Derek Hitchner comes from way back to win Trans-Miss Amateur
Photo courtesy of Trans-Mississippi Golf Association
Photo courtesy of Trans-Mississippi Golf Association

Derek Hitchner stepped up big on Friday. Hitchner overcame a nine-shot deficit before birdieing the second extra hole to win the 117thstedition of the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association Amateur Championship at the Windsong Farm Golf Club in Independence Minnesota.

Hitchner, who resides in Minneapolis, closed with a 4-under par 67 to finish the 72 holes at 7-under par 277. Derek Busby (Ruston, La.), who had a six-stroke lead when play began on Friday, also finished at 277 after closing with a 5-over par 76.

The two players returned to the 18th hole and wound up playing it for a third time before Hitchner ended the festivities by rolling in a six-foot birdie putt.

Kaiwen Liu (San Diego/China), who at one point Friday had a share of the lead, came up one stroke short after a closing 71 left him alone in third place at 6-under par 277.

Michael Sanders (Davidson, N.C.), Jansen Preston (Lexington, Ky.) and Ryan Eshleman (Vestavia Hills, Ala.), all finished at 280 after rounds of 68, 70, and 71 respectively. Viraj Garewal (Raleigh, N.C.) Herman Sekne (Oslo, Norway), Jackson Lake (Clovis, Calif.), Enrique Dimayuga (London, England), and Cal McCoy (Highlands Ranch, Colo. were all at 281.

Adam Brady (Perth, Australia) who was tied with Liu for second place at the start of the day and was part of the final group with Liu and Busby, finished with a 78 and tied for 19th at 285. Hitchner, who recently concluded his third year at Pepperdine (he was not in the lineup for the NCAA finals), had little thought of winning the tournament when the day began.

“I know anything’s possible in golf,” he said, “but thinking I was actually in contention seemed pretty far-fetched. I just tried to go out and execute what I wanted to do. I guess I was just trying to leave everything out there. There was really nothing for me to lose. I made the cut, I was playing a great course, and I just tried to enjoy it.”

Playing in the next-to-last group, Hitchner played his first 10 holes in even par. But then, his putter heated up. He recorded five birdies in a stretch of six holes, converting birdie chances at the 11th, 12th 14th, 15th, and finally at the par-3 16th to move to eight under par for the tournament.

“At that point I thought I was probably playing for second,” Hitchner said.

But in fact, he had a one-stroke lead at that point. The 37-year old Busby who was dominant much of the week, struggled out of the gate. He played his opening nine in 4-over par 39 and added a fifth bogey on the way in.

Busby’s difficulties brought Liu, a recent graduate of Cal-Berkeley, back into contention; he played his opening nine at even par, then birdied the par-4 13th and found himself tied for the lead with Hitchner and Busby when the latter bogeyed the par-4 14th.

Hitchner bogeyed the par-4 17th to open the door for Busby via the playoff but Hitchner believed he had the momentum at that point.

“I guess I kind of approached it like (on the first playoff hole) everything resets,” he said. “It certainly didn’t matter what we had done. But I certainly felt good about how I was playing. “I can’t really speak to how (Busby) felt. But speaking for myself I felt confident. I felt I could at least give myself a chance by executing how I wanted to.”

Results: Trans-Miss Championship
1MNDerek HitchnerMinneapolis, MN100070-71-69-67=277
2LADerek BusbyRuston, LA70066-65-70-76=277
3CAKaiwen LiuSan Diego, CA50069-71-67-71=278
T4NCMichael SandersDavidson, NC50070-70-72-68=280
T4KYJansen PrestonLexington, KY50068-72-70-70=280

View full results for Trans-Miss Championship

ABOUT THE Trans-Miss Championship

The Trans-Miss is one of the oldest and most storied golf tournaments in the United States. For 106 years the championship was played in a match play format. Past champions include Jack Nicklaus (1958 and 1959), Charles Coe (1947, 1949, 1952 and 1956), Deane Beman (1960), George Archer (1963), Ben Crenshaw (1972), Gary Koch (1973), Bob Tway (1978), Mark Brooks (1978) and other professional tour notables. In 1987 the championship was changed to a mid- amateur age requirement, and a senior division was also added. Starting in 2010, the Trans- Mississippi Championship, returned to its roots as an open amateur tournament, and immediately established itself as a "must-play" among top collegiate and mid-am players, while changing to a 72-hole stroke play format. The field size starts at 144 players from Trans- Mississippi Golf Association member clubs (or players receiving a special invitation from the Championship Committee). After 36 holes, a cut is made to the low 54 and ties who play the final two rounds.

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