Trailing by five points after three sessions of partners competition at the inaugural East-West Matches, the West team rallied on Sunday with 12 singles points out of a possible 18 to claim the title at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas. The West won, 23-22, in the three-day competition that brought together 36 amateurs, mid-amateurs, and senior amateurs.
The West team, helmed by Jim Holtgrieve and Kevin Marsh, got two quick wins as the final day began, but then the East rattled off four consecutive wins and looked to be in control. However, at that moment the leaderboard was almost entirely West-dominated for the remaining 12 matches, and it remained that way until the end.
The West’s Zach Atkinson kept the momentum alive in match No. 11 when he won a half point after dropping 2 down to Joe Deraney after 14 holes. Brady Exber, nursing a bad hip and a bruised ego after losing all three of his partners matches, secured a full point with a win on the final hole for the West in match No.13.
Three more West wins gave them 22½ points, a half point shy of victory. The East team’s Ben Warnquist defeated the West’s Rob Couture, 2 up, narrowing the margin to a single point. The outcome would be determined by the final match between four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith and veteran mid-amateur Patrick Christovich.
Having lost all three of his partners matches, Christovich felt he needed to do something to be a factor. Walking off 17th green, he asked where things stood and was told that a halve would result in a West victory. His drive ran into the rough, leaving him a difficult shot from a terrible lie. He managed to get the ball close to the green with his approach but short-sided and 75 feet from the hole. He could not bump it, nor could he putt the ball. He had one shot, a flop, which he executed to near perfection as the ball stopped two feet from the hole. Smith conceded, and the West had prevailed in a stunning comeback.
The East Team, captained by Paul Simson and Tim Jackson, won the first day four-ball matches, 5-4, led by Bob Royak and Doug Hanzel’s 6-and-4 win against Gene Elliott and Brady Exber. The East built its lead on Saturday, winning the morning foursomes matches, 5-4, and the afternoon foursomes, 6-3, giving them the five-point cushion heading into Sunday’s singles session.
The man of the match was the East team’s Royak, the 2019 (and reigning) U.S. Senior Amateur champion. He never saw the 16th tee, winning his partners matches by scores of 6 and 4; 7 and 6; and 4 and 3; and taking his individual match, 6 and 4.
The inaugural Matches were an unqualified success, according to many who competed.
“It exceeded any expectation I ever had,” said Christovich as he drove away from the clubhouse. Tournament founder Scott Harvey said the tournament was “way better than I hoped for or expected.”
Even the college players got in the act. U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci told Harvey it was the most fun he has had in an amateur tournament.
Maridoe has committed to host the second playing of the matches in 2022.