By Alex Miceli
ARDMORE, PA (August 28, 2005) -- Dillon Dougherty did the same things he had done over the first four days of match play, but in the finals Dougherty ran into a buzz saw that was Edoardo Molinari, who won the U.S. Amateur final, 4 and 3.
Dougherty had a dream start to his U.S. Amateur finals, making a birdie on the first hole and taking a 1-up lead. It would be a lead that would eventually grow to 3 up after the first 18 holes, as Dougherty made three birdies and six bogeys in the morning. Meanwhile, Molinari missed putts that he characteristically would make to aid Dougherty’s cause.
The morning may have been an aberration for both players. That’s because Molinari made birdies on the first two holes, cutting the lead to 1 down and then squaring the match with par on the par-4 fifth hole as Dougherty made his only bogey of the afternoon. From there Dougherty was 1 under par through the last 10 holes, but lost four more holes.
"You don't even necessarily need the occasional birdie," said Dougherty said after defeating Ryan Yip in his quarterfinals match. "But if you keep making pars, your opponent is probably going to make a bogey or two at some point. Every match I've played, I've pretty much got an early lead and just tried to make par."
For Dougherty that philosophy didn’t hold true in the finals. Molinari turned into a birdie machine, making eight total and six over the final 18 holes. Dougherty could only manage one birdie.
"Well, definitely after the morning 18, I definitely thought if I was one out and even through 15, then that probably would have been over in my favor," said Dougherty. "You know, especially all week, par has been really good. But I think it was about 11 when he knocked that in. I felt like, ‘I've got to make four birdies or something coming in.’"
Dougherty may have overachieved this week; his performance was maybe his best of his young amateur career. Over the 115 holes of match play this week, Dougherty made 18 birdies, 26 bogeys and just one double bogey. With a scoring average of 75.04 in his college career at Northwestern University, including a 75.48 in his junior year, the 71.2 scoring average he had in match play was four strokes better than his scoring average in college.
Coach Pat Goss from Northwestern was disappointed with Dougherty’s mediocre performance last year. He believed Dougherty needed to find the consistency that the player believes he found over the summer. One thing that Goss did say was that Dougherty was "a good competitor" and would play well in match play. He was right on both counts.
"That's kind of always been the weakness is just the consistency of my ball-striking," said Dougherty. "You know, sometimes I'll hit it great and sometimes I won't. But all summer I've hit it really well, and besides the last six holes yesterday, all week I've really been consistent and I think that will give me a lot of confidence just knowing that I came to the U.S. Am. And for really nine days, including the practice rounds, just hit a lot, a lot of good shots."
Now Dougherty joins only the legendary Charles ‘Chick’ Evans as the other Northwestern golfer to make it to the U.S. Amateur finals. Evans won his first of his two amateurs at Merion in 1916, defeating Robert G. Gardner 4 and 3 when it was named the Merion Cricket Club. Clearly Dougherty has a lot to live up to.
"I'm looking forward to going back with my teammates," said Dougherty said of his senior year. "And just having our team show up to events and have other players say, ‘Well, Northwestern has got U.S. Am finalists and Western Am finalists; these guys are good.’"