Top amateur golf moments 2018, No. 2: To him go the spoils
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
Viktor Hovland (Photo illustration)
If there’s one thing we couldn’t get over about Viktor Hovland
during U.S. Amateur week, it was his huge smile. That, and his brilliant golf. The 21-year-old Oklahoma State junior from Oslo, Norway was the match-play buzz saw at Pebble Beach, and looked to be sincerely enjoying himself while doing it.
It only took 104 holes for Hovland to win the title, which ties the record for fewest match-play holes played by a U.S. Amateur champion since the current format of five 18-hole rounds and a 36-hole final was adopted in 1979.
Hovland won back-to-back matches in the Round of 16 and quarterfinals by a 7-and-6 margin. He played brilliant golf in defeating Cole Hammer
, easily the favorite at the start of the week, by a 3-and-2 margin in the semifinals. Hovland had only ever won one event outside of Norway – a college event – and spoke early in the week of how hard it is to win tournaments. It looked easy at Pebble Beach, but Hovland credited much of his success to his putter.
“I'd just say this week I just -- when I had to make a putt, I made the putt or hit the shot that I needed to,” he said.
With his Oklahoma State coach Alan Bratton on the bag, Hovland took a 6-and-5 victory over UCLA’s Devon Bling in the scheduled 36-hole final. Grasping the sizable Havemayer Trophy at the end of the day, Hovland didn’t quite know what to say about that.
“I keep getting asked this question, I’ve got no way to answer it,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable. All my hard work has paid off and it feels sweet.”
Hovland had committed his sophomore season at Oklahoma State to making a swing change that allowed for a higher ball flight and added consistency. It played a huge role in his success at the U.S. Amateur.
“I've only won once before, and to win the U.S. Amateur as my second win is really cool,” Hovland said after a few minutes chatting with media, searching for the right words. “It's hard to top that. So yeah, I just hope it's the start of something great.”
Hovland was the sixth Oklahoma State player in the last 23 years to reach the U.S. Amateur final. He joined Peter Uihlein, who also had Bratton on the bag, as the only players to win.
“(Bratton) has seen me play so many times, so to be able to share this moment with him, it’s awesome,” Hovland said.
Nothing but good vibes for the guys in orange.