Jeff Wilson Becomes Oldest Winner of SCGA Match Play Championship
In one year, Jeff Wilson will have a decision to make. Come back and defend his title at the SCGA Match Play Championship, or graduate into the senior division and compete with his peers in the SCGA Senior Match Play Championship.
That's because at 54 years of age, Wilson, a resident of Fairfield, Calif., became the oldest player ever to win the SCGA Match Play Championship, which concluded Tuesday at Sandpiper GC. Wilson defeated Haruki Miura, 18, in a 3 and 1 final match.
"I think I finally got to a point where I didn't take anything for granted during the match," said Wilson, who earlier this year teamed up with John Pate to win the SCGA Foursomes Championship. "I made up my mind to keep playing hard. We both played well all afternoon."
Beginning with 32 competitors Sunday, the 10th SCGA Match Play Championship featured a number of the top Southern California college-age and mid-amateur golfers. As the oldest competitor in the field, and just one year shy of eligibility for the SCGA Senior Match Play Championship, Wilson knocked out SCGA veteran Mark Miller 2 and 1 in the first round, 20-year-old Chad Hambright 3 and 2 in the Round of 16 and Pepperdine's Hunter Epson 4 and 3 in the quarterfinals, sending himself into the semifinals and the final day of action. On Tuesday morning, Wilson engaged in a tough battle with Mark Manwaring of Long Beach, eventually ending in a 1 up victory for Wilson. An hour later, it was off to the races again, as he and Miura began their fifth round in three days.
After recording an eagle on No. 1 in his morning round, Wilson didn't begin afternoon action the same way, missing a birdie putt to settle for a par, and quickly find himself 1 down. He would battle back right away though, winning the next two holes to take a 1 up lead that he would never relinquish, extending it to with a birdie on the par-5 fifth hole. After giving one back to Miura on No 6, Wilson would show off his short game with a firework, chipping in on No. 7 from just in front of the green for an eagle. He would take a 2 up lead into the turn.
"I like the golf course a lot," said Wilson. "I drove the ball really well this week. I stayed away from trouble, didn't make a lot of mistakes. The greens are so fast and really good. You had to watch your step and just hit the ball."
A birdie by Wilson on No. 10 would extend his lead to three, his biggest advantage of the day, as the momentum continued to feel strongly in Wilson's favor. But the Torrance resident Miura still had some fight left in him, winning the 12th hole with a birdie before playing his best hole of the match on No. 13, reaching the par-5 532-yard hole in two, before knocking in a 20-foot putt for eagle. The back-to-back wins put him just 1 down to Wilson.
After two pars on hole 14, Miura would take an interesting approach to the 15th tee box, positioning himself to shoot his drive down eight fairway, far right of the 15th green. Pulling out a 3-iron for his second shot, Miura's risky play worked, as he hit his second shot to the fringe before two-putting for birdie. Wilson, on the other hand, would play the hole more traditionally, landing his first two shots in the fairway before leaving his approach just short of the green. Seeing Miura in great position, Wilson turned it on, chipping in for the second time in the round and earning a birdie of his own to keep his 1 up advantage. Wilson would go on to win holes 16 and 17 to close out the 3 and 1 win.
"The chip in on 15 was huge because it kept me 1 up," said Wilson, a two-time SCGA Mid-Amateur Champion. "They were simple little pitches, but for that to go in, that was pretty big."
Miura, who recently tied for 17th in the SCGA Public Links Championship at Brookside GC, entered the Championship as the No. 26 seed, defeating a number of good players en route to the final match. In the quarterfinals, Miura beat SCGA Mid-Amateur Champion Dan Sullivan 1 up, and Tuesday morning defeated Scott Gibson in a tough 20-hole match that ended with a Miura birdie on the second extra hole.
With the win, Wilson becomes just the second player over 22 years of age to win the tournament, which just concluded its tenth year. The 2017 playing of the event returned the Championship to Sandpiper GC, where it was hosted from 2008-2012. Next year, the event will head to Oakmont CC in Glendale.