VALENCIA, Calif. — It took 40 holes, a couple of lucky breaks and a hell've a lot of great golf but Dan Erickson was able to defeat James Holley and Justin De Los Santos on Wednesday to become the youngest ever winner of the SCGA Match Play Championship. At just 16 years old, Erickson becomes the first non-collegian golfer to win the Championship, which is in its eighth year.
Needing 20 holes to beat San Diego State alum Holley in the semifinals at Valencia CC, Erickson would find himself in a tough spot in the finals, falling down 2 early to De Los Santos, a Cal Poly golfer who recently won the individual title for the Big West Conference.
"It was mentally challenging," said Erickson of the 40-hole day. "I was down in both matches early and had to battle back. I caught a couple good breaks, and ended up capitalizing on them."
De Los Santos had his foot on the gas from the start, playing the first seven holes in 3-under par and jumping out to a 2-hole advantage.
But Erickson would birdie holes 12 and 13 to square the match, before a timely birdie by De Los Santos put him back in the driver's seat. Heading into No. 18 down 1, Erickson hit a great drive and solid approach shot to put the pressure on De Los Santos, who struggled to a bogey, sending Erickson into his second extra-hole match of the day.
And after the emotional rollar coaster on the 18th hole, which did give De Los Santos the opportunity to win the match with a 10-foot putt, Erickson again had to leave things in his opponent's hands, as the eventual runner-up had about a five-foot birdie putt for the victory. The putt would come just short, and Erickson would this time take advantage, winning the 20th hole of the match with a par.
For Erickson, this was his first time playing in the SCGA Match Play Championship, and first time competing within the match play format at all. Erickson, however, came into the Championship hot, recently having won his first AJGA title with a three-day total of 8-under-par 205 at Hillcrest CC.
"I'm playing really solidly right now, I'm on a good run," said Erickson. "Hopefully I can keep it going."
Erickson's Match Play victory did not come cheap, as the youngster had to defeat a number of proven golfers along the way, beginning with a surprising opening round upset over Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Sean Crocker of USC. Erickson would follow that up with a win over 2013 SCGA Mid-Amateur Champion Robert Funk, before taking out Sean Birren, Holley and De Los Santos.
With the win, Erickson secures himself an exemption into next year's SCGA Amateur Championship, which will be held in July at Barona Creek GC.