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THE GOG BLOG by RORY SPEARS, Director of Content and Creation, follow Rory on Twitter @GogBlogGuy, Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram. Reporting from Northfield.
THE 116TH WESTERN AMATEUR at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield Illinois. The Sunset Ridge Country Club clubhouse on the right. 117th Western Amateur returns to Benton Harbor Michigan, and the Point O’Woods Golf Club in 2019. #WGAESF
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS bound 18 year old Freshman Cole Hammer wins the 116th Western Amateur over University of Alabama Sr. Davis Riley by a score of 1 UP.
The match really wasn’t that close for the first 11 holes, and then things changed, and in the end Hammer was just holding off a charging Riley to hold on and win.
Hammer jumped out to take a lead on the third hole, with a birdie to go 1 UP. On holes six and seven a birdie and par upped his lead to 3 UP. Hammer then won the ninth hole after Riley’s drive found the rough, and it was Hammer by 4 at the turn. After both players made par on ten, the match changed on the 11th hole. Both players ended up backing off of putts as noise filled the area around the green from the club’s nearby swimming pool.
When Hammer missed a comeback putt for par, and Riley made a three footer for his par, the momentum changed and Riley’s comeback attempt was on. After almost driving the 12th green, a short chip by Riley left him a six foot birdie and quickly the lead was down to 2 UP.
Click here to hear interviews with the two championship match finalists, winner Cole Hammer and runner-up Davis Riley.
Both players made clutch birdie putts on the par 5, 13th hole, and then Riley hit his second shot over the green on the 14th hole. Hammer two-putted for par and the lead was 3 Up with four to play. But Riley wasn’t done yet. His tee shot on the par 3, 15th ended up ten feet from the cup, and when that birdie putt fell Hammer had only a 2 UP lead.
Riley then one-putted for birdie on the par 5, 16th hole, and reduced Hammer’s lead to 1 UP with two holes to play. Playing the 17th hole for the first time since stroke play on Thursday, Riley landed his tee shot long and the ball came back down the slope and leaving him near 15 feet for birdie. Hammer hit his tee shot in long and the ball came back down the ridge only about two feet, and he was left with about 18 feet for his birdie.
With both players facing slippery downhill putts, they were both careful with how aggressive they could be, and both had putts just slip by the edge of the cup. With Hammer still 1 UP, the players headed for the Par 4, 18th that was set up not only short, but the players had a tailwind that had increased on the back nine.
Riley went first and his approach shot to a back middle pin rolled just off the back of the green and near the collar. Hammer then hit and saw his ball roll off the back of the green and it stopped on the fringe cut.
Hammer putted first and his putt slid by the edge of the cup, only to see Riley then hit the same putt from almost two feet shorter only to have it run past the cup about two feet. Both par putts were conceded and Hammer had won the Western Amateur.
One of the highlights for Hammer, was having his mom Allison caddie for him. Allison is a 4-handicapper who has won multiple club championships at the families club in Houston Texas. Allison Hammer said she is bot on the bag in two weeks for U.S. Amateur as Cole has hired a local caddie.
Hammer with two match play matches running 20 holes, had played 11 more holes than Riley in the match play part of the format. But running on adrenaline Hammer said he didn’t feel tired. But after the match said he was ready for bed. Riley said he spoke with Alabama alum Justin Thomas on Friday, but even that phone call with both players wishing each other good luck on the weekend was not enough for Riley.
Both players will compete in the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, and Hammer says he will return to defend his title in the 2019 Western Amateur at the Point O’Woods Golf Club in Benton Harbor Michigan.
In the morning semi-finals Hammer defeated Brandon Wu in 20 holes, and Riley defeated Tyler Strafaci 4&2.