PEBBLE BEACH, California (Aug. 16, 2018) – Until this week, Isaiah Salinda never had the pleasure of playing a hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Now, the South San Franciscan has played the iconic layout more than most could hope to in their entire lives.
Salinda, now a U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist, took absolutely no time to acquaint himself with Pebble Beach, shooting a 3-under 68 to open stroke play, which is largely the reason he was able to make it to the match-play portion this week.
Salinda began the match-play portion steamrolling opponents, first defeating Will Grimmer, an Ohio State golfer and 2018 U.S. Open participant, 6 and 5, on Wednesday. He followed it up with a 5-and-4 win against Georgia rising junior Trevor Phillips during Thursday’s morning match.
For Salinda, the greatest adversity this week was Thursday’s afternoon bout with one of amateur golf’s favorite faces, 2017 Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad.
On top of having to play a player as accomplished as Hagestad, Salinda was forced to do the brunt of his work without the driver he has been playing throughout the tournament.
“It was different than it has been,” mentioned his caddie following his round. “We got off to a weird start today where he actually broke his driver face on the second hole.“
“Yeah, so it cracked on my second tee shot,” explained Salinda. “I hit it, and it was a good shot, but it felt weird. And then I looked at it and it was cracked on the bottom of the face. So I was kind of freaking out for a little bit because I didn’t know if any of the Callaway guys would have one. But they were really great. They ended up bringing one on the third hole, adjusted it right there. It was the same head, same loft. I think the lie angle was slightly different…but just had to adjust, and it was fine.”
The match began more shakily than Salinda has become accustomed to. He made two bogeys in his first four holes and took his first deficit of the week thus far.
Less-than-stellar play would continue for Salinda over the next few holes and by the 11th tee, the Stanford golfer would find himself 2-down, which can seem like a mountain to a player when he is struggling to find their game.
Salinda’s birdie win on No. 11 seemed to right the ship for the 2018 Pacific Coast Amateur Champion, who followed with three consecutive pars and a conceded birdie win on 403-yard, par-4 15th to square the match once again.
“It was a tough start…” said Salinda, “but I think a birdie on No. 11, I think that was my first birdie of the day. That kind of got me going there, brought me back to 1-down, and then from there…I was just a lot more comfortable.”
After halving the next two holes with pars and bogeys, respectively, the pair headed to one of the most iconic finishing holes in golf for what all hoped would be a climactic conclusion. Salinda did not disappoint, striping a gutsy tee shot down the left side of the fairway, leaving himself 35 feet for an eagle. Stewart Hagestad left his second shot short of the front right bunker.
Hagestad wasn’t done yet though, rolling a birdie putt that looked like it had nowhere to go but the bottom of the cup. Fortunately for Salinda, it stopped just a roll away from dropping in.
“On the 18th, yeah, he had about a 20, 25-footer for a birdie, and I had already lagged my eagle putt up there to like 2 feet…and he just barely left it short. I thought it was in the whole way. I’m sure he did too…I thought we were going to extra holes.”
Salinda proceeded to tap in his birdie and the match ended with both players exchanging a friendly embrace on the green that has been host to so much amazing golf history.
If there’s a constant for Salinda throughout his summer's successes, it surely has to be the man on his bag, close friend and former teammate Bradley Knox.
“Yeah, he’s been great,” said Salinda. “Being a former teammate of mine, we know each other really well, and he knows my game really well, and we get along. He’s just really good at helping me in my pre-shot routine, just getting me in the right mental state and picking good targets, so he’s been great for me this week.”
Knox has a similar perspective.
“I’ve known Isaiah for 10 years,” offered Knox. “We played junior golf together, and then being on the Stanford golf team together we spend 20 hours or more every week traveling together, playing tournaments together, and playing practice rounds for six hours. I think the people you get to know the best in college are your teammates and just knowing when to calm him down, when to make him laugh, and all that kind of stuff (is important) because out here it can get pretty intense.”
Knox, who is notorious for wearing various pairs of “lucky” socks while on the bag, will be with Salinda again tomorrow as he squares off against Vanderbilt golfer William Gordon in the quarterfinal round.
The match will tee begin at 2:45 PM PT, immediately following Noah Goodwin vs. Devon Bling.