Top amateur golf moments of 2018, No. 4: 24 for 1
At AmateurGolf.com, we admit to loving the amateur sector of this game for the stories, the depth of the players, the remarkable courses, the history of the tournaments and the sheer love of the game displayed by amateur golfers. As 2018 comes to a close, we’ve gathered the year’s best stories for a countdown to the end of the season. Be sure to come back each day to relive the moments that made amateur golf great this year.
Click here to see the whole list as it is revealed
Those familiar with USGA amateur championships (players, parents, fans, officials) know that the 64-player match-play bracket almost never
shakes out perfectly. It’s practically unheard of for 64 players to clearly separate themselves after 36 holes of stroke play (though for the record, it almost
happened at the U.S. Women’s Amateur before stroke play ended in a nine-for-one playoff).
But 24 players in sudden death for one final spot on the match-play bracket? It was a special kind of madness that played out at Pebble Beach’s iconic par-3 17th hole at the U.S. Amateur.
The players in the tie returned to the course first thing Wednesday morning to begin the playoff. The Round of 64 went off at 9 a.m.
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. The men were divided into six foursomes. 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.
“You almost had that sense that everyone was holding their breath,” eventual winner Jacob Bergeron
said of the 17th-tee atmosphere. Bergeron, who turned professional after the U.S. Am instead of returning for his sophomore season at LSU, and Peter Kuest
were the only two players to make a birdie on No. 17.
Bergeron was in the third of the six groups, while Kuest was in the final foursome.
“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,” chuckled Bergeron, who also called the playoff one of the most stressful golf situations he has ever experienced.
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.
And after a five-hour wait for the final tee time of the day, Bergeron ultimately fell to No. 1 seed Daniel Hillier. Nonetheless, it’s a day he’s likely to remember well.