Hunter Ostrom (Photo courtesy Eastern Amateur)
By Rick Woelfel
Hunter Ostrom spent most of the 63rd Eastern Amateur standing in the shadows, but he ended his week in Portsmouth, Va., at center stage.
Ostrom, a native of Eagle, Idaho, and a senior at Notre Dame, birdied the second extra hole on Sunday evening to win a three-way sudden-death playoff and claim the tournament title after overcoming a five-shot deficit over the last nine holes of regulation. He drained a 15-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole to gain a spot in the playoff. Ostrom, Kevin Johnson of Bethesda, Md., and Christopher White of Garden City, N.Y., all finished the regulation 72 holes at Elizabeth Manor Golf and Country Club at 13-under par 267.
Ostrom had the low round of the trio, a 4-under 66 after putting himself in contention with a 64 on Saturday. He played his last 36 holes in 10 under.
Johnson closed with an even-par 70 while White finished with a 71.
Charles Musto of Navy shot a 70 of his own after missing a 6-foot birdie putt at the final green to finish alone in fourth place, one shot out of a playoff, at 12-under 268. Ambrose Abbracciamento of San Diego State was fifth at 11-under 269 after a closing 64.
White, who held the lead after the second and third rounds, was eliminated after a bogey at the first playoff hole, the 365-yard par-4 first. Ostrom and Johnson advanced with pars.
Ostrom drove the green at the 320-yard par-4 second, then chipped to 3 feet to set up his winning birdie putt after Johnson, the first-day leader, saw his tee shot carom out of bounds off a tree.
Ostrom, playing in the next-to-last group, was steady out of the starting gate on Sunday, recording two birdies on his outgoing nine, he made the turn 2 under for the day and 11 under par for the tournament.
At that point, White, playing in the final group with Johnson and Musto, seemed to be in command. He also went out in 33 and stood on the 10th tee at 16-under par for the tournament, four shots clear of Johnson and five in front of Ostrom.
But White stumbled on the road home, making bogeys at Nos. 14, 16 and 17.
Meanwhile, Ostrom was more concerned with his own efforts than with what was going on behind him.
“I was hoping that they would come back to me,” he said, “but until my last putt at 18 I was kind of playing for third. I was just trying to kind of hang in there, get as low as I possibly could. I figured the two leaders would kind of just pull away.”
Ostrom stood at 12-under par for the tournament as he walked to the 18th tee, still two shots off the lead but White, just behind him, bogeyed the 17th to cut the margin in half.
Johnson was still in the hunt as well, despite a bogey of his own at 17 that left him at 2 over for the day but just two shots off the pace at 11 under for the tournament.
At the 548-yard par-5 18th hole, Ostrom, trying for the green in two, came up 40 yards short with a 3-iron (into the wind), pitched to 15 feet and drained his putt to tie for the lead.
Johnson, coming up behind him, reached the green in two and sank a 24-foot eagle putt to tie for the lead while White reached the green in regulation and settled for par after missing a 30-foot birdie try.
Ostrom never led the tournament outright until its conclusion. He was four shots back after the opening round and five back after 36 holes. It was only late in the final round that he thought about winning.
“I was just trying to hang in there,” he said. “I was a little bit squirrely at the beginning of the week.
“I was thinking obviously about the win toward the end but more so just making sure I hung in there in case anything crazy did happen.”
The win is Ostrom’s third in the last 10 months. He captured the Northern Intercollegiate last September and won the Southwestern Amateur title in June. He has qualified for the U.S. Amateur later this summer, and it will be his first appearance in a USGA championship.
ABOUT THE Eastern Amateur
The Eastern Amateur is a 72 hole stroke play
event that perennially attracts a top-drawer field.
The tournament has been
played -- with the exception of 1977 and 1999 -- at
Elizabeth Manor Golf and Country Club. Elizabeth
Manor is a par 70 Dick Wilson design in Portsmouth,
The impressive list of winners includes U.S. Open
winners Curtis Strange, Ben Crenshaw, Andy Bean,
Hubert Green, Jim Furyk and Steve Jones. Other
notables who have played in the Eastern Amateur
are Lanny Wadkins, Arron Oberholser, Steve Marino,
Scott Hoch, Clarence Rose, Gary Koch, Bob Tway,
John Rollins, Fred Funk, Carl Petterson, Chip Beck,
Jim Simons, Ben Crenshaw, Steve Melnyk, Andy
Bean and Steve Liebler. Liebler won the who the
Eastern in three different decades and is the only
golfer to have ever qualified for the USGA Junior,
USGA Amateur, USGA Open, USGA Public Links,
USGA Senior Open and USGA Senior Amateur as
as representing his state in the USGA Team
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