PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Aug. 17, 2012) -– Given the spectacular nature of Spyglass Hill’s first five holes, it might come as a surprise that NCGA Amateur Match Play Champion Jake Yount now has a special affinity for the iconic course’s back nine.
The champion made do this week by playing his best golf on Spyglass Hill’s final nine. In his four matches leading up to the 36-hole final Yount trailed early in three of four his matches before making his move on the back nine to finish off his opponents. Friday told a different story though as Yount got off to a quick start and cruised to the finish line winning 6 & 4 over Eric Ash.
“I got off to a great start,” said Yount. “That really set the tone early.”
On the second hole of the match, when it took Ash five shots to get on the green after hitting two poor chip shots, Yount took a 1-up lead and would maintain it the rest of the day. By the end of the seventh hole Ash was 3 down due to more trouble, having hit his approach on the sixth hole into the greenside bunker and on the seventh hitting his drive beside a tree that hindered his swing. Ash looked to get back in the match briefly when he hit his approach shot on No. 8 to four feet for a birdie and found himself 2 down. However, he then took a bogey on ninth when his ball failed to get to the fairway after it clipped a tree on his tee shot. Making the turn at 3 down, Ash continued to get into trouble, while Yount continued to play steady hitting lots of fairways and greens.
“[Once I took the lead] my goal was only to get beat by birdies,” said the 25-year-old tech salesman, who finished the front nine with eight pars and one bogey.
Playing from behind, Ash took an aggressive line on his tee shot towards the flagstick on the 12th hole, which would end up in the water to go 4 down. Then, on the 13th hole, the 19-year-old would hook his drive left out of bounds, and suddenly he found himself at 5 down. On the par-3 15th, Yount hit his tee shot to 15 feet and make his only holed birdie of the day to go 6 up, which is where the match would stand after the first 18.
“On this golf course, [it seems] pars always win,” said Yount, who made 16 of them over his opening 18 holes.
The second 18, Ash would hang tough and actually win more holes than Yount—winning four holes to Yount’s three—but by then he was running out of opportunities.
“It’s was definitely too little too late,” said the rising sophomore at Sonoma State. “I really dug myself a big hole at the start, so I knew it was going to be tough to comeback.”
Interestingly enough, Yount accomplished a lot of firsts this week. For one this was the first NCGA Amateur Match Play he has competed in, although he had qualified for one previously in 2005, he pulled out of after qualifying for the U.S. Amateur that year. Second, this is the first trophy he will have his name engraved on. From a historic perspective Yount became the first mid-amateur to win the event since Matt Bettencourt won in 2001. But maybe the most interesting first of all was that this was Yount’s first time playing all 18 holes at Spyglass Hill GC.
Yount had only played nine holes before at the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design as high school junior, nearly a decade ago, but it proved not to matter as Yount navigated his way around the course like a weekly regular to win the 109th NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship.
“I rolled up here on Monday morning and had to start off the 10th tee, which was the first time I saw the back nine,” he said. “I had talked to a lot of people about how to play it, but I kind of blind-eyed it and stared at my yardage book a lot.”
Already Yount will be looking to defend his title in next year’s championship.
“It feel’s great [to win],” he said. “I look forward to next year and giving it another go.”