Even if he wasn’t able to advance any further, North Augusta native Matt NeSmith was glad he made it into the match-play portion of the U.S. Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

NeSmith, a junior at the University of South Carolina, fell 2 and 1 to Sam Burns in the round of 64 on Wednesday. But he said that simply taking the next step was a positive experience.

“I’m just glad to get it over with,” NeSmith said of the confidence boost of earning his first spot in a match in his second trip to the event. “The first time you ever qualify, you’re glad you got that off your back. … I played well enough to make the cut, and I was glad to get that monkey off my back.”

NeSmith said he came out and hit a 20-foot birdie putt to win the first hole, and even though Burns squared with a par on the second, NeSmith answered with a birdie on the par-3 fourth hole. Burns squared the match again on No. 8 with a birdie, and while NeSmith was able to win No. 13 with a par, he never caught Burns.

“I played OK golf probably the first seven holes, and after that, I didn’t have my best stuff,” said NeSmith, pointing to issues both driving and putting.

His opponent was plenty talented enough to take advantage. Burns – a Shreveport, Louisiana, native committed to LSU – is just entering his senior year in high school and is ranked No. 2 in the most recent Golfweek junior rankings.

“He’s had one of the best summers in the country,” NeSmith said of Burns, who carded three birdies to NeSmith’s two. “He’s playing incredible golf right now, and I thought he played great today.”

With his run at the U.S. Amateur complete, NeSmith’s moving back in at South Carolina today. On Aug. 29, the Gamecocks will begin their fall slate at the Carmel Cup, played at historic Pebble Beach.

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.