There are many painful ways to lose a match at the U.S. Amateur. But few can compare to what transpired Thursday at Bandon Dunes for Segundo Oliva Pinto.
And few matches have featured the sportsmanship that occurred in the aftermath.
Oliva Pinto, a junior at the University of Arkansas, had been enjoying a splendid run in match play at the most prestigious amateur event of the year. He overcame a late deficit to defeat Englishman John Gough in 19 holes, then disposed of recent Southern Amateur victor McClure Meissner, 2 and 1, to reach the round of 16.
The Argentinian faced an even stiffer test in that round against Georgia Tech’s Tyler Strafaci, falling 2 down on two occasions and battling back both times. Coming to the par-5 18th hole tied with a whipping gale in the faces of both competitors, Oliva Pinto hit his third shot into the greenside bunker while Strafaci missed the green in an awkward spot left of the green.
“I felt like I had the upper hand,” Oliva Pinto said. “I was uphill, into the wind and he had a downhill, downwind chip. I felt like I was in a better spot, but I guess we’ll never know.”
Neither player had the opportunity to play his fourth shot, as the match unceremoniously ended in a way nobody desired. Oliva Pinto’s caddie, Brant Brewer, a first-year Bandon Dunes looper randomly assigned to the bag, reached down to inspect the bunker, brushing the sand from side to side. With Oliva Pinto’s ball resting in a part of the bunker that looked to have less sand, it appeared Brewer was intending to gauge the firmness of the surface. Video confirmed Brewer’s actions.
The penalty in match play is loss of the hole, and in this case that meant the match. Both players stood awkwardly at the green, Strafaci doing what even the best of us may not have the heart to do: He asked a USGA official for clarification, nearly hoping there was some way the competition could continue.
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