Pierceson Coody couldn’t remember the last time he was so exhausted.
The Western Amateur will do that to you.
“I haven’t been this tired in golf, ever,” Coody said on the heels of 138 holes of competition in a five-day span. “The national championship was probably more emotionally grueling, but this was brutal. Thank God it wasn’t hot this week.”
The fatigue and aching muscles were more than worth it for the University of Texas standout, as Coody (above) celebrated a 2-and-1 victory against Oklahoma State’s Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen in Saturday's final to claim the coveted title at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana.
Coody protected a narrow lead the entire match, and it almost slipped away late as he lost the 16th hole to be 1 up and then missed the green on the par-3 17th hole. However, he holed a 20-foot par putt moments ahead of Neergaard-Petersen missing a 5-foot par attempt of his own, suddenly ending the marathon event.
Coody cruised into the match-play portion of the tournament after rounds of 71-71-73-69, but an inauspicious start against round-of-16 opponent Alexander Yang backed Coody into a corner. Even with concessions, he would have failed to break 40 on his opening nine had the format still been stroke play.
In his mind, what happened in the rest of that match served as the inflection point that catapulted him to the biggest win of his career. The 20-year-old from Plano, Texas, rallied from 2 down with seven holes to play, winning four of the next six to close out Yang with a hole to spare.
“Things changed for me there,” Coody said. “I played terrible on the front nine and awesome on the back. I chipped in, made a really long putt … things just kind of went my way after that.”
Coody blitzed Connor Creasy, 5 and 4, to reach the semifinals against George Duangmanee, a freshman at the University of Virginia. There, he built a 2-up lead through nine holes, but Duangmanee made birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 13 to take a 1-up lead of his own.
“That was a shock to the system,” Coody said. “I had been up all day and then he rattled off a few birdies.”
Coody regained the lead with an eagle on the par-5 15th hole and a winning par on the difficult 16th, then held off Duangmanee by getting up and down at the final hole. That set up the final match against Neergaard-Petersen, the Denmark native who elected to stay in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic because there would be more tournament opportunities.
Coody birdied the opening hole for a 1-up lead and never gave Neergaard-Petersen much of an opening the whole afternoon. When he did so late in the match, his putter closed the door.
It is the third significant amateur victory for Coody, who has also won the South Beach International Amateur and the Trans-Miss Amateur. He entered the tournament at No. 16 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and, despite not facing a player ranked higher than No. 194 during match play in an otherwise stellar field, will move closer to a confidently stated goal of reaching No. 1 in the world.
“This is kind of the pinnacle of amateur golf,” Coody said. “This gives me confidence to know I can go do a lot more in amateur golf and play at a really consistent and high level. It puts me in a good spot for the Ben Hogan Award and all of the accolades college players want to be in the running for.”
Coody, the grandson of 1971 Masters champion Charles Coody, is the seventh University of Texas player to win the Western Amateur. He joins major champions Ben Crenshaw and Justin Leonard on that list, as well as teammate Cole Hammer who won in 2018.
While Coody earned his headlines, the undisputed match of the event came in the quarterfinals between University of Florida standout Ricky Castillo against defending U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree. Castillo, the No. 2 amateur in the world, held a narrow lead the entire match before Ogletree made birdie on the 18th hole to force extra holes. Castillo won with a par on the second playoff hole.
His luck ran out in the semifinals against Neergaard-Petersen. Castillo rallied from 3 down to force sudden death, but lost in 21 holes.