by Jack Persons, AmateurGolf.com
What a difference a day or two makes.
UNLV commit Shintaro Ban had a pinched nerve in his neck heading into the Marin County Amateur. He went from only finishing 14 holes during his practice round on Friday, to grinding his way through a two-over 74 on Saturday, and finally, once his neck loosened up after the round on Saturday night, to posting a closing six-under 66 on Sunday to win by a stroke at San Geronimo Golf Course.
Ban, who started the final day in ninth place, rallied back from a five-stroke deficit at the AmateurGolf.com satellite event.
“I knew I was somewhat in contention,” Ban explained. “But I felt like the last group was doing pretty well, so I just told myself, ‘Do your best. You don’t have to win.’”
Win is exactly what he did, however, as he played solid golf all day and let the leaders fall back to him.
He started off hot, making eagle on the par-five second hole after sticking his approach shot to three feet, then followed it up with birdies on the sixth and ninth holes to post an outward four-under 32.
Another birdie on 10 got him to five-under, but he followed it up with his only bogey of the day on the 11th, the most difficult hole on the course.
He quickly rebounded with a birdie on 13, parred 14 through 17, and headed into the last at five-under. His drive sailed right and looked like it headed into the hazard, but when he got to the spot where it landed, it was in a decent position in the rough. He took advantage and got up and down for a birdie and a 66.
Nicolas Noya shot two-under 70 on Sunday to finish at three-under 141. He had the lead as he headed to 17, but stayed aggressive and hit his drive out of bounds left. The ensuing double left him at three-under, and he could not birdie the last to force a playoff.
First round leaders Alex Franklin and Matt Seramin fell back on Sunday after first-round 69s. Franklin shot 73 to tie for third with Matt Cohn at two-under 142, and Seramin posted 77 for a 146 total.
The victory adds another wrinkle to the ongoing rivalry between Shintaro and his brother Shotaro, who plays for Cal. When someone asked if he thought he was better than his brother after the round on Sunday, the whole crowd at San Geronimo laughed.
The smiles and laughter, of course, came from the realization that the question itself was a catch-22. Answer one way, and Ban comes off as too humble. Answer the other, and it just sounds cocky.
“I don’t know, I feel like me and my brother are the same,” Ban said. “He beats me here and there, I beat him here and there. That’s it. There’s no who’s better.”
Truthfully, Shintaro didn’t have to say anything at all. The 66 spoke for itself.
View results for Marin County Amateur Golf Championship 2014