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The top marathon matches in U.S. Amateur history
17 Aug 2022
by Sean Melia of AmateurGolf.com

see also: U.S. Amateur Golf Championship, Ridgewood Country Club

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Sam Urzetta, Harold Hilton, Steven Fox, Tiger Woods
Sam Urzetta, Harold Hilton, Steven Fox, Tiger Woods

In the history of the U.S. Amateur, 10 championsip matches have gone to extra holes. From 1950 to 1996, no matches went to sudden death.

From 1965 to 1972 the U.S. Amateur was changed to a stroke play format. During those years, the championship was decided in a playoff, but we are only going to look at the match play finals.

We thought we'd rank all ten matches for their excitement and drama.

1946
Ted Bishop defeats Smiley Quick (37 holes)
Baltusol Golf Club; Springfield, NJ
Smiley Quick held a three-hole lead during his match against Ted Bishop, but like many of these final matches, the lead slipped away. Bishop, a former pro from Massachusetts, and Quick, the U.S. Public Links champion, tied every hole on their final nine of the match. On the 37th hole, Quick and Bishop both had short birdie putts. Bishop swept his in, but Quick missed his three-foot putt.

1936
Johnny Fischer defeats Jack Mclean (37 holes)
Garden City (NY) Golf Club
Stymies played a big role in some of these older matches. Fischer stymied the British McLean down the stretch to win a pivotal hole and finished off the match on the 37th hole.



1950
Sam Urzetta defeats Frank Stranahan (39 holes)
Minneapolis Golf Club; St. Louis Park, Minn.
Sam Urzetta was better known for making 15-foot shots on the hardcourt than dropping birdie putts. The St. Bonaventure Hall of Famer (and 90.2% free throw shooter) defeated Frank Stranahan in a match-up befitting the 50th playing of the championship.

It was dubbed "Millionaire's son vs. janitor's son."

Stranahan was a wealthy heir who seemed destined to win at least one U.S. Amateur. On the other hand, Urzetta was described as “a job-seeking collegian from St. Bonaventure.”

The long-hitting Urzetta was a relative unknown, having one big win under his belt, the 1948 NY Amateur Championship. However, he controlled the match for most of the day, leading by 2 holes down the stretch. However, Stranahan managed to fight back and pull even before they reached the 36th hole.

The match set the record for the longest final match, which was tied by Jeff Quinney and James Driscoll in 2000. It took Urzetta making a five-foot bogey putt on the 36th hole to force the extra holes.

Stranahan never won the elusive U.S. Amateur title. Urzetta, who had the opportunity and talent to play professional basketball, instead chose a career in golf. His NY Golf Hall of Fame entry calls him a "golf legend in Rochester, NY."



2003
Nick Flanagan defeats Casey Wittenburg (37 holes)
Oakmont Country Club; Plum, Pa.
When Australian Nick Flanagan holed out on the 37th hole at Oakmont CC, he became the first non-American golfer since Ross Somerville in 1932 to win the U.S Amateur. It was also the 100th anniversary of Aussie Walter Travis' victory at Oakmont. Flanagan first picked up a golf club in 1997 after watching Tiger Woods win the Masters. An exceptionally fast rise to the top of the amateur game, making Flanagan the third youngest winner of the championship.

Since his 2003 victory, seven other foreign-born golfers have held the Havermeyer trophy.

It wasn't easy for Flanagan. He was a massive underdog in the final match. Flanagan and some buddies planned the trip to the United States to play some amateur golf in the summer. It was only his second time in the United States. He was an unknown commodity, so much so that Wittenberg, an Oklahoma State standout, didn't know what Flanagan looked like until Saturday, six days into the event.

Flanagan never trailed in the final match. Like many of these matches, the final few holes prove very difficult for the leader. Wittenberg won two of the final four holes, including the 36th hole, to force a playoff. Wittenberg couldn't keep the momentum going though and made a bogey on the 37th hole.

1911
Harold Hilton defeats Fred Herreshoff (37 holes)
The Apawamis Club; Rye, NY
Sometimes it was an immense amount of luck to win a championship. Enter, Harold Hilton. The three-time British Amateur champ arrived at Apawamis ready to triumph on American soil. He defeated the likes of Walter Travis and Jerome Travers on his way to the final against Vermonter Fred Herreshoff.

It was estimated that 4,000 people were there to watch the final match. It seemed to be a dud, as Hilton raced out to a commanding 6-up lead after 22 holes. Herreshoff didn't give up there, and battled back to tie the match and force extra holes.

On the 37th hole, Hilton hit a spoon to reach the par 4, but the old-time 3-wood went off course and directly at a rock outcropping near the green. The ball could have gone anywhere, but it ended up safely on the green. The stroke of luck left Herreshoff rattled and he made a five to lose the match in heartbreaking fashion.

The win made Hilton the first player to win the U.S. and British Amateur Championships in the same year.

2012
Steven Fox defeats Michael Weaver (37 holes)
Cherry Hills Country Club; Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
After what happened to Michael Weaver's putt on the 36th hole, the golf gods owe him, big time. The tail-end of this match had all the drama and heartbreak that makes matchplay such an incredible format.

Both Fox and Weaver found their way into matchplay after making it through a 17-for-14 playoff. Fox was the no. 63 seed. The highest seed to ever win the championship.

Steven Fox trailed Weaver 2 down with two holes remaining. The slender U of Tennessee Chattanooga senior was an unheralded player. Weaver was a member of the Cal men's golf team with Max Homa.

Fox won the last two holes, first with a birdie on the 17th and then with a steady par on the 18th. Weaver was left with a 5 foot putt to tie the hole and win the U.S. Amateur trophy. In a horrible stroke of luck, Weaver's ball did a full 360 degree lip out, rattling Weaver as they headed to the 37th hole.

Fox played it safe and made a par, but Weaver couldn't collect himself and after a poor drive, needed two chips to get onto the green and have a bogey putt. It was too late. Fox nestled his birdie putt down to gimme range and the match was done. In three holes, Fox went from 2 down to the 2012 U.S. Amateur Champion.



2000
Jeff Quinney defeats James Driscoll (39 holes)
Baltusrol Golf Club; Springfield, NJ
In another impressive comeback from dormie, James Driscoll pushed Jeff Quinney to play 39 holes before he could win the Havermeyer trophy.

The hardest part? The match didn't finish on the day it started. With lightning in the area, Quinney had to mark a putt on the 39th hole and head home before returning the next morning.

Quinney was used to long matches during that week at Baltusol. He played 41 holes in his semi-final match against Ben Curtis after trailing by as much as 4 down. Quinney won the last two holes of that match force extra holes.

In the final, Driscoll was the player who erased a deficit. He trailed 3 down with three holes to play. A par on the 36th hole of the day pushed the match to extra holes. They both parred the first two holes but were called off the course due to lightning. A 193 yard par 3 was waiting for them on Monday morning. Driscoll missed the green; Quinney knocked a 4-iron 30-feet from the pin. When Driscoll's chip came to rest 15 feet away, it was Quinney's time to close the door. He rolled home the birdie putt to win the 2000 U.S. Amateur Championship.

1923
Max Marston defeats Jess Sweetser (38 holes)
Flossmoor Country Club; Floosmor, Ill.
In 1915, Max Marston was made famous by Grantland Rice after the golfer missed a short putt in the U.S. Amateur semi-final. Rice called it the most-famous instance of a short missed putt in American golf.

Eight years later, Marston was back in the spotlight. His path to the 1923 final was lined with incredible opponents. Marston defeated Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet to overcome the disaster in 1915.

Waiting for Marston in the final was Sweetser, the defending champion. On three of the final four holes of the match, Marston stymied Sweetser. That included a 38th hole stymie. Sweetser couldn't convert his shot over Marston's ball. Marston tapped in and exorcized the demons from 1915.

Marston's 1923 season was one of the most impressive amateur years to date. He won the Patterson Cup, Crump Cup, Walker Cup, the low am in the Pennsylvania Open, and the Marion Club Championship.

2017
Doc Redman defeats Doug Ghim (37 holes)
Riviera Country Club; Los Angeles, Calif.
The most recent extra hole final match comes in as the second best in the championship's history. It seems that the trend in these matches is a big lead is lost late. Sometimes the player that blows the lead rebounds, and sometimes they don't.

In Doug Ghim's case, he couldn't hold off the late-charging Redman at Riviera. Redman, a Clemson star, was 2 down with 2 to play. A 60 foot eagle putt on the 17th hole kept his hopes alive against the University of Texas golfer.

Ghim showed some mettle on the 18th hole, hitting a challenging chip from short of the green to secure his par. However, Redman knowing he had to make his 9-foot birdie putt, poured the curling putting into the center of the cup.

The 10th at Riviera, thought by many to be one of the greatest short par fours in the world, was the stage of the first playoff hole. Ghim crumbled, like others before him, and Redman didn't have to hit a putt on the 10th green to win the U.S. Amateur.

The golf over the entire final match, aside from the 37th hole was excellent golf. Redman shot a 66 in the morning 18, beating Ghim by one shot and holding a 1 up lead heading into the afternoon 18.

"It was about never giving up and believing in myself. You never know what can happen. It's awesome. All the hard work has been paying off obviously. I think it's great for everyone around me too who has been helping me out. It's their win, too. It's surreal."

1996
Tiger Woods defeats Steve Scott
Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club; Portland, Ore.
Related: Tiger Woods won 6 straight USGA events. Where are the players he beat now?

Tiger's third straight U.S. Amateur championship didn't come easily. Like Doc Redman at Riviera, it took some late heroics and long putts to stay alive long enough to outlast his opponent.

Steve Scott dominated Woods in the opening 18 holes and held a 5-up lead over the wunderkind.

“Picture this. Tiger’s out there on the range with Butch Harmon, trying to figure something out, and Kristi and I went shopping.” Scott told writer Thomas Dunne. “We hadn’t gotten anything that week, so we headed to the merchandise tent. It was her idea, just to take my mind off the match.”

Scott said one of the moments that has stuck with him over the course of the last 25 years is the scene on the first hole.

"The fairway was lined with people at 7:15 in the morning. I knew it was going to be a different kind of day," Scott said.

Over the course of the round, Scott decided not to watch any of Woods' shots. Eight months prior to their US Am final, Scott played with Tiger and shot an 80. He spent the round in awe of Tiger's high towering shots; he was going to avoid that distraction this time. However, while it's easy not to watch Tiger swing, it's nearly impossible to avoid the sound he makes.

"I couldn't not hear the sound of the strike. It was unlike any other sound. Tiger was so far and away the best player out there," Scott said.

Perhaps a forgotten anecdote to this epic final occurred on the 34th hole of the match. Scott was 2-up, and Tiger was putting out to extend the match. However, Woods had moved his marker because it was in Scott’s putting line. As Tiger lined up his putt, Scott reminded Tiger to move it back.

Since then, Tiger has admitted he had forgotten about his marker; if Woods had played his ball from the wrong spot, Scott would have won the hole and the U.S. Amateur. Instead, Tiger moved his ball back, made the putt, and roared back to win on the 38th hole.

This final comeback was a fitting way to end Woods’ historic amateur run. The next day, Woods turned pro.



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