Craig Davis Emerges Victorious In 10th Playing
As if five rounds in three days weren’t enough, the 10th SCGA Senior Match Play Championship needed extra holes to crown a winner. Reigning SCGA Senior Amateur Champion Craig Davis of San Diego emerged victorious in dramatic fashion over SCGA stalwart John Pate in 20 holes.
“It feels really great,” said Davis. “My expectations weren’t super high coming into this week. I just wanted to advance a few rounds but ended up finding my swing and made a run.”
After three ties and four lead changes in the first 15 holes of the final match, the players teed it up on No. 17 with the match all square. As each player hit wild drives off the tee on the par 4, it became evident that nerves, and perhaps fatigue, were setting in. Pate was in jail behind trees on the left while Davis was in the same situation across the fairway. Neither was able to get up-and-down to put pressure on his opponent heading into No. 18.
On the par-3 last hole of Sandpiper GC, Davis hit his tee ball short, embedding it in the deep rough. Pate fired a dart to about 15 feet, two-putted and placed the pressure solely on Davis. The newly minted 55 year old calmly rolled in his 8-footer to force extra holes.
“I just never try to panic,” said a reflective Davis. “You have to hang in there and hope for the best. I made some huge putts to keep myself in it.”
Pate piped a drive on the first playoff hole down the center of the par 5, giving him a green light at the flag in two. Davis found trouble on the right, forcing himself to lay up and eventually a look at birdie from 8 feet. Pate left his approach 40 feet short but did find the putting surface. His eagle putt ran past the hole, giving himself 3 feet for the win after Davis missed his birdie attempt. Pate then lined up his putt and pushed it to the low side, extending the match.
“I’ve played a ton of match play,” said Davis. “Whenever someone looks to be out of the hole, crazy things can happen. That happened to me today.”
On the second playoff hole Pate destroyed another drive down the center while Davis found the left fairway bunker, forcing him to lay up yet again. Meanwhile, Pate stuffed an 8-iron into the breeze to about 9 feet, putting the pressure on Davis to do something spectacular. Looking at a 25-footer uphill for par from just on the fringe, Davis found the back of the cup and put the pressure back solely on his opponent. Pate was unable to drain the downhill birdie attempt, and left himself with 5 feet coming back up the hill. Needing a make to extend the match, Pate’s putt brutally lipped out, giving Davis the championship.
En route to his dramatic victory, Davis defeated Rick Oldach 4 and 2, four-time SCGA Amateur Champion Craig Steinberg 2 and 1, SCGA Senior Amateur runner-up Michael Rowley 2 and 1 and Jim Ream 1 up.
Next year, the 11th playing of the SCGA Senior Match Play Championship will be held at Oakmont CC.