VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. (Aug. 23, 2008) – Danny Lee, 18, of New Zealand, who can become the youngest winner in U.S. Amateur history, and Drew Kittleson, 19, of Scottsdale, Ariz., (pictured left) each won their semifinal match Saturday to advance to Sunday’s 36-hole final at Pinehurst No. 2.
Lee defeated Patrick Reed, 18, of Augusta, Ga., 3 & 2, and Kittleson beat Adam Mitchell, 21, of Chattanooga , Tenn., 4 & 2.
“Well, playing in these great major tournaments, that’s always been my dream,” Lee said. “And, now I get the chance to play in the U.S. Open and the Masters. I think it’s going to be a great experience.”
One month past his 18th birthday, Lee would be six months younger than Tiger Woods was in 1994, when Woods won the first of his three consecutive Amateur titles. Lee can also become the second USGA champion from New Zealand, joining Michael Campbell, who won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst in 2005.
Lee, who won the 2008 Western Amateur and finished tied for 20th at last week’s PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, where he played on a sponsor’s exemption, was extended further than he had been in any previous match on the 7,281-yard, par-70, layout that has hosted two U.S. Opens in the last 10 years.
The Rotorua High School senior has only lost nine holes in winning his five matches thus far. Against Reed, he took the lead on the third hole with an 18-foot birdie putt and never trailed.
After birdieing the 15th from 20 feet to gain a 2-up advantage, Lee moved into uncharted territory playing the 16th hole for the first time since his stroke play round. There he closed out the match with the Reed, an incoming freshman at the University of Georgia, with a par.
A testimony to Lee ’s strong play is that he has not trailed since the first hole of his second-round match.
“I’m just having a really, really good week,” Lee said. “Everything I hit, everything I putt just falls into the hole and it’s just amazing.”
Kittleson overcame a strong start by Mitchell , the 2008 Porter Cup champion, winning holes nine, 10, 11 and 14 to take a 3-up lead.
“I was playing well coming in, but still, you don’t know exactly how you are going to show up for an event,” Kittleson said. “But, now that I’ve been hitting it well for a while, I can be a little bit at ease because you get some confidence going.”
The Florida State sophomore, who advanced to the round of 16 at the 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur, had defeated 2007 semifinalist and 2008 U.S. Open participant Derek Fathauer to move into the semifinals.
Mitchell had gained early momentum and a 2-up lead on the par-5 fourth hole when his 54-degree wedge shot from 104 yards spun back into the hole for a winning eagle.
The finalists each earn a full exemption to the 2009 U.S. Open and a probable invitation to the 2009 Masters Tournament. The champion earns custody of the Havemeyer Trophy for the ensuing year as well as a spot in the 2009 British Open.
The final match will be televised live on the Golf Channel from 1-4 p.m. ( EDT ) on Sunday.
The Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA
championship, was first played in 1895 at
Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 13 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online, starting
third week in April at www.usga.org.
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