One year ago, Austin Greaser
proved he belonged on amateur golf’s biggest stages by making a run to the semifinals of the Western Amateur.
On Saturday at Exmoor Country Club, he cemented his standing as one of the best players in the amateur game.
The 21-year-old from Vandalia, Ohio, fought back from an early 2-down deficit in the final on Saturday, defeating Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira
, of Beccar, Argentina, 1 up to win the 120th Western Amateur Championship. The victory capped an improbable run that started when Greaser survived a seven-for-two playoff on Thursday to take the 15th match play spot.
“This is what you prepare for, this is what you practice for, this is what you dream of,” Greaser said. “I think I’m going to have to get some sleep before it hits me what happened this week, because I am exhausted.”
Greaser’s run in the 2021 Western Amateur at Glen View Club in Golf, Illinois, ended in the semifinals when he ran into eventual champion Michael Thorbjornsen
, of Wellesley, Mass. He went on to finish second at the U.S. Amateur a few weeks later.
His 2022 Western Amateur almost ended on Thursday afternoon.
The rising senior at North Carolina shot 6-under 278 during the four rounds of stroke play, and for about 30 minutes, he was convinced that he had missed the Sweet 16 cut by a shot. A couple of late bogeys moved the cut line and put him in the playoff, he took advantage.
Greaser beat Matthis Besard
, of Oudenaarde, Belgium, 3 and 2 in the round of 16 and survived one of the best matches of the championship by beating Kelly Chinn
, of Great Falls, Va, 1 up in the quarterfinals. He never trailed in a tight semifinal match against William Mouw
, of Chino, Calif., on Saturday morning, winning Nos. 14, 15 and 16 to pull away for a 3-and-2 win.
He was a model of consistency in the final match. Greaser hit 11 fairways and 16 greens and didn’t have to try to save par with a wedge until his approach into the 18th hole bounced into the thick rough behind the green. Protecting a 1-up lead and facing with a delicate downhill chip, he played a perfect shot that rolled down to within four feet to set up the winning putt.
“Obviously a mistake there going over [the green] but I’m from the Midwest so I feel like I have a good feeling for how this rough plays,” said Greaser, who plays at Springfield (Ohio) Country Club, a Donald Ross design he said prepared him for Exmoor Country Club. “It really wasn’t a great lie – it just came out exactly how I thought it would, fortunately, this time.
“I wouldn’t want to have to do it again.”
If there was a problem with Greaser’s play on Saturday afternoon, it was that he struggled to get a putt to fall. He made one birdie on the first 11 holes while Fernandez de Oliveira made four – including holing-out from a bunker on the third hole – to take a 2-up lead.
Greaser finally poured in a 35-foot birdie putting on the par-3 12th, then added birdies on hole Nos. 13, 14, and 15 to win four holes in a row and take a commanding 2-up advantage.
“It felt like the lid came off,” Greaser said. “I felt like I hit some good putts today that didn’t go in, but that’s how it is.”
Fernandez de Oliveira wasn’t done. The 22-year-old rising senior at Arkansas had cruised through 72 holes of stroke play, posting a score of 9-under 273 to earn the No. 4 seed. Before the final match he had only trailed once during match play, after losing the first hole of his round of 16 match against Yuxin Lin, of Beijing, China.
He responded to Greaser flipping the match by stuffing his approach to four feet on No. 17 for a winning birdie. He pulled off another aggressive approach on the final hole to set up a good look at birdie that would’ve extended the match. His attempt slid by the edge, and Greaser made his par for the win.
Greaser embraced his twin brother Byron, who caddied for him all week, then found his parents behind the 18th green and wrapped his mom in a hug. He lingered on the 18th green, signing autographs and taking pictures with Exmoor members and fans who followed the final match.
“Got a taste last year, getting to the semifinals,” Greaser said. “It made it a little bit sweeter this year.”
ABOUT THE Western Amateur
Invitational event, and the most important
tournament in American amateur golf outside of the
U.S. Amateur. With a grueling schedule, it's quite
hardest amateur tournament to win.
156 invited players come from across the
globe to play one of the toughest formats in
amateur golf. The tournament starts with 18
holes of stroke play on Tuesday and
Wednesday after which the field is cut to the
low 44 scores and ties. Thursday it's a long
day of 36 holes of stroke play to determine
the “Sweet Sixteen” who compete at Match
Play on Friday and Saturday (two matches
each day if you're going to the finals) to
decide the champion.
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