Jacob Bergeron (LSU Athletics photo)
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Aug. 15, 2018) – For the most part, it was quiet at Pebble Beach’s iconic 17th tee Wednesday morning, despite the fact that 24 men had to run that gauntlet just to have a shot at match play.
The match-play bracket almost never shakes out perfectly at a USGA championship, but for 24 men to finish tied for 64th in U.S. Amateur stroke play set up a far larger playoff – for a single spot – than normal. One shot meant the difference between going home and going on at Pebble beach.
“You almost had that sense that everyone was holding their breath,” eventual winner Jacob Bergeron
said of the 17th-tee atmosphere. Bergeron, who will turn professional instead of returning for his sophomore season at LSU, defeated Peter Kuest on the second hole of sudden death. He called the scenario one of the most stressful he has experienced.
USGA Playoff Scoreboard (Click to enlarge)
Bergeron was in the third of six groups to tee off No. 17 on Wednesday morning. He tried to treat it as any other money-match with his buddies back home. He chose a 4-iron – he had already hit “a solid bucket” on the range that morning – stuffed it to 6 feet, and made the putt to put the first birdie on the board.
An array of shots flew into the 17th green in the roughly hour-long span it took to get all 24 players through the first hole. Every one of the four players in the fourth group missed the green. The morning quickly became a short-game clinic. With one shot to make it, players had to try to pull off something magical.
Peter Kuest was the only other player to make birdie despite a handful of close calls. Kuest, a junior at BYU, was in the final group to play the 17th. He put his 5-iron to 10 feet, made the putt and marched immediately to the 18th to go another hole against Bergeron.
“We found out someone made a birdie…it kind of freed up the tee shot, I think,” said Kuest, who arrived roughly 20 minutes before he was scheduled to go off the 17th tee (effectively missing some of the waiting-game jitters).
In the end, a 24-man playoff became a scramble to get it in the hole at No. 18. Kuest bounced his second shot off the rocks left of the fairway, lost the ball and had to take a drop. Bergeron, meanwhile, flared a 4-iron right behind a tree short of the green that he didn’t even realize would come into play. A half hour earlier, the 4-iron had been Bergeron’s magic wand at No. 17.
“Love-hate relationship with that one,” Bergeron said.
Both players wrestled it around the green before Bergeron two-putted for bogey and Kuest three-putted for a triple-bogey 8. It was a loose finish to what had been such an intense early-morning start.
“Just hit a golf shot. At the end of the day, that’s all it is,” Bergeron said. “A 4-iron from 220 to a back left flag.”
And then, thanks to a five-hour wait until his match against top seed Daniel Hillier, it was time for a nap. Bergeron, now the No. 64 seed, had more long odds to overcome.
ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA
championship, was first played in 1895 at
Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 14 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online in the spring
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