Oregon Am: Vijarro and Simanton Prevail
BANDON, OR (June 27, 2009)--It was one of the most competitive finals ever contested with both Men's and Women's finals going the distance to the 36th hole at Bandon Dunes. In the end, Amy Beth Simanton, 17, Lake Oswego, Ore. became one of the youngest ever Women's Amateur Champions and Andrew Vijarro of Bend, Ore. became one of the just a handful of men to simultaneously hold the Oregon Men's Stroke Play and Oregon Amateur titles.
Simanton had a strategy in facing medalist Kendra Little that she worked out with her coach next year at U.C. Davis. "I know she [Little] hits it far, so I knew I would be hitting first into most holes. My coach told me not to try to hit it close, but to just go for the middle of the green. Then Kendra would try to hit it inside of me. My goal was to kill her with consistency."
Simanton was up early in the match. "The good thing was every time she would win a hole, I'd come right back and win it back taking any momentum away from her," said Simanton . Once I finished the first 18 4-up I had a lot of confidence, something I might not have had if the tables had been turned."
For the most part, she held onto her lead and was 4-up with six holes to play. "I told myself that if I par the rest of the way in, there is no way she can catch me," she added. "I was a little bit shocked when she got back into the match. Going into 18 I had to refocus and not be so upset at what had been going on. I told myself, just give yourself a chance."
But it was almost deja vu all over again for Simanton, who lost the Oregon Junior Amateur last year (also held at Bandon Dunes) on the final hole when Seshia-Lei Telles eagled the hole after stuffing her approach to 3-feet while Simanton was above the hole 25-feet away.
"I was thinking, oh-no, I'm not going to take second again," said Simanton. "The first time I saw 18 today, I noticed the same hole location as last year. I remembered where Seshia had hit it. I hit the shot I wanted to hit. It was exactly what I had pictured."
This time the tables were turned as Simanton stuck her approach within five feet and Little was 25-feet above the hole with a similar tricky down hill putt. A birdie ended the match.
"It's awesome," noted Simanton. "I can't even explain what it means to me. It's been so long since I won a tournament. I got second last year at the Junior Am, I took second the last two years in the High School Championships. I was sick of getting second. It really frustrated me and that's why I work so hard. That's why I go out to the course every day to practice. It feels so good, like everything has paid off.
While Simanton took command of her match early and saw it slipping away in the end, a different battle was taking place in the Men's competition between Vijarro and Chris Polski of Eugene, Ore.
"Every time I'd get a lead I seemed to give it away," said Vijarro. "It was frustrating not to be able to hold a lead like I was able to do all week. In fact, the two halved only 7 of the 36-holes played.
Despite Polski shooting even par for the first 18 he could only muster a 1up lead. "It was the most up and down match ever," noted Vijarro.
It is a marathon for the Men, having to play 9 rounds of golf in 6 days if playing in the finals including 36-holes three days in a row.
"Neither of us played great this afternoon. It was a combination of things. We were tired, the wind, the pressure. Neither one of us were on our A-games."
Vijarro was dorme going into the final hole only needing a halve to win and that's when the match got really interesting. Polski hit his drive into a fairway bunker to give the advantage to Vijarro. He hit his third shot above the hole.
"I was 103 yards out and I just wanted to get it inside of Chris," said Vijarro. "For a while my shot looked really good, but after it landed on the green it spun back into the bunker. I was not happy. I was in trouble. It was not the shot I was looking for. I looked pretty dumb after that shot," he added.
But he looked brilliant after a bunker shot that ended within a foot of the hole. "I needed a little magic," he noted. "I choked down on the shaft, I didn't have any real kind of back swing and I was in clay. I didn't know whether it would be hard or soft. Maybe it was a little luck, but I pulled it off!!
The self-taught Vijarro, a soon-to-be sophomore at the University of Oregon, gives a lot of credit to his coach, Casey Martin for helping him. "I would never have had a chance to win this if my short game was what it was a year ago," said Vijarro. "I practice every day, and maybe 75 percent of my practice is on my short game. And its showing. My bunker game is 100 times better, my putting is what got me to the final match ... unfortunately that is what let me down today. But that's golf, you're never on 100 percent of the time."
On his winning the match, Vijarro commented, "It was fun. It was a battle, and fortunately it turned out in my favor."
The Oregon Amateur, considered the "major" amateur golf in the region, is also one of the oldest and most prestigious sporting competitions in the state featuring of the best amateur golfers in the region. To be eligible, a player must be an amateur golfer with a USGA Handicap Index of 3.4 or less. Three qualifiers were held to select the players to advance to the tournament proper.
While many state Championships have become stroke play competitions, the Oregon Amateur, remains true to its roots playing the same traditional match play format that's used to this day to determine the best amateur champions even at the national level. It's also one of the few men's and women's amateurs held concurrently, always played at the same time at the same site. Started in 1904, this year's event will be its 100th occurrence. The only years it was not held was during World Wars I and II.
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