PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Aug. 19, 2011) -- If this keeps up, NCGA Amateur champion John Catlin might never change his shirt.
Catlin captured his second NCGA Amateur title in as many years at Spyglass Hill, propelled by a sublime putting performance that upended Michael Weaver 5 and 3. The champion intentionally wore the same shirt as a year ago, when he defeated Scott Hardy 3 and 2.
The 21-year-old rising junior at New Mexico carded a morning round of 67 to take a 2-up lead over Weaver, and also finished the afternoon 5-under. All told, the North Ridge member produced 13 birdies on the day against two bogeys. Catlin’s back-to-back wins are the first since ’92-’93 when Randy Haag accomplished the feat. It is the 10th time in the 108-year history of the tournament.
“I just love this course,” the champion said. “I feel so calm and confident out here. When you’ve got that and your swing’s on, you’ll be hard to beat.”
Indeed, Catlin missed only one putt of any significance on the day, producing his lone bogey on the afternoon 18, on #10. But the miss seemed to refocus Catlin. His second shot into the 11th hole, a par 5, produced an eagle putt of 10 feet that he just missed and his tee shot on the 12th missed going in by inches. (Ironically, an ace on the 12th was worth $50,000 in the NCGA Foundation Pro-Am going on at the same time as the finals.) “When they told me I wasn’t eligible, then I hit it to a few inches,” Catlin joked. “Coming in I was putting well. But now I feel I now these greens well. When you’ve got that confidence, the hole looks massive.
Despite the final margin, the match was one of the finest played in recent memory with Weaver finishing the day at four under, with nine birdies in the losing effort. There were a total of 21 birdies between the two players, who both carried their own bags most of the week, and five holes were halved with birdies.
Catlin drew first blood on the match with a birdie on Spyglass’ treacherous fourth hole, holing a 15-footer for birdie what was a harbinger of things to come. The 2011 Memorial Amateur and Sacramento County champion then produced wins on the next two holes to build a 3-up lead. More spectacular putting followed, including a 20-footer on the ninth and 25-footer on #13. A Weaver birdie on the final hole of the morning 18 brought the match to 2-up.
The afternoon round followed the same course as the morning, with the champion walking off the ninth hole with a 4-up lead after posting a nine-hole split of 33. Any chance of a comeback was squashed on the 14th hole. Catlin missed the green and blew his bunker shot by the green to the fringe on the other side. He then holed a 20-footer from off the green to match Weaver’s par to go dormie. “That’s just cold-blooded,” one spectator remarked at the result.
“It’s hard to beat someone that putts that well,” Weaver said. “I can’t be disappointed. I just didn’t putt as well as him.” Weaver, a Fresno resident, is a rising junior at Cal who will redshirt next season while he changes his major. After an eighth-place finish at the NCAA national championship last spring, look for big things to come from the 20 –year-old. He next heads to Wisconsin for the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills next week.
Catlin dominated the week. After securing the sixth seed, the champion rolled through match play, never playing the 18th hole and only playing 16 and 17 one time, in a round of 16 win against Jeff Gilchrist. Spyglass Hill and the Amateur clearly provide inspiration, perhaps best symbolized by Catlin’s lucky shirt.
“It’s pretty special,” he said regarding the white, striped top. “But I‘ll still wash it.”