Tyler Strafaci (USGA photo)
“Oh please be good!”
begged to his ball as it flew from his four-iron toward the 18th green and the Havemeyer Trophy on Sunday.
Battling both a blanket of fog that rolled in on the final nine, and self-inflicted damage on the 34th and 35th holes, Strafaci knocked his second from 240 yards onto the par-5 18th to about 15-feet to pull off the shot of the tournament.
Two-putting for birdie, Strafaci looked on as his opponent Charles "Ollie" Osborne
failed to get up and down from short right of the green to force extra holes.
The 36-hole championship match was never short on dramatics. In the morning 18, Osborne took a 5-up lead through the opening 12 holes. Undeterred, Strafaci won four of the final six holes to shave Osborne’s lead to just 1 up before the afternoon round.
In the morning, the duo matched each other with 66s and were 12-under on best ball.
As the afternoon round started, Strafaci was able to keep the momentum going, tying the match on the 20th hole (No. 2). Strafaci would strike again on the 25th (No. 7) to take his first lead of the match with a 25-foot birdie.
Able to maintain the lead for another five holes, Mother Nature arrived in the form of dense fog to create a coliseum at Bandon Dunes for the gladiatorial showdown. Rangefinders were rendered useless, and at times it became impossible to see where each player was taking aim, much less where their ball went once in the air.
Ollie Osborne (USGA photo)
As the marine layer cooled the temperature, it seemed as though Osborne was the one heating up. The SMU Mustang won the par-5 13th, his first win since playing the par-3 12th in the morning (a hole he nearly had an ace on twice on Sunday).
Not to be outdone, Strafaci came back on the par-4 14th (No. 32) with an eagle 2 to regain the one-hole advantage he had worked so hard for. Tallying another win with a par on the par-3 15th (No. 33) after Osborne could not keep his ball out of the penalty area left of the elevated green, Strafaci looked like he was set to wrap the championship.
But heading to the 16th, a hole that was seemingly made for such a match-play moment, the match turned in what seemed like a blink of an eye. The fog, as dense as it had been since rolling in four holes prior, made the 16th play to its truest form.
With the landing area completely obscured by the fog, both players took aggressive lines off the tee of the driveable par-4, but Strafaci drew the short straw. In a fairway bunker 83 yards from the hole, Strafaci flew the green and found the penalty area on the cliff's edge. Trying to salvage a halve to go dormie into the 17th, Strafaci hacked at his ball twice in the native grass before conceding the hole to Osborne.
The 17th did not do any favors to the Georgia Tech senior either. After Osborne hit it close from 164 yards, the Yellow Jacket dumped two shots into the penalty are short, taking the match to the 36th tee all square.
If Strafaci was reeling, he could take consolation in knowing that the 18th hole had been good to him in each of the last three matches. First it was Segundo Oliva Pinto
's caddie committing an unthinkable rules violation
to hand him the match, then it was a shaky lag putt to four feet that he was able to make to fend off Stewart Hagestad
, and finally it was Aman Gupta
taking three to get out of a fairway bunker.
He saved his best finish for last on Sunday, pumping a great drive through the fog to just over 240 yards away. Smashing a 4-iron from the middle of the fairway, Strafaci knew he executed what he visualized through the haze as soon as it came off the face.
“Oh please be good!”
The towering draw finished hole-high about 15-feet away.
“I told myself that I was going to hit a winning shot when it mattered most under the most pressure in amateur golf,” said Strafaci. “I needed 225 yards to carry the bunkers and if I rip a 4-iron, it goes 225. I wanted to hit it close by hitting the best 4-iron of my life. I knew I could execute it and trusted myself.”
Tapping in for birdie, the pressure was on Osborne to convert his 12-foot birdie putt after missing the green short-right. As the putt slid by, Strafaci was able to join Jack Nicklaus (1959) and Hal Sutton (1980) as winners of both the North & South and the U.S. Amateur in the same year.
For Strafaci, it was personal. His paternal grandfather, Frank Strafaci Sr., played in 16 U.S. Amateurs, never making it past the quarterfinals (1947, 1949). In 1954 Frank was ousted by The King himself, losing to Arnold Palmer in the first round, which Palmer later cited as his toughest match of the week.
Strafaci matched Frank earlier this summer with his win at the North & South
, and now has the family's second USGA championship to go along with the elder Strafaci's U.S. Public Links title in 1935. With his father, Frank Jr. (who played in three U.S. Amateurs himself) on the bag, Strafaci surpassed the man he never got to meet.
“He’s my best friend,” Strafaci said when asked what it meant for his dad to be on his bag this week. “I love him. It’s awesome. He’s such a good guy and my biggest supporter. To do it here with him when I didn’t think I’d have another amateur tournament is something I’ll never forget.”
With the win, Strafaci gives Georgia tech their eighth U.S. Amateur title, joining Bobby Jones (five times), Matt Kuchar (1997), and Andy Ogletree
With the win, Strafaci earned exemptions into the 2021 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, the 2021 Open at Royal St. Georges, and will likely be receiving an invitation to the 2021 Masters.
As for Osborne, he will not be leaving Bandon empty-handed. As the runner up he will also receive an exemption into next year’s U.S. Open and likely a 2021 Masters invite, as well as a spot in the next three U.S. Amateurs so long as he retains amateur status (Strafaci would receive 10 years).
“I thought I played really well,” said Osborne. “I had a couple of hiccups but I thought I played great today. We were both playing really well so it was fun.”
Osborne was trying to become the fifth player from SMU to win the U.S. Amateur, joining Hank Kuehne (1998), Colt Knost (2007), Kelly Kraft
(2011) and Bryson DeChambeau
Ollie Osborne to play Tyler Strafaci in U.S. Amateur Final
Aug 15, 2020 - Two father/son combos will go at it Sunday, with Tyler Strafaci and dad chasing his grandfather Frank's legacy
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ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA
championship, was first played in 1895 at
Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 14 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online in the spring
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