MELBOURNE, Australia (Jan. 15, 2009) -- Mark Anderson, a two-time All-American at the University of South Carolina, won the NEC Master of the Amateurs Thursday over fellow American Rickie Fowler, on the third play-off hole after both players finished the tournament at 4-under-par. It marks the third major amateur title for Anderson, having won the 2008 Players Amateur and the 2008 Oglethorpe Invitational.
"This is one of the sweetest victories for sure," said the South Carolina native.
"To come in with a string of birdies to join Rickie [Fowler] and then to win on the third play-off hole with an eagle, is pretty neat."
Overnight leader Daniel Beckmann was unlucky to join Oklahoma State's Fowler, the reigning Ben Hogan Award Winner and No. 2-ranked amateur in the world, and Anderson in the play-off after firing a final round 2-over-par 74 to fall short by a single shot. American Adam Mitchell finished in outright 4th position at 1-under-par, three shots from the leaders.
It was a fitting finish to one of the emerging amateur tournaments on the world golfing calendar. Anderson stormed home during the closing stages of Thursday's round, carding three birdies in the final three holes.
"I did nothing special out there earlier on," said Anderson, who started the final round three shots off the pace. "Then I got it going later on with a string of birdies with the closing holes. I was pretty pumped after equaling with Rickie after the four rounds."
The three-hole play-off battle down Yarra Yarra's par-5, 441-meter 18th between the two Americans was equally impressive.
Fowler and Anderson exchanged birdie for birdie for the first two play-off holes, with the first hint of an Anderson victory on the third playoff hole when Fowler put his second shot just off the back of the green to about 10 meters from the pin.
Anderson's second into the par 5 found the back of the green, leaving a testing six-meter downhill putt for eagle. Fowler produced a delightful chip to a three feet with his hybrid wood, but it proved to no avail as Anderson's ball found the heart of the cup.
"That was one way to finish a tournament," said a relieved Anderson. "I putted very ordinary earlier in the round and got off to a rough start with a three-putt on one, but I was able to hang in there and stayed patient and just remained even or one-under all day."
Speculation during the week was that Anderson had considered turning professional before coming to the NEC Master of the Amateurs. A solid finish at the U.S. Amateur in July where he made the match-play section of the Championship on the back of a successful collegiate season, winning both the Players Amateur and the Oglethorpe Invitational, had the 22-year-old eager for the transition to the paid ranks.
Anderson made it clear following today's victory of his immediate short-term goals.
"I want to try and make the Walker Cup team for the U.S.," he said. "I'm staying amateur until September or October and have a heavy amateur schedule in July and August back in the States. That's my goal to make the Walker Cup team and win more major amateur titles like this one."
Anderson was all smiles while holding the fine glass trophy from today's spoils and signing autographs at will. Deservedly pleased with his efforts and wearing a champagne soaked shirt after his fellow countrymen, including Rickie Fowler, drenched him on the 18th, Anderson was taking the enormity of the tournament in. He had earned the win in nail-biting fashion and the relief was obvious.
"This was a great tournament with a strong international field, as well as some of your best amateurs playing," he said. "It 's probably the sweetest victory that I've had and it feels just great."
--Courtesy USC Athletic Department