WAYNE, PA (July 7, 2016) -- Indiana Country Club's Matt Holuta used a mix of consistency and aggression when needed to capture the 13th R. Jay Sigel Match Play Championship, presented by Allegheny Health Network, at St. Davids Golf Club. The Rutgers University golfer knocked out medalist and top seed Chris Crawford in the morning's semifinal match, 1 up, before topping Chad Warmbein of Hickory Heights Golf Club, 2 and 1, to win the championship.
"My mindset in match play was just to not give any holes away," Holuta said. "I wanted to take advantage when I could and try to make some birdies, but overall I wanted to just not take myself out of a hole early."
Holuta and Warmbein advanced to the final match after knocking out perhaps the two hottest golfers from the previous rounds of match play. Warmbein defeated Yardley Country Club's Kyle Sterbinsky, 3 and 2, in the semifinals after Sterbinsky had wins of 4 and 2 and 6 and 4 earlier in the championship, including nine birdies in his Round of 16 match. But in this morning's semifinal, Warmbein battled back from an early two-hole deficit, winning five consecutive holes from Nos. 8 through 12 before closing out the match on No. 16. Meanwhile, Holuta faced off with Crawford, who followed up a stellar senior season at Drexel University before qualifying for the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club earlier this year. He followed that up with a pair of victories in his first two matches over previous champions Eric Williams and Nathan Smith. So going into today, Holuta knew he was in for a challenge.
"I watched Chris play yesterday and I knew what he was capable of," Holuta said. "I was hitting the ball well this morning, though, and it was nice to get off to a good start."
Holuta's good start included racing out to a 5-up lead through six holes before Crawford battled back, taking the match all the way to the 18th hole. Included in that stretch was a crazy sequence on holes 10 and 11. On No. 10, Holuta chipped in for birdie, thwarting Crawford's attemps to win the hole as he had a 4-foot birdie putt which he eventually made. The favor was returned on No. 11, where Crawford was in the fescue but chipped in, ruining Holuta's chances of wiinning that hole. As they headed to the 18th hole with Holuta up one, both players were on the green for birdie. Holuta had 20 feet to win the match but left it just outside the cup. Crawford then had a 12-footer that didn't fall, just missing on the right edge, giving Holuta the spot in the final.
After a break for lunch and to cool down from the temperatures that were in the 90s, both players returned to the course on the venerable Donald Ross design for the championship match. Early on, struggles were evident on both sides.
"It was kind of a pillow fight on that front nine," Holuta said. "Neither of us could get much going on that side."
The match headed to the back nine all square, and after Warmbein birdied the par-3 10th hole, Holuta stormed back to win three consecutive holes. On No. 11, Holuta was fortunate to win with a two-putt par after Warmbein, from the middle of the fairway, missed the green. The par-4 12th hole saw more of the same. Holuta's tee shot caught a tree and dropped back, but he was able to hit his approach on the green. Warmbein, however, came up short on his approach, again giving Holuta the chance to win with a two-putt, which he did. On the 13th hole, a 420-yard par 4, Holuta hit a very good tee shot and an equally nice approach before converting his birdie putt and a 2-up lead. At that point, his match play mindset played an even bigger role.
"When I won 13, I really focused in on trying to limit my mistakes," Holuta said. "I just wanted to make pars at that point."
After each played failed to make birdie from around 12 feet on No. 14, the 15th hole saw get up and down from over the green. Included in that was Holuta making a clutch 4-foot downhill slider. He attributed that putt to match play, as Warmbein was already in and Holuta could make a nice run at the hole, knowing that if he missed, it didn't matter where the ball ended up. On No. 16, Holuta had an 8-footer for eagle and the championship, but it just missed the left edge. Warmbein then extended the match with an 18-foot birdie putt.
Holuta was dormie heading into the 184-yard par-3 17th hole. He knew that it would take a nearly perfect shot for Warmbein to make birdie. So he went back to that conservative way of thinking and hit a three-quarter shot safely on the green.
"At that point, I just wanted pars. If Chad goes birdie-birdie and forces extra holes, good for him," Holuta said.
Luckily for the 20-year old, that wasn't necessary. Warmbein couldn't convert his birdie try and a pair of pars halved the hole, giving Holuta his first Pennsylvania Golf Association championship.
"Being runner-up is a lot of fun," Warmbein said. "I made a couple of errors out there and he put the pressure on me. Kudos to him. It was a lot of fun playing with Matt today."
Both players had great things to say about St. Davids Golf Club, which neither had experienced before this week.
"I really enjoyed this golf course," Holuta said. "It was a great match play course and an excellent challenge."
Warmbein echoed those thoughts, saying "there's great risk-reward here, especially for match play."
The Pennsylvania Golf Association would like to thank the staff and membership of St. Davids Golf Club for their hospitality during the championship.
View results for R. Jay Sigel Pennsylvania Amateur Match Play Golf Championship