SOMIS, Calif. — It had been quite some time since Nathan Celusta had found the winner's circle. So long, in fact, that he can't even remember his last tournament win. This one, though, will be hard to forget.
Celusta, a 38 year old from Newbury Park, Calif., shot a 1-under-par 70 on Sunday to claim victory at the 116th SCGA Amateur Championship at Oakmont CC, joining a list of past champions that includes Tiger Woods, Al Geiberger, John Merrick, Patrick Cantlay and Beau Hossler. He would finish four strokes better than runner-up and University of Oregon sophomore Aaron Wise, who finished with a four-round total of 4-under-par 280.
Celusta held the outright lead after Rounds 2, 3 and 4, and at one point Sunday extended his advantage over the rest of the field to six shots. With six holes to play and a six shot advantage over Wise, Celusta looked like he had the tournament in the bag early. But Wise found himself back in the thing when Celusta bogeyed the par-4 13th hole, his first blemish of the day, followed by a Wise birdie on No. 14. On hole 15, Celusta found himself in the front greenside bunker, again giving Wise the chance to creep a little closer.
With the door starting to crack open enough for a potential comeback, Celusta quickly slammed it shut, going up and down on 15 and draining a long birdie putt on No. 16 to all but secure victory.
"When I look back at this tournament those are the two things that are going to stick out to me, that par save on No. 15 and the putt on No. 16, which really had no business going in the hole," said Celusta. "Aaron was putting so well, and I had been starting to leak a little oil, so to be able to turn it around right there was huge for me."
Celusta would finish the round with back-to-back bogeys, however the ending had already been written. With a tap-in bogey to end his day in front of a gallery of more than 100, Celusta would finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"This is the biggest win of my life," said Celusta, who spent a brief amount of time on the Web.com Tour nearly a decade ago. "I'm extremely proud of myself. To win this event, with this strong field, it certainly means a lot to me."
Celusta played solidly all weekend, putting together rounds of 67, 68, 71 and 70. He carried a hot putter all tournament, taming the tough Oakmont CC greens that remind him a lot of his home course Saticoy CC's.
"I played in a qualifier on Monday prior to the tournament and I just seemed to figure something out with my putter towards the end," said Celusta, who works as the controller at Sherwood CC. "I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in that mental space and rely on my putter all week."
Joining Celusta and Wise in the Top 5 was Jonathan Sanders of the University of Washington, who finished at 3-under par, and Corby Segal and Pete Fernandez Jr., who both finished at 2-under par. It was Fernandez that shot the low round of the tournament, blazing Oakmont for a 6-under-par 65 on Saturday.