WALLA WALLA, Wash. (July 14, 2012) -– Shotaro Ban of San Jose, Calif. defeated Carl Jonson of Bainbridge Island, Wash. 5&4 in the Championship Match of the 111th Pacific Northwest Men’s Amateur Championship, held at Wine Valley Golf Club. The Championship Match, to be played over 36 holes, was delayed this morning for 70 minutes due to weather. Once the thunderstorm rolled through, the two players teed it up at 8:40am.
Ban, a sophomore at the University of Calif., Berkeley, bolted out of the gate, winning six of the first eight holes, highlighted by an eagle on the 625-yard par-5 eighth hole, when he holed a wedge shot from 103 yards. He shot a 4-under-par 32 on the first nine for a 6up lead. Despite continually being outdriven by Jonson, Ban’s iron play was relentless.
Ban kept it going on the second nine, getting to 8up after 13 holes, and hadn’t lost a hole yet. Ban’s first – and as it would turn out, his only – mistake of the day came on the 515-yard par-5 15th hole. In the left front bunker in two, his third shot came out short and started rolling back toward the bunker. Ban reached out and removed a rake before the rolling ball could hit it, which led to an automatic loss of hole penalty. “I learned something today,” said Ban. “It was an automatic reflex (to move the rake).”
Jonson, 19 and a sophomore at UNLV, got off to a slow start, three-putting two of the first three holes, and found himself down by eight after 13 holes. “Yes, definitely not a good start,” said Jonson. “I was hitting good shots but kept finding myself on the wrong side of the hole. I basically gave him three holes right away and I felt the match hadn’t even started yet.”
Jonson didn’t stop Ban’s momentum until the par-3 14th hole. Hitting second, Jonson put his tee shot eight feet behind the hole, then drained the birdie putt to win his first hole of the day. “Finally, yes,” said Jonson. “That got me going.” Jonson birdied four of the next seven holes to cut into Ban’s lead, and they stood on the tee of the 22nd hole, a 390-yard par-4, with Ban’s lead only 2up.
“Yes, the momentum definitely had swung in (Jonson’s) favor,” said Ban. “He got his putter going, and starting hitting his iron shots closer. I wasn’t doing anything different, but he sure was.”“I was proud of myself for keeping my focus,” said Jonson. “I knew I had been playing well, and I guess I needed to trust that it would happen. But I give credit to Ban. He really did hit the shots today.”
But it was Ban’s day. He birdied the 22nd hole to stop Jonson’s charge, then nearly holed his chip for another eagle on the par-5 25th hole (the same hole he had eagled earlier in the day). After Jonson three-putted the 27th hole, Ban’s lead was back to 4up. On the par-3 32nd hole, both players hit the green in regulation, and when Ban two-putted from 15 feet for par to halve the hole, he closed out the match, 5&4.
Ban had sat out the first five months of this year with a wrist injury. “Not a good time,” he said. “It was tough getting back into it. I’m a little surprised I played this well this week. It was a long time coming.” (Watch Ban’s interview here.)
Jonson was the Medalist and No. 1 seed of the championship. He fired a course record 9-under-par 63 in the second qualifying round. Jonson has history with this championship and with the PNGA. His father, Ed Jonson, won this championship in 1974, held that year at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash. His great-uncle Carl Jonson, whom young Carl is named after, and his grandfather, Ernie Jonson, are both members of the PNGA Hall of Fame. “It would have been pretty cool to have both our names on the trophy,” said the young Carl. “We talked about it during the week. I have a few more years to do it. You never know.”
Measuring up to 7,600 yards, Wine Valley Golf Club’s picturesque layout spreads out beneath the shadow of the Blue Mountains. In architect Dan Hixson’s own words, “This golf course is marked by open spaces and movement created by wind and water over thousands and thousands of years. Conditions change every day, or more often than that. You can’t just come here and play it the same way over and over. You’ve got to think and adapt.” Wine Valley’s broad fairways, dramatic bunkers, and challenging, undulating greens will pose a formidable challenge for the talented field.
The Pacific Northwest Men’s Amateur Championship’s esteemed history includes past champions such as Bill Sander, Tiger Woods, Jeff Quinney, Ryan Moore, and Nick Flanagan, all of whom went on to win a U.S. Amateur title in the same summer. After winning the 1994 Pacific Northwest Men’s Amateur title, Woods said, “The PNGA Men’s Amateur will always be very special to me since it’s my first men’s amateur victory.”
In 2000, the PNGA teamed up with Sahalee Country Club to create the Western Swing with the Pacific Northwest Men’s Amateur Championship. The Sahalee Players Championship is the first leg of the swing, followed the week after by the Pacific Northwest Men’s Amateur Championship. The two events were paired together to give amateur golfers in the West an opportunity to play two major, national amateur championships without having to travel to the East coast.