By Jack Persons
CARMICHAEL, Calif. (May 26, 2014) -- In a junior career filled with championships and accolades, Cameron Champ can count the Memorial Amateur as another feather in his cap.
Champ shot a final round one-under 69 at Ancil Hoffman Golf Course today, posting six-under 204 to defeat runner-up Matt Hansen by two strokes.
“[The win] definitely builds my confidence a lot,” Champ said. “It’s the first tournament I’ve really played solid all three rounds.”
Hansen shot a 69 as well to take solo second at four-under 206, and Jonny Baxter and Gunn Yang tied for third at 207.
The shot of the day came at the ninth hole, which played 235 yards, a full 40 yards longer than the it had the first two rounds. Champ hit a perfect four iron, and it landed only eight inches from the hole, almost spinning back in for a hole-in-one. He tapped in for birdie and made the turn at eight-under, four strokes ahead of the field.
After a tough bogey on 11, Champ played it safe on 13, choosing to lay up with an iron rather than hit driver and risk an awkward approach shot to a pin only five paces onto the green. The decision cost him, however, as a poor second shot put him in a greenside bunker and he could not get up and down, while Hansen and Baxter made birdies. The bogey dropped Champ to six-under, tied with Yang in the group in front of him.
Yang, however, made a costly double bogey on 16, a par-four which played almost 500 yards, followed by a bogey on 17. The mistakes dropped him to three-under, and he could not recover.
The last five holes were a grind for the final group, as Hansen made the only birdie by getting up and down from greenside on the drivable par-four 15th.
Showing off his deft scrambling skills, Champ punched out of the trees on 16 after an errant tee shot, leaving himself a chip from the front of the green.
“There was a very small gap, about 15 feet wide,” Champ explained about his approach shot. “I just missed [the tree]. If you saw a replay, I probably missed it by a foot.”
With Baxter, his playing partner who was only a stroke behind, facing a very makable birdie putt, Champ almost knocked in his ensuing chip and left himself an easy par. Baxter, meanwhile, watched his birdie putt slide by the hole.
Baxter proceeded to bogey the 17th hole, and Champ walked to the 18th tee with a two stroke lead in his pocket. After a 325-yard drive that split the fairway, it seemed the tournament was all but over, but Champ left his approach to the right of the green, barely missing the cart path and out-of-bounds behind the green.
With Hansen on the green putting for birdie, a two stroke swing between the two would have forced a playoff. Champ went on to knock his pitch to eight feet, and Hansen missed his 40-footer.
Finally the pressure was off. Only needing a two-putt to win, Champ finished the tournament in style, as he drained the putt and received a much deserved ovation from the 200 person gallery.
Champ first played in the Memorial Amateur at the ripe old age of 11. Tournament Director John Rochelle has watched him every year since, and has seen the evolution of his game.
“The thing that really impressed me with him is his poise,” Rochelle said. “He has the right demeanor. You can tell some guys they’re not gonna make it, but I think he definitely has the skills and the mindset to do what he has to do to get to the higher level.”
Quite fitting as Cameron Champ ends his junior career in a few short months, and begins a new chapter at Texas A&M, complete with the Memorial Amateur trophy in tow.