Sean Yu (SJSU Athletics photo)
Once UC Irvine redshirt senior Ramiz Jamal knew he’d made it into the brackets, following a grueling four-hole playoff nonetheless, the 21-year-old began feeling very optimistic about his chances.
“I told one of my teammates after getting in that once match play begins, everyone starts again at zero,” Jamal said. “It’s up for grabs.”
Having secured his spot in the brackets, it didn’t take long for the No. 32 seeded Jamal to make his presence felt. The Huntington Beach resident pulled off the stunner in Wednesday’s Round of 32 at this week’s California Amateur Championship at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, knocking out No.1 seed Sean Yu, 1-up, on the Dunes Course.
Down three holes with three to play, Yu, a junior at San Jose State, made things interesting by cutting the deficit to just 1-down following clutch birdie wins on Nos. 16 and 17. On the ensuing 18th, Yu split the fairway with his drive while Jamal, suddenly looking shaky, pushed his drive right into a bunker.
Yu eventually would knock his third shot to within 3 feet of the pin, with another birdie–and possibly extra holes–clearly in his sights. But that’s when Jamal pulled a rabbit out of his bag. After recovering from his drive to reach the par-5 green in regulation, Jamal faced a 70-foot birdie putt not only for the halve and win but to avoid further holes. Jamal’s putt initially sped past the pin–but his ball, which originally looked like it was going to run off the green, stopped on the backslope, then turned backwards and eventually rolled in to seal Yu’s fate.
“It was the only way I thought that I could get that putt close,” Jamal said. “I wasn’t really comfortable with the speed of the greens all day. I just got really lucky. I think that’s the best match I’ve played.”
Afterwards, Jamal could smile. Yu, meanwhile, could only shake his head in disbelief.
“What can you do?”, Yu pondered.
While Yu was ousted, the other Top 4 seeds all moved on.
No. 2 seed Thomas Hutchison, playing out of UC Davis, looked sharp in eliminating No. 31 seed Joseph Benedetti, 4 and 3. Coming off an appearance at last week’s British Amateur, Hutchison (pictured, below) surged ahead thanks to three straight birdies on holes No. 11 through No. 13.
“I just didn’t do anything really bad,” said Hutchison, the winner of last year’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship. “I put the ball in the fairway and on the greens and maintained good speed on my putts.”
No. 3 seed Christian Banke, a sophomore at San Diego State, also won 4 and 3, defeating Ryan Bisharat. No. 4 seed Cameron Sisk, meanwhile, moved on with a 3 and 2 win over No.29 Daniel Kim.
Thursday’s Round of 16, which begins at 7:30 a.m. on the Dunes Course, will see more great matchups, including Jamal taking on No.16 seed Jason Anthony. Anthony, who knocked out Robert Hamilton 2 and 1, entered the event leading the NCGA Player of the Year points race.
In an all-NorCal tilt, Hutchison will face No.18 Josh McCarthy. Both Hutchison and McCarthy are former Players of the Year on the Junior Tour of Northern California.
The last match of the scheduled day should also be a great one. There, Devon Bling, the No.6 seed, will face No. 11 Noah Woolsey. Bling, who played in the U.S. Open at nearby Pebble Beach, opened match play with an impressive 6-and-4 victory.
ABOUT THE California Amateur
The Championship is open to amateur golfers
who have established current indexes of 4.4
and are members in good standing of the
Southern California Golf Association, the
Northern California Golf Association, or the
Public Links Golf Association of Southern
California. Nonexempt players must qualify. An
entrant may play in only one qualifying event,
belongs to clubs in both Southern California
and Northern California. The 18-hole
rounds will determine the qualifiers.
The championship field will play 36 holes of
qualifying at a Northern or Southern California
Location, with the low 32 golfers from that
combined field moving on to match play (with
playoff, if necessary, to determine the final
Two rounds each of 18-hole match play will
follow on Thursday and Friday and the 36-hole
final match will be on Saturday.
The location will rotate yearly between
Northern and Southern California locations.
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