ARDMORE, PA (August 27, 2005) -- Twenty-two-year-old Dillon Dougherty of Woodland, Calif., and Edoardo Molinari, 24, of Italy each won his semifinal match Saturday to advance to the 36-hole final of the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club.
Dougherty defeated J.C. Deacon, 22, of Canada, with two brilliant pitch shots on the 17th and 18th holes to overcome a 1-down deficit to win, 1 up. Molinari, an engineering student from Torino, staked himself to a 5-up lead but had to stave off a comeback to defeat 2004 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Austin Eaton, 36, of North Sutton, N.H., 2 and 1.
Dougherty, who was 1 down with two holes to play, holed a 25-yard wedge shot from a steep bank in the rough off the 17th green for a birdie to square the match. Then, following an approach shot that struck a TV tower short right of the 18th green, Dougherty again hit a wedge from 50 yards. The ball bounced on the green, hit the flagstick and stopped less than a foot from the hole for a conceded par. Deacon, who just finished his college career at UNLV, pitched 10 feet past the hole but missed the par putt to give Dougherty the victory.
"He was so clutch," said Deacon of his opponent. "He did it. He came through. That was Tiger-like, being 1 down with two holes to play. I didn’t do anything wrong. He took it right out of my hands. I’m shocked."
"After 17, my heart was just pounding," said Dougherty. "I had a lot of adrenaline going so I just tried to calm down again. On 18, I felt pretty good over that third shot. This changes a lot of plans."
Dougherty, who plays college golf at Northwestern and caddied Stanford matches for Tiger Woods as a teenager, has his father Dan as his caddie.
Deacon was seeking to become the first Canadian to win the Amateur since Gary Cowan in 1971.
Molinari held a 3-up lead after nine holes and moved his advantage to 5 up with winning birdies on the 10th and the 11th. He followed with bogeys on the 12th and 13th to drop the lead to 3 up.
Eaton, who owns a custom homebuilding business with his father, won the 16th after another Molinari bogey. The lead was 2 up.
Molinari, who will graduate in September from Politnecno di Torino, then hit what he called "the shot of my life." On the par-3 17th, he struck a 2-iron to 20 feet and two-putted for par to win the match.
"We were both nervous today and it was tough," said Molinari, whose younger brother plays on the European Tour. "I was almost shaking at some points because the Masters and the U.S. Open mean so much."
Molinari, who finished T60th with Phil Mickelson among others at the 2005 British Open, is vying to become the first Italian male to win a USGA championship. Italy’s Silvia Cavalleri won the 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Brae Burn Country Club in W. Newton, Mass.
Molinari had advanced to the 19-for-17 playoff for match play after he holed a bunker shot for birdie on Merion’s par-3 9th hole on Tuesday.
The champion earns exemptions into next year’s U.S. Open, British Open and Masters Tournament, if he remains an amateur.
The first 18 holes of the championship match begins at 8 a.m. (EDT) with the afternoon round scheduled for a 1 p.m. start. The final will be shown on NBC from 4-6 p.m. (EDT).
The Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. The Amateur is the Association’s oldest championship, first played in 1895. Merion is hosting its record 17th USGA championship.
Ardmore, Pa. – Results from Saturday’s semifinal round of match play at the U.S. Amateur at the par 35-35—70, 6,846-yard Merion Golf Club:
Dillon Dougherty, Woodland, Calif. (143) def. J.C. Deacon, Canada (146), 1 up
Edoardo Molinari, Italy (146) def. Austin Eaton, North Sutton, N.H. (141), 2 and 1
Pairing for Sunday’s 36-hole final round of match play (Eastern Daylight Time):
8 a.m. and 1 p.m. -- Dillon Dougherty, Woodland, Calif. (143) vs. Edoardo Molinari, Italy (146)