The 51st Pacific Coast Amateur championship came down to the wire, with Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights, Illinois two-putting the final hole to capture one of amateur golf’s most prized trophy.
Ghim, a senior on the University of Texas men’s golf team, entered the day in the last pairing with third round leader, Hayden Springer of Trophy Club, Texas and defending champion Will Zalatoris of Plano, Texas. With a packed field of amateur talent already out on the course, Ghim, Zalatoris and Springer knew they had to play solid golf to have a chance to win the Dr. Ed Updegraff trophy as Pacific Coast Amateur champion.
After opening with bogey on the difficult par-4 first, Ghim would bounce back with birdie on the par-4 second and a holed-out bunker shot for birdie on the par-4 third, quickly righting the ship and getting it to one-under on his day. With Springer struggling on his front nine, Ghim quickly found himself in the lead.
After making another birdie on the par-4 7th hole and Zalatoris dropping a stroke on the 9th, Ghim was two-under on his day, -9 for the championship making the turn and holding a three-stroke lead in his group and on the field. Things quickly became interesting for the Longhorn after making the turn.
After pulling his drive left into the menacing and gnarly rough, Ghim was forced to pitch backwards into the second cut of rough on his second. His approach shot from there would fly a couple yards long, leaving himself a difficult up-and-down. He was unsuccessful and would drop two shots. Just like that, the championship went from smooth sailing to a single stroke differential, a number that would remain constant, in different variations, to the final putt. It was however, not without drama.
“I knew the double on 10 kind of hurt but I figured if I just kept giving myself chances and not too greedy, I would at least having a chance a chance with 3 or 4 holes left to play,” said Ghim afterwards.
With Springer falling off the pace with a string of bogeys, the final group was a two-man show with Ghim and Zalatoris duking it out. Unbeknownst to them, Cameron Champ of Sacramento, California and Denzel Ieremia of Hamilton, New Zealand, were sea sawing in their own battle in the group ahead and slowly creeping up the leaderboard in an attempt to catch Ghim
Ieremia, a senior at Iowa State and a second-time participant in the PAC Coast, got it to -7 after hole 12 and would sit tied with Ghim briefly following his double. Champ, who just recently won the Trans-Miss Championship, would hang around -6 for the longest time, not making up any ground on Ghim that would force the leader to play for the lead and not with the lead.
Ieremia would falter with a couple bogeys on his inward holes, slipping to -4 and seemingly out of the tournament while coming up 18. Champ would come to the final hole needing an eagle to have any shot at catching Ghim. Both Ieremia and Champ accomplished their goals of hitting the green in two and both would roll in putts for eagle, Champ going first from 12 feet and Ieremia following up with one from 10 feet. Suddenly, with Ghim and Zalatoris on the tee deck, Champ was tied for the lead at -8 and Ieremia in an impressive position of -6 to close off his event.
Zalatoris found the fairway bunker on 18, forcing a lay up to 50 yards on his second shot. Ghim calmly hit the green in two, giving himself two putts on a 30-foot uphill line to the same back left hole location that his fellow Texas Longhorn alumnus Jordan Spieth won the US Open on in 2015.
After Zalatoris was unable to get up-and-down for birdie and join Champ at -8, all that was left for Ghim was to get down in two putts for a single-stroke margin of victory. His caddy for the week, who was his father Jeff, helped line up the putt and Ghim calmly rolled the first putt to three feet. After both Springer and Zalatoris putted out, Ghim stepped up and knocked the winning put into the back of the hole with his family looking on and cheering in the gallery.
Asked afterward about playing with Will in the final grouping, Ghim had nothing but fond things to say about his competitor and friend.
“I knew it was going to be tough. Will is a great competitor and he has won a lot of good tournaments, you know I always cherish playing with him. We have played with each other quite a bit and to be in exactly the group that you want to be, with a good friend, was fun. This time I got the best of him but next time we play together it will be neck-and-neck like it always is.”
Adding a win at Chambers Bay is a feather in Ghim’s cap, who admittedly hasn’t won in long time.
“It feels great for sure. It’s been humbling to play really well and not quite get it done before. This win is going to give me a lot of confidence moving forward,” he said.
“I gotta say, this field is one of the best of the summer for sure. I don’t remember playing with so many guys ranked in the top 10 in one tournament. There were a lot of really good players in Braden (Thornberry), Will (Zalatoris), Cameron Champ, Scottie (Scheffler) and at the beginning of the week you didn’t know who would win so it was pretty special to get it done.”
Ghim’s victorious final score line would read 70-67-69-69-275 (-9). He was the only player to shoot under-par in all four rounds, a testament to his ball striking and patience at Chambers Bay.
Finishing runner-up on his own was Champ at -8 with rounds of 69-65-73-69 (276). Zalatoris would finish alone in third at -7 with rounds of 69-70-67-71 (277). Ieremia and Andrej Bevins of Elk Grove, California, who shot the round-of-the-day at -5, would finish in a tie for fourth. Third round leader Springer, finished tied for 6th.
Held on an annual basis since 1967, with roots dating back to 1901, the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship boasts a rich history of showcasing some of the most talented golfers in the United States and Canada. It annually attracts the world’s best amateur talent and that will continue next year for the 52nd instalment at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California.
For more information on the championship, visit www.pacificcoastamateur.com.