PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (June 22, 2007)-- PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (June 22, 2007)-- Youth conquered experience today and, as a result, 18-year-old Josh Anderson of Murrieta will meet 20-year-old Joe Greiner of Saugus tomorrow in the 36-hole final match at the 96th California Amateur Championship at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.
Under bright, sunny skies, warm temperatures and only mild breezes, Southern Californians swept all four quarterfinal matches and Anderson and Greiner both had to go extra holes to reach the championship match. It marked the first time in recent memory that both semifinal matches have gone into overtime.
For Anderson, it was his second overtime match of the day, as he needed 19 holes to end the history-making dream of 51-year-old Casey Boyns of Pacific Grove, before eliminating 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and good friend Sihwan Kim of Buena Park in dramatic fashion in the semifinals this afternoon.
Trailing by one hole heading into the 382-yard 18th hole, Anderson sank a 110-yard sand wedge shot for an eagle 2 to send the match back to hole No. 1 to begin the playoff. After both players made par 5 on the first hole (Kim missing a four-foot birdie that would have ended things), Anderson hit the flagstick from 80 yards out on the second hole, leaving him with an 18-inch birdie putt that he rolled in for the victory.
“I executed the shot perfectly,” said Anderson of his hole-out on No. 18. “My caddie and I had realized this morning that if you could hit your approach to the right of the hole that it would feed down to the hole. I didn’t expect it to go in but I expected it to be close; I knew I had to make birdie to force overtime.”
Greiner, a member of College of the Canyons 2006 state community college championship team, birdied the first playoff hole to turn aside 47-year-old John McClure of West Los Angeles. Greiner got a great break after he pulled his drive on the 17th hole into a bush that was next to a staked tree. If Greiner were right-handed, he wouldn’t have been granted relief but because he’s left-handed and his swing would have hit the staked tree, he got a free drop, from where he punched his approach 20 feet below the flagstick.
McClure’s expertly played approach was 10 feet above the hole but his downhill putt slid inches by the hole, sending the match to the 18th hole all square.
Both Greiner and McClure missed six-foot sliding par putts on the 18th hole that could have won the match.
“I’m feeling good,” said Greiner after the match. “If I keep giving myself birdie putts, I feel like I can make them.”
He certainly has done that; counting the six he made against McClure, Greiner now has made 28 birdies in 65 holes during match play.
McClure was disappointed but philosophical after the match.
“I’ve had a great time here this week,” he said. “The club, members and staff have treated us great.”
The upper and lower halves of the bracket were a study in contrasts in the morning quarterfinals. Greiner, who had made 19 birdies in his first two matches, continued on his hot pace, making three more as he dispatched 17-year-old Tim Honeycutt of Placentia. McClure was even more impressive as he took out 32-year-old Darren Slackman of Indio, 6 & 4, while playing 3-under-par golf for 14 holes.
In the closest of the morning matches, Anderson was 3 up after 11 holes only to lose the next three holes as Boyns rallied to square the match.
“He let me back in the match when he started hitting some bad shots,” said Boyns later, who was bidding to become the oldest champion and just the third person to win three or more California Amateur titles.
The turning point came at the 502-yard 16th hole. Anderson had regained a 1-up lead with a par 4 on the 15th hole, but pulled his drive into thick native grasses left of the fairway on No. 16. His approach shot again landed in the thick foliage, his third shot barely made it onto short grass and he knocked his fourth shot 25 feet above the hole. Boyns split the fairway with his drive, but his six-iron approach shot found a bunker guarding the front of the green. He exploded out to five feet from the hole and, after watching Anderson roll in his speedy, downhill par putt, missed the birdie putt that would have squared the match.
After both players parred the 17th hole, Boyns sent the match to overtime when Anderson’s approach shot on the final hole hit the front of the green and spun back some 75 feet from the flagstick. Anderson three-putted up the steep slope and Boyns two-putted from 20 feet to send the match back to the starting hole.
Anderson ended the proceedings when he hit his third shot out of deep rough to within a foot of the hole.
“It probably looked tougher than it really was,” said Anderson later. “I just played it like a bunker shot -- opened the clubface wide and swung hard. You need a little luck to win in match play sometimes, especially when you’re playing someone as great as Casey.”
Kim defeated UNLV student Eddie Olson of Aptos, 3 & 1, in a back-and-forth morning match that was more exciting than brilliant.
“We both made lots of mistakes,” said Kim. “He just made a couple more.”
The match also turned on the 16th hole when Kim drained a 25-foot birdie putt on virtually the same line as Anderson’s earlier bomb, then watched as Olson putted his eagle attempt off the front of the green and ended up making par.
--Story courtesy Robert D. Thomas, SCGA