Georgia Tech looked like a good bet to advance at least one of its stars into Saturday's semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.
However, both Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder fell victim to the mildest of upsets in quarterfinal matches Friday at Oak Hill Country Club.
In a meeting of the top two amateur golfers in the world, Sergio "El Nino" Garcia edged Kuchar, closing the match with a two-hole lead after the 17th hole.
Molder, who plays in Kuchar's shadow at Georgia Tech but earned a college player-of-the-year honor as a freshman last season, was defeated by Southern Methodist University star Hank Kuehne, 5 and 4.
In the other quarterfinals, Tom McKnight, a 43-year-old petroleum distributor, defeated Sean Knapp, a 36-year-old financial planner; and Bill Lunde of Nevada-Las Vegas defeated Oklahoma State's Landry Mahan, 5 and 4.
The Garcia-Kuchar match lived up to expectations as both golfers played brilliantly.
Garcia, 18, made three birdies on the final six holes and played 17 holes in 4-under par. Kuchar, 20, the defending champion and darling of this year's Masters tournament, made three birdies and two bogeys.
Garcia took the lead by making an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th hole. Kuchar made bogey on the par-4 17th to end the match.
Molder and Kuchar split the two main collegiate player of the year awards last season. Molder capped a phenomenal freshman year by winning the Jack Nicklaus Trophy, which is based on a points system in college play.
The 20-year-old Kuchar won the Fred Haskins Award, which is voted on by a panel of coaches.
Molder is the son of an investment banker in Little Rock, Ark., and has played in top events all over the country since he was 14.
He was a second-team junior All-America as a 16-year-old and a was the No. 2-ranked junior in the nation two years ago.
He carries himself on the course with the confident, stoic manner of PGA Tour veteran.
So his success as a college freshman was not a big surprise: "His goal going into his freshman year was to be first-team All-America," said his caddy and friend, Frank Ramey.
"He thought he was that good. The kid's got major experience. He's seasoned. That's why the really good ones -- and he's one of them -- are coming out of college and doing so well right away in the pros."
"The first tournament of the college season I finished third, and it wasn't even the best I could play," said Molder. "So I knew then I could play with anybody."
That includes Kuchar. Molder placed sixth at the NCAA Championships, Kuchar seventh. But Molder is very much in the shadow of the more charismatic, flamboyant Kuchar.
"That's not a problem," said Molder. "He's a good guy and a great player. He's got the face, he's got the smile, so people come out here and if they watch someone it's probably going to be him."
"I can't name any strength he has," said Kuchar. "He does nothing overwhelming. He's just consistent."
"I'll go along with that, except for his irons," said Ramey.
"From 4-iron to 8-iron, he's as accurate as most good players are with their wedges. He's a great, accurate iron player."
Molder proved that in his round of 16 win over Andy Miller, the son of golf legend Johnny Miller. Molder was 3-under through 15 holes and birdied four of the last seven to close the match.