by Sean Martin
GLENCOE, Ill. (August 7, 2010) – The final match at the Western Amateur was a display of David Chung’s impressive ballstriking abilities. It was a touchy up-and-down from a bunker that clinched Chung’s latest victory in a prestigious amateur event, though.
Chung knocked a short-sided bunker shot to 3 feet to save par on Skokie Country Club’s 17th hole Saturday and beat UCLA’s Gregor Main, 2 and 1. The victory came one week after Chung captured the presitigous Porter Cup in New York. Chung also won last year’s North & South Amateur.
While Chung played Friday, his father, Chris, was waiting in Raleigh-Durham International Airport to board a plane for Illinois if his son advanced to Saturday’s play. Chung won his final match Friday three minutes before Chris had to board his flight.
“He asked, ‘What took so long?’ ” said David Chung, a junior at Stanford. “I said, ‘It’s not that easy out here.’ ”
The Western Amateur has one of the strongest fields of the year. It is considered by many to rank only behind the U.S. Amateur in prestige.
Chung made it look easy in Saturday’s final, though. He hit 15 of 17 greens and 10 of 12 fairways in his match with Main. Chung credited a lesson with instructor Adam Schriber, who also teaches Anthony Kim, for his recent good play. Chung met with Schriber just before the Porter Cup.
“I was just trying to make good swings," Chung said. "It was great that they went close, but I was focused on just making good swings.”
Skokie Country Club, site of Gene Sarazen’s victory in the 1922 U.S. Open, demanded precision placement. The undulating greens on the Donald Ross design were rolling about 13 on the Stimpmeter, and the fairways were lined by rough thicker than you’d find at most U.S. Opens. Those were the only defenses for a course that measured 7,091 yards, fairly short by today’s standards.
Main, a UCLA junior, was 2 up after five holes in the final thanks to birdies on two lengthy par-3s. He hit 5-iron to 15 feet on the 195-yard second hole and 6-iron to 8 feet on the 193-yard fifth hole.
Chung’s long game kept him in the match as he struggled with his putter on the front nine. He hit the first nine greens in regulation, but his only birdie came after a 4-foot putt on the sixth hole. Chung and Main were all square at the turn after Main three-putted the par-3 ninth from 25 feet.
Chung, who’s been using a long putter, made birdie on five of the first six holes on the back nine.
“Once there was a little more pressure, I had to focus more and I zoned in on the hole,” Chung said.
He holed an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 10 to take a 1-up lead. Both players two-putted the par-5 11th for birdie. Main squared the match when he hit 3-iron to 20 feet on the 228-yard, par-3 12th and made the birdie putt. Both players two-putted the par-5 13th for birdie.
Chung’s birdies on the next two holes proved to be the difference. He holed a 25-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, then two-putted from the back fringe on the driveable, par-4 15th. Main missed an 5-foot putt for the halve.
Chung had a chance to close out the match on the 250-yard, par-3 16th, but three-putted from 30 feet. Main missed a 7-foot par putt on that hole after his tee shot found the greenside bunker.
Chung pushed his approach at the next hole, but saved par from the greenside bunker as Main two-putted for par.
Main also hit 15 of 17 greens in the final, but those short putts on Nos. 15 and 16 proved to be the difference. Main’s paternal grandparents were members at Skokie in the 1970s.
“I played really well,” said Main, the 2009 Southern Amateur champion. “David just played a little bit better than me, and made a few more putts. That’s the way it goes.”
If Chung wasn’t a candidate for the three-man team that will represent the United States at the World Amateur Team Championship Oct. 28-31 in Argentina, he certainly is now. He’s also an early candidate for the U.S. team at next year’s Walker Cup, which will be held Sept. 10-11 at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
Chung’s sand save on 17 allowed him to close out a match before the 18th hole for the first time this week. He squeaked his way through this tournament, but it was good enough for victory.
Chung was the 14th seed in the 16-man match-play bracket, then edged a series of Pac-10 opponents in match play. He beat Arizona State’s Scott Pinckney in 21 holes in the first round. Chung beat incoming USC freshman Jeffrey Kang, 1 up, in the quarterfinals, then beat former Arizona State player Chan Kim in 19 holes in Saturday’s semifinals.
Chung’s consistent ballstriking makes him a formidable match-play opponent. Chung was runner-up to Stanford teammate Sihwan Kim in the ’04 U.S. Junior. Chung won last year’s North & South, a match-play event, and made the semifinals earlier this summer. Chung also went 4-0 at this year’s Palmer Cup, the collegiate version of the Ryder Cup.
“He’s a really smart player,” said Chung’s Stanford teammate, Wilson Bowen, who caddied for him. Bowen lives in nearby Winnetka, Ill. “He understands what he has to do to win. He just doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
He showed that again this week.