Pacific Coast Amateur: Irwin rallies for victory

VICTORIA, British Columbia (Aug. 8, 2008)--In a scene eerily reminiscent of last year, Jordan Irwin rallied from three shots down with nine holes to play at Royal Colwood Golf Club to become the second Calgary, AB winner of the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, edging Ryan Hallisey of Granite Bay, Calif. by one shot.

Mike Knight came back from a two-shot deficit with seven holes left last year at San Diego Country Club to become the first Calgarian ev er to win the title last year

The 23-year-old Irwin, who was a co-leader after the first round, shot an even-par 70 today and finished with rounds of 65-68-69-70 — 271, 9-under-par.

The 20-year-old Hallisey, who had led after the second round (when he tied the course record with a 62) and again after the third, incurred a two-shot penalty on the 10th hole, shot 73 today and finished at 69-62-68-73 — 272.

Defending Canadian Amateur champion Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, BC; Derek Tolan of Boulder, Colo., who led after nine holes today; and 2008 Southwestern Amateur champion Matt Hoffenberg of Simi Valley, Calif. tied for third at 274; Hoffenberg’s 4-under-par 66 tied for low round of the day.

Irwin, Hallisey and Tolan were in the final group for the second consecutive day but Hallisey struggled on the front nine, making four bogeys and two birdies to fall a shot behind Tolan, who birdied par-4 eighth hole to take the lead.

Irwin, meanwhile, posted eight pars and a bogey and was three shots behind Tolan making the turn.

“It was frustrating,” said Irwin later. “I felt like I was hitting good shots that were ending up in bad places. So I just tried to be patient and figured something good would eventually happen.”

Things went from bad to worse for Hallisey on the 430-yard 10th hole. As he began his swing for an approach shot from the left rough, he knocked a branch down and, under Rule 13-2, incurred a two-shot penalty, which led to a double-bogey 6.

“It was stupid on my part,” said Halisey later. “The branch shouldn’t have even been in my intended swing path but I took the club back too far inside. It’s disappointing, but I can’t blame losing on that. I had my chances today and just didn’t get it done.”

Three shots down at that point, Hallisey hung in and chipped away at the deficit. Tolan’s approach on No. 10 ended in an awkward lie in a greenside bunker and his explosion shot bounced 20 feet past the hole, resulting in a bogey. On the 11th hole, Hallisey drained a 15-foot putt for birdie 2 to pull even with Irvin and Tolan rolled in a 12-foot par putt to maintain a two-shot margin.

On the 442-yard 12th hole, the toughest on the course, Tolan made bogey 5 from the back fringe and Irwin pulled to within one shot of the lead by knocking his approach to within seven feet of the flagstick (although his birdie putt slid over the edge of the hole).

Irwin finally pulled into a three-way tie for the lead on the 398-yard 13th hole despite pushing his drive into the right rough. He cut his approach shot around a tree and barely carried a water hazard, then nearly canned a 25-foot uphill birdie putt only to watch it roll over the front edge of the hole. Tolan, meanwhile, pulled his approach shot left of the green and failed to get up and down for par to create the deadlock.

After all three players made birdie 4 on the 491-yard 14th hole, Hallisey fell out of the tie by three-putting the 15th hole and Irwin seized the lead for good when he rolled in a downhill 35-foot putt for a birdie 2 on the 16th hole.

“I felt like I was owed that one after all the putts that had burned edges,” said Irwin.

Needing to make birdie to tie, Tolan pushed his drive on the 389-yard 17th hole wide right and watched in dismay as the ball finished either out of bounds or lost in deep bushes.

“The last two holes set up hard for me,” he said. “They’re into a strong left-to-right wind and I got the ball up in that wind and it just kept carrying and carrying.”

Tolan ended up making triple-bogey 7 and Irwin was seemingly home free.

However, after splitting the fairway on the 448-yard finishing hole, Tolan barely escaped disaster when pull-chunked his six-iron approach shot.

“All I was trying to do was hit the right side of the green,” said Irwin. "But I laid the sod over it.”

His ball stopped a yard from a cart path that would have carried the ball down a hill into a thick grove of trees. Irwin finally breathed a sigh of relief when Hallisey left a 35-foot birdie chip shot short of the flagstick, after which Irwin two-putted for bogey and his one-shot win.

“This is definitely the biggest win of my career,” said Irwin, who won five NCAA D-1 tournaments while playing for the University of Houston. “It’s a great springboard into the Canadian Amateur next week and the U.S. Amateur the week after. Plus, it’s great to have Calgarians win this tournament back to back.”

Taylor, who will defend his Canadian Amateur title next week in Lethridge, AB, was the only player to break par in all four rounds (69-68-68-69). The 18-year-old Hoffenberg (he turns 19 Monday) rallied from opening rounds of 72-70 with consecutive 66s to tie for third.

After opening with rounds of 67-69, Knight wasn’t a factor in trying to become the first player since Billy Mayfair in 1987-88 to win consecutive titles. Knight finished tied for 36th at 6-over-par for 72 holes. Nonetheless, said Brent Ellenton, executive director of the Alberta Golf Association, “the back-to-back wins show the depth of talent coming out of our province and the wins will be inspirational for our guys back home.”

The 43rd Pacific Coast Amateur will be played August 4-7 at The Gallery at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.

--Courtesy Bob Thomas, SCGA

Results For Pacific Coast Amateur Championship
1CanadaJordan IrwinCanada100065-68-68-70--271
2CARyan HalliseyGranite Bay, CA70069-62-68-73--272
T3CanadaNick TaylorCanada50069-68-68-69--274
T3CAMatt HoffenbergSimi Valley, CA50072-70-66-66--274
T3CODerek TolanHighlands Ranch, CO50067-65-68-74--274

View full results for Pacific Coast Amateur Championship

ABOUT THE Pacific Coast Amateur

Although its present history only dates from 1967, the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship's roots make it one of the oldest amateur golf championships in American history. The first tournament was held on the links of San Francisco Golf Club at The Presidio, April 24- 27, 1901. Championships were held annually through 1911, all being conducted in California except for the 1909 championship, which was held at Seattle Golf Club in Washington. The Pacific Coast Amateur then ceased to exist, only to be reconstituted at Seattle Golf Club on August 10-12, 1967 with the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Oregon and Arizona golf associations participating.

Today, 15 member Pacific Rim golf associations comprise the Pacific Coast Golf Association. Players can be invited to this 72- hole stroke play event by their Pacific Coast G.A. member golf association, or as an individual.

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