Ned Jensen (left) and Thomas Hutchison (NCGA photo)
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Aug. 24, 2018) – Just prior to the formal presentation, 18-year-old San Jose resident Thomas Hutchison took a good look at some of the engraved names on the trophy. The list includes the likes of amateur legends Lawson Little Jr. and Charlie Seaver as well as current or past PGA Tour members Kevin Sutherland, Arron Oberholser and Spencer Levin.
Hutchison’s name will soon be engraved as well. The UC Davis sophomore, who was seeded No. 31, completed a marathon week Friday at par-72 Spyglass Hill, defeating No. 32 Ned Jensen, 3 and 1, to win the 115th annual NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship. It’s the first NCGA major win for Hutchison, whose lone previous NCGA victory came at the 2016 NCGA Junior.
It’s believed to be the first time in the championship’s long history that the No. 31 seed faced the No. 32 seed in the 36-hole final.
“Knowing my name is with those others who’ve won this, it’s exciting,” said Hutchison, who, like Jensen, had to first survive the first Wednesday morning stroke-play qualifying playoff to even get into the brackets. “Hopefully, I’ll go on to have the same success as those guys before me.”
Things didn’t look too promising for Hutchison following the morning round. He’d trail 2-down to Jensen, a 25-year-old caddie at California Golf Club and San Francisco GC, at the break thanks in part to Jensen birdies on the seventh and 17th holes.
Things could’ve even been worse, but time after time Hutchison either was able to escape trouble, or Jensen was unable to capitalize. On the par-3 15th, Hutchison shanked his tee shot dead right into the woods. Somehow, he miraculously knocked his next shot to within 2 feet of the flagstick, saving par and forcing a halve.
“That was a pretty bad tee shot,” laughed Hutchison. “But I still got the halve. I just tried to keep giving myself as many opportunities as I could.”
In the afternoon portion, a revitalized Hutchison continued to make a charge. A Jensen bogey on the 19th (No.1) and a Hutchison birdie on the 20th hole quickly brought things back to all-square. Just a hole later on the par-3 21st (No.3), Hutchison made par to go 1 up.
The two would halve the next three holes before a big momentum shift occurred on the par-5 25th. There, Hutchison pulled his second shot left over the pond, while Jensen hit his second shot pin-high but off to the right side of the green. Hutchison would be forced to take a drop, and then chipped through the green, his ball stopping near the collar. Facing one of the most difficult chips on the course, Jensen’s third shot, meanwhile, went past the flagstick and nearly into the water hazard. Jensen chipped again, this time getting on the green, but Hutchison, who at one point appeared doomed, quickly ended the drama, making his difficult putt for a par and another win to go 2 up.
Once looking like it’d again be all square, Hutchison’s lead was now 2 up.
“I thought I’d leave my chip in front of the green, but it went too far down towards the water,” Jensen said. “My goal all week was to not hold back. If I had that chip again, I’d try to do the same thing.”
Hutchison knew he’d caught a break, but he also came through by making his putt. “My goal on that hole became to just get a halve. I was surprised his chip took off that much,” Hutchison said. “I hit a great putt. It was a huge relief.”
The momentum would stay with Hutchison, as he birdied both the eighth and ninth holes to quickly pad his lead to 4 up.
The game Jensen, however, wasn’t done. On the par-5 29th hole (No.11), Jensen finally got a birdie putt to fall, cutting the deficit to 3 up. It marked his first birdie of the afternoon.
Just a hole later on the par-3 12th, Jensen made another birdie to make it just 2 up. But again, there’d be a big momentum changer.
On the par-4 13th (31st hole), Jensen made his third straight birdie, draining a tricky, curling 38-footer. Hutchison, however, who faced nearly the same putt–a few feet closer—also sank his long putt for birdie. Hutchison’s 2-up lead remained intact.
“He was gaining serious momentum at that point,” Hutchison said. “Right when he hit it, I thought, ‘Oh man, it’s tracking right at the cup.’ And then it dropped in. But I also got a good read from his putt. He basically gave me the line.”
On the ensuing par-5 14th, Hutchison re-upped his lead to three holes when he made birdie to Jensen’s par. Jensen again tried to rally, winning the 15th when Hutchison three-putted for bogey. Following a halve on the 16th, however, Jensen–going for the 17th green off the tee–knocked his tee shot slightly over the green. Facing another tough chip shot, he’d have to settle for a bogey while Hutchison, who’d laid up off the tee, made par for the win.
“I’m still really happy with my week,” Jensen said. “I’ve been working really hard to be able to play with these guys. Sometimes putts drop, and sometimes they don’t.”
Considering that he nearly didn’t get to match play, Hutchison was pleased as well.
“It’s a pretty exhausting week. It feels good to have got the job done,” Hutchison said.
ABOUT THE NCGA Match Play
The oldest of the NCGA’s major events, the Amateur
Match Play Championship, dates back to 1903 when
was first played at San Rafael GC. Varying formats
been used over the 100+ years of competition but
the tournament is 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying,
followed by a 32-person seeded match play bracket.
Pre-qualifying required for non-exempt players.
must have a handicap index of 5.4 or less.
View Complete Tournament Information