PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Aug. 18, 2011) -– Michael Weaver will face defending champion John Catlin in the finals of the 108th NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship Friday at Spyglass Hill.
Weaver defeated NCGA stalwart Randy Haag in the semifinals 2-up, establishing an early lead via deft putting he never relinquished. The rising junior at Cal finished 8th individually at the NCAA national championship in Oklahoma earlier this year and has had the kind of week with the putter that resembles the performance Tiger Woods put on at Pebble Beach in 2000. After 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying and four rounds of match play, the 20-year-old has yet to three-putt a green.
After Weaver built a 4-up lead through 11th hole, Haag made it interesting via birdies on the 15th and 17thholes, cutting the lead to 1-up. But Weaver slammed the door on the match with a brilliant approach on the final hole to three feet for birdie. “I knew Randy’s a great player and wasn’t going to quit,” Weaver said. “I knew I was going to have to play well to win so it’s very satisfying to make the finals.”
Weaver beat medalist Kevin Wentworth of Diablo Grande in the quarterfinals, coming back from an early 2-down deficit. The match was all square when Weaver birdied the 14th hole. Another birdie on 17 secured the 2-and-1 win.
Weaver feels his game is right where it needs to be heading into the finals Friday. “I’ve struggled with match play before, but not this week,” he said.
Haag earlier took out rising Sacramento State senior Cameron Rappleye in a quarterfinal match the 52-year-old took control of early. The Olympic Club member established a 2-up lead after two holes, and cruised to a 3-and-2 win. Not enough can be said about the five-time NCGA Player of the Year’s continued success at an age when most players are preparing for senior competition. He estimates he last played someone older than him in match play 15 years ago, and with the semifinals performance this week, appears to have a sixth Player of the Year award all but locked up. Haag heads to Milwaukee and Erin Hills GC for the U.S. Amateur next week.
Catlin earned a second trip to the finals by jumping out to an early 3-up lead over Los Altos’ Spencer Fletcher and then slowly building toward a 4-and-3 conclusion. The match had a back-and-forth beginning, with the first halved hole coming on Spyglass’ 7th. Catlin then won 8th and 9thholes to establish the four-hole margin the match would finish with.
“This week I’ve been really on,” Catlin said. “I’m really putting well. That’s propelled me to some strong starts.”
The North Ridge member has won three of his four matches by big margins, and is primed for a chance to become the first repeat champion since Haag claimed the ’92 and ’93 championships (Catlin defeated St. Mary’s Golf Coach Scott Hardy in the final last year 3 and 2). “I felt good about my game coming into the week. I knew if I could make match play I could do it (repeat),” the 20-year-old rising junior at New Mexico said.
Catlin dominated his quarterfinal match, eliminating eClub San Francisco Bay’s Matt Cohn 5 and 4 on the strength of five birdies.
Fletcher defeated Anthony Barrera of the Ranch GC in his morning match. Fletcher was 1-down at the turn, but birdied the 10th and 11thholes to take the lead. The 21-year-old rising senior at Arizona State also heads to Erin Hills next week for the U.S. Amateur.
The scheduled 36-hole final tees off at 7:00 a.m. Friday at Spyglass Hill. The second 18 commences at 11:30. With both finalists putting at a high level, it appears a classic match is in the making.