Fryer Goes Wire-To-Wire For SCGA Amateur Title
Joe Fryer seemingly never broke a sweat until the back nine of the final round at the 119th SCGA Amateur Championship at La Jolla CC. The brilliant ball-striker logged three straight rounds in the 60s before carding a final round 2-over 73 to hang on for a three-shot victory, leading the championship wire-to-wire.
“I’ve been working really hard to get here,” said Fryer. “I’ve had my eye on this championship all season. To set out with a goal and to be the champion at the end, it feels beyond good.”
Fresh off a top-10 finish at the Big West Championships in May, the Long Beach State senior kept momentum rolling at La Jolla CC. Born in Bristol, England, Fryer tore up the front-nine of this William P. Bell design, carding 14 birdies on the opening nine for the week.
“I hit a lot of drivers on the short par-4s on the front, so I was being really aggressive,” said Fryer. “That led to a lot of good looks at birdie and was able to convert a few over the course of four rounds.”
During Sunday’s final round, under perfect blue skies and a hint of Pacific Ocean breeze, Fryer got things cooking early with a perfect drive on the short par-4 first hole. A crafty wedge to five feet led to an opening birdie and a quick four-shot lead.
Fryer gave the birdie right back on the par-3 second hole after being unable to get up-and-down from behind the green and began to show slight signs of wear. He flared a drive on No. 3 and hooked a tee ball on No. 4, but was able to scramble magnificently for par on both occasions.
“I just tried to stay patient when I wasn’t hitting the ball that great,” said Fryer. “I kept to my game plan which was to keep the ball below the hole and I was able to hang on.”
Throughout the final round, it was clear that Fryer didn’t have the patented superior ball striking that afforded him a commanding lead. However, he found a way to grind his way around the golf course, using a superb short game and a strong mental approach.
Making the turn at 1-under par, Fryer held a five-shot advantage and hoped to coast into the clubhouse as SCGA Amateur Champion. But it’s never that easy.
Fryer bogeyed four straight holes beginning on No. 11. His once reliable short game betrayed him during a nervous stretch for both Joe and his cast of family and friends that came out to watch.
“I found the beach three times in a row,” said Fryer. “My bunker play is normally pretty good but I wasn’t able to get them up-and-down so I had to just continue to play my game until the 18th where I sealed it.”
Sitting on a two-stroke lead, Fryer found the fairway on the uphill dogleg par-4. From 168 yards out, the champion flushed an 8-iron with a tight draw that never left the flagstick. His approach nearly flew in the hole and spun to three feet for a kick-in birdie on the closing hole.
“I really like this place [La Jolla CC],” said Fryer. “Reminds me a lot of SeaCliff CC in Huntington Beach where I play a lot. The poa annua greens are quick and sloped so there’s some strategy with where to leave your approach shots. I just felt really comfortable out there.”
Stanford sophomore Ashwin Arasu placed second in the championship with a 6-under total for the week. Arasu climbed to within two shots of the lead but took a triple-bogey on No. 13 after his tee ball found the brush on the right side of the fairway. Arasu bounced right back with consecutive birdies on the next two holes but it was too little, too late.
2016 SCGA Mid-Amateur Champion Corby Segal turned in the score of the final round with a 4-under 67 that catapulted the SCGA veteran into the top-3. With four birdies in a six-hole stretch, Segal put the leaders on notice, posting a score and waiting in the clubhouse to see how things would shape up. Fryer’s laser on 18 ending any chance of a brilliant comeback.
With the victory, Fryer is exempted into next year's SCGA Amateur Championship, which will be held at Lakeside GC, as well as the 2019 California Amateur Championship, which will head to Monterey Peninsula CC.