California State Am: 18-year-old Anderson Wins

PEBBLE BEACH, California (June 23, 2007) -- Josh Anderson of Murrieta rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the 33rd hole of the championship match today to defeat Joe Greiner of Saugus, 4 & 3, and win the 96th California Amateur Championship on the Monterey Peninsula Country Club Shore Course.

Anderson became the fifth 18-year-old ever to win the event and the first since Patrick Nagle defeated Spencer Levin in 2003 (the youngest overall winner was 16-year-old Mac Hunter in 1972). Anderson is also the third consecutive Southern Californian to capture the title and the ninth in the past 13 years.

Anderson was one of the highest seeds (No. 31) ever to win the title; he had to birdie his final hole of stroke play Tuesday and then go through a 10-for-5 playoff to reach match play. Anderson also had to go overtime in both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches yesterday to reach the championship match.

The win was also a measure of satisfaction for Anderson, who shortly after qualifying for the tournament in 2005, was severely injured in an auto accident and had to miss the event. “I was really playing well at the time,” said Anderson today, “ but I’m lucky to be alive and it makes today all the more special.”

Under warm, sunny skies with light breezes, Anderson birdied seven holes this morning, including the last three in a row, and took a 1-up lead over the 20-year-old Greiner, who continued his three-day match-play birdie binge by making five birdies, including four on the morning back nine.

However, Anderson won the first two holes in the afternoon to go 3-up and never looked back. “I felt like I was in charge of the match at that point,” said Anderson later. “From then on, I just wanted to keep the pressure on.”

One of the early turning points came on the 340-yard par-4 fifth hole. Anderson pushed his drive into a lateral hazard and Greiner responded by driving in the center of the fairway. Anderson took a drop in the native grasses that comprise the rough on the Shore Course and then hit a knockdown 9 iron to within six feet of the hole. With a chance to cut into the lead, Greiner chunked his approach shot into the front bunker and could not get up and down for par.

Even though Anderson only made bogey, he was relieved. “To get out of there without losing a hole was a big lift,” he said later. He then followed it up on the 545-yard, par-5 sixth hole when he hammered a 4 wood to the edge of the elevated green and two-putted for birdie and a win. From then on it was an uphill battle for Greiner, a lefty who played for College of the Canyons and was a member of its 2006 California State Community College Championship team.

“My goal coming here this week was to win,” said Anderson, “and I’m happy I accomplished it. I’d heard a lot about his birdie streak and his shooting 28 on the front nine the other day, but I just wanted to come out and play my game and put pressure on him.”

Greiner, who had made 28 birdies in 65 match-play holes before today, could not respond. “I didn’t play as well today as I had earlier in the week,” he said later. “Who knows why? Maybe it was the pressure of playing in the finals. I tried to get close and he was good enough to respond. He out-putted me for 33 holes today and that’s what counted.”

Both players agreed that the 401-yard 13th hole in the afternoon was another turning point. Greiner had won the 12th hole with a birdie 4 to close the gap to 2 down, and both players hit the fairway on No. 13 with their drives. But after Anderson drilled his next shot to within 12 feet, Greiner pulled his approach onto a steep downhill lie above a bunker. “I had closed the margin to two and finally made a birdie putt and then I just didn’t focus enough and I hit a bad shot,” said Greiner. “It took all the pressure off of him.” Greiner left an impossible chip shot in the fringe and Anderson diffused the suspense by making his birdie putt and rebuilding the lead to 3-up.

On what would be the final hole, 415 yard-dogleg left 15th, both players drove expertly and Anderson put his approach 35 feet below the hole. Greiner pushed his approach long and left and, after leaving his approach shot 15 feet short, Anderson rolled in the 35-footer to close out the match. “I just wanted to get it close,” said Anderson later, “but when I hit it I felt like it was going to go in.”

A recent graduate of Murrieta Valley High School, where his teammate was highly ranked junior golfer Rickie Fowler, Anderson is heading for Pepperdine in the fall with a major title in his trophy case. Greiner has 12 units of schoolwork left at COC and hopes to transfer to a Division I school somewhere in California.

This year marked the start of a new era for the California Amateur, which will now rotate between Northern and Southern California (next year’s tournament will be held at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake and Oakmont CC in Glendale). Anderson applauded the change after today’s match. “I never played the tournament at Pebble Beach,” he said, “but how could you not like this club? The members and staff did such a great job and the course was as good as it gets.

“I’m really looking forward to playing at Lakeside next year,” continued Anderson. “I’m glad the CGA made the change; it is, after all, the California Amateur Championship, not the Northern California Championship.”

To see a hole-by-hole account of the final 36-hole match, click HERE Note: An amateurgolf.com video is now posted (see final round summary at the top of this page) - and you can visit http://video.amateurgolf.com to view daily recaps of medal play and match play action from the State Amateur

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