BEND, Oregon (Saturday, June 21, 2008) - For the 36-hole final matches at the 99th Oregon Amateur held today at Bend Golf and Country Club, the day started pleasantly. Sunny and warm, just a day before the official start of summer. To many onlookers it seemed like just another stroll through the park for medalist Kate Hildahl. She had romped through the field enroute to the finals and at no point in her match today was she ever down a hole.
"I was so happy with medalist," said Hildahl. She took the top seed at the end of the 36-hole stroke play qualifying rounds shooting 6-over par, and that was the last time she would see holes 17 and 18 the rest of the week as no match was ever extended beyond the 16th hole. "On Wednesday, I told myself I have to start all over and anything can happen in match play," she added.
Hildahl started working diligently on her game prior to her collegiate season and improved her NCAA stroke average by more than two strokes. Much of that work was on the short game and putting which proved to be worthwhile today, as her putter was the hot stick. "It's a whole different story in match play versus stroke play," noted Hildahl. "Do you have to make the putt or just two putt. I felt really confident from 20-feet in, and made a lot of par putts that really helped me."
Karly Mills, her opponent concurred. "It all came down to the putter and short game," said Mills. "I was considering giver her 10-foot putts after awhile. She didn't miss anything, and I struggled with my putting," noted the Linfield Women's Golf Coach and 1993 Oregon Amateur champion who came away duly impressed with her opponents game. "I didn't get any birdies which is really unusual, but that's golf. That's how it goes some time. Today she was the better player. I had some opportunities, but she just kept draining putts," said Mills. "What are you gonna do?"
The route to the championship was significantly more arduous in the Men's contest. Through the first eight holes as Tim Sundseth of Redmond, Ore. started out struggling and was quickly down two holes to his opponent Blake Seabaugh of Tigard, Ore. But on the 9th hole, Sundseth flipped a switch and had four straight birdies to turn the match around. By the end of the morning matches, after shooting an even par 72, he was 2-up.
In the afternoon, Sundseth continued his control over the match. He had tap in birdies on holes 29 and 30 to extended his lead to 4-up with seven holes to play, but at that point not only did the tide seem to turn, but so did the weather. What started out as a pleasant summer day turned into heavy rain. Thunder was heard and lightening was seen in the distance, threatening to suspend the match. It was at that point that something lit a fire under Seabaugh.
"I really needed to kick it in gear and make something happen," said Seabaugh. "No one is gonna give this tournament to you, you've gotta take it away." An eagle on the 539-yard par 5 13th hole started seemed to take some wind out of Sundseth.
Sundseth, however, wasn't too concerned. "I try to stay in the present. When you try to think ahead, that's when you start to play bad. I didn't and I guess Blake didn't either," he said.
The shorter hitting Sundseth, who was a semi-finalist at last year's Oregon Amateur, was happy with his play. "I didn't necessarily lose the tournament, Blake won it," he added. After Seabaugh's bogey on the final regulation hole, he added, "I got a second life, but unfortunately I couldn't capitalize on it."
"I don't play for second," said Seabaugh. "In match play you gotta plan on your opponent making everything. I just beared down on 13 and 14 with real good tee shots and made real good putts to get hopefully get some momentum going. With just three holes left to play, the match was all-square. After a par on the 482-yard 17th hole, the 35th hole of the day, Seabaugh was 1-up. All he needed was up and down to win, but he bogeyed the final hole to send the match to extra holes.
The long hitting Seabaugh then hit his 3-wood more than 300-yards setting up the final approach shot which he stuck less than 8-feet from the hole. Seabaugh noted, "I struggled with right to left putts and have been working on just that all week. Standing over the putt I just imagined I was on the practice green, and said to myself, 'lets see what were made of."
An interesting side note. Both Hildahl and Seabaugh are graduates of Tualatin High School.
The Oregon Amateur, considered the "major" amateur golf in the region, is one of the oldest and most prestigious sporting competitions in the state. Started in 1904, the only years it was not held was during World Wars I and II and during the Depression. The Oregon Golf Association is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit membership association that is the governing body for the sport in Oregon and SW Washington and was formed in 1924 for the purpose of running this championship.
Kate Hildahl, Tualatin, Ore. (Heron Lakes) def. Karly Mills, McMinnville (Michelbook) - 6 & 5
Blake Seabaugh, Tigard, Ore. (Langdon Farms GC) def. Tim Sundseth, Corvalis, Ore. (Eagle Crest) - 37th Hole
View results for Oregon Amateur Golf Championship