhill made it 204, and it was 184 to the front, and I originally grabbed a 6-iron, was trying to hit like a 195 shot with that, but just felt a little wind coming into my face and just talked it over with Taylor, my caddie, and just said, is a 6 going to be enough. Originally I thought it would be okay, but when I was standing behind the ball, I was a little worried I needed to hit a perfect 6-iron to get it there, and even if I hit it really good, I wasn't sure if it could get all the way back to the pin. The switch to the 5, tried to make a nice smooth swing, and yeah, hit it pretty soft, but I knew with the 5 I was going to have enough club even if I had a little mis-hit, and yeah, it worked out. Worked out pretty nicely. Unfortunately I got a little past the pin and left a tricky putt, but I can't complain, hitting it to eight feet from 211.

Q. And then it was good to you again on 18 when you got in trouble.
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, similar shot. With the pin on the right there was some wind pushing the ball from left to right, so that was nice. I was 205, able to just aim at the middle of the green, and if the ball happened to fall a little right, which it did, I was going to be in line with the pin and hopefully be pretty close. It kind of released a little bit. Didn't hit it too high, but was pretty happy with that shot in that position. Kind of put the pressure back on my opponent.

Q. Going back to earlier in the match, you got off to the good start, you made the birdie at 7, you're 2-up, and then the next three holes you played in 4-over and he caught up. What was your mindset at that point because you had hit the hole on your putt on 10, too, after you lost 8 and 9.
COREY CONNERS: Uh-huh, yeah. Not a great tee shot on 8 or 9, kind of made things difficult on myself. I was a little too greedy on my approach on 9, I think, hit the middle of the green which ultimately led to a bogey. And then on 10 the first putt I hit really fooled me. I thought it was going to break considerably from left to right and it actually stayed virtually straight, and I was aiming about six feet outside the left, and that's where it ended up, so I had a tricky par-saving putt. I thought I hit it pretty nice, and it just lipped out, and I wasn't too disappointed because I had actually hit two nice putts. Nothing I really wanted to change about the way I hit those shots. Yeah, I don't know. I still kind of, I guess, got lucky on 10 when we halved it with a bogey, but I was never really concerned or frustrated with any of the shots. Just tried to keep going and do my thing.

Q. When he hit the second shot or the approach shot to 12 out of bounds, are you conscious of everything that's going on, and how do you view that in terms of the match is all square at that point?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, I knew -- well, yeah, I knew where I stood. At that point I knew he was hitting his fifth shot from a greenside bunker on the right and was going to play before I even hit my third. I didn't have a very good lie in the bunker because the ball was sitting down, and kind of a tricky little bunker shot, but with having the little cushion I had, to just get it on and only needing to two-putt, I don't know, I was able to take a little safer route and hit a pretty nice shot to 30 feet. I had a difficult two-putt and kind of ran it by a bit, but it was nice to make a par. So yeah, I knew where I stood in that position. Just tried to be a little bit more conservative out of the bunker and make sure I didn't leave it in the bunker, or if I took a more aggressive line, it could have gone into the back bunker quite easily.

Q. Tell me a little bit about your history at Listowel Golf Club. Am I saying it right?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, Listowel. I've been there as long as I can remember. I started playing there when I was like five or six years old. My dad has been a member there for years, since around 1970. He's been there for a long time. Family, lots of family in that area. It's a pretty nice course for the area. It's in a really small town, but it's in beautiful condition, and it just keeps getting better. They have 27 holes now, and I worked there starting when I was in grade seven, I think, was a back shop boy, and when I got to high school I started working in the pro shop and had a lot of responsibility around there, I guess, so it was pretty cool. Everybody, all the members from the course know me really well, seeing me there every day throughout the summers. Yeah, I'm pretty lucky to grow up there. Every time I am back, which isn't that often anymore, I think about how lucky I am to have that as a home.

Q. Given all that's at stake tomorrow, how helpful is it to have such a supportive team right with you, not somebody you can call but somebody you can hang out with, somebody you can talk to?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, it's awesome. I could hear them cheering for me out there today, and it just puts a smile on my face. It was awesome. And yeah, having them here, it'll be easy to be relaxed this afternoon and this evening and tomorrow morning. They're all a lot of fun to be around, and yeah, we'll just have a good time, and it'll be good. I'm really happy that they're here, and it's nice they've stayed to support me.

Q. You probably would have been maybe 11 years old or something when Mike Weir won the Masters. Is that perhaps one of your earliest memories of Augusta, and how cool would it be to get down there and maybe play with him in a practice round?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, definitely. I think that would probably be one of my first memories. I was telling somebody yesterday I remember watching it on TV, he had a six-foot putt to get into a playoff on the 18th hole, and I had to leave the living room and go into another room I was so nervous and excited for him. I think I heard the TV or my dad, some fans cheering on the TV or my dad clapping and I came back and saw that he made it, and I was pretty excited. Yeah, that was kind of when I was getting into some competitive golf, and I really looked up to Mike. Yeah, it would be cool to maybe play a game with him.

Q. Talk about the fact that you get to Chambers Bay, as well. Have you been there?
COREY CONNERS: I have never been there, but that's obviously quite exciting, as well. I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and it'll be lots of fun.
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