The 2002 US Amateur Championship was held at Oakland Hills Country Club near Detroit, Michigan from August 19-25, 2002. This USGA tournament fielded 312 players from all over the country, vying for top amateur honors, and for 2 spots in next year's Masters Tournament at Augusta. The winner, besides receiving the coveted trophy and having their name engraved on a plaque on
the "Walk of Champions at Oakland Hills, would also be afforded the opportunity to play in a threesome with Tiger Woods on Thursday of next year's Masters!
Oakland Hills was shining brightly, even with the un-cooperating weather that lingered for much of the tournament. Dreary skies and scattered drizzles gave way to bright sunshine on the final day, allowing for another wonderful finish to this prestigious USGA event. Following is a group of pictures, highlighting the contours and beauty of this revered layout, which also will play host to the
2004 Ryder Cup, and the 2008 PGA Championship.
The entire field played 18 holes each on Monday and Tuesday, splitting their rounds on the North and South Courses. The final cut of 64 included a number of exemptions, one of which was Ryan Moore. We had followed Ryan's victory at the US Public
Links Championship at the Orchards Golf Club in July, and decided to focus on his run for the Amateur title. An interesting story had developed at the Orchards, as Ryan played the early rounds without a caddie. Mark Soldan, an auto-worker in the Sterling Heights area, noticed and volunteered his services. Ryan accepted, and together they went on to win the Public Links Championship. Mark, with no previous caddie experience, was rewarded with an invitation to caddie for Moore at the 2003
Masters, which was one of the perks of winning at the Orchards that week. Here they appear together on the first tee at Oakland Hills. Ryan's 141 two-day score was good enough to allow him to move on to match play (the cut was 143). During the first 3 match play events, Moore ( a sophmore at UNLV) played nearly flawlessly, winning by scores of 7/5, 5/4 and 5/4 to advance to the final eight, and a match versus Dustin Bray (from North Carolina)on Friday.
(approach for par on the difficult 5th)
On Friday, Moore's par putts were of the same length and difficulty as his birdie putts of previous days. Tee shots missed the fairways, and recoveries were harder to come by. This putt for birdie on 13 was an example of what he encountered. It narrowly
missed on the left side, then after barely catching the slope, rolled down 50 feet to the fringe on the far side - Brays birdie putt fell for a commanding lead, earning him a spot in the final four.
On Saturday, we followed the Haas/Barnes match - anxious to see the style that
Bill Haas displayed in carding a 28 on the front nine during one of his Friday rounds. The match was close to the very end, with Haas bowing out on the 18th, after his approach spun off the green into the first cut of rough. He missed his bogie
putt, then conceded the match to Ricky Barnes (University of Arizona), who had blasted out of the sand to within 3 feet. When Hunter Mahan (Oklahoma State)polished off Dustin Bray, the pairing for the grueling 36-hole match play on Sunday was set. PGA pro Jay Haas and his son Bill - who we feel is a perfect gentleman who will make a great ambassador for golf, were gracious enough to pose for this picture after the round.
In the opening round Sunday, Hunter Mahan grabbed an early 1 hole lead,
and was never behind until he ran into some difficulty on the challenging par four 16th. Barnes blasted out of the rough on his approach, and landed safely on putting surface - for an easy par/possible birdie. Mahan hit two shots into the water and conceded the hole. A birdie on 17 and a par after this lag putt on 18 earned Barnes a two-stroke cushion heading into the afternoon round.
Both got off the 1st tee well in the afternoon, and halved the opening hole.
Ricky began to take control over the next 8 holes, building his lead to 4 up by the end of
nine. Mahan answered by winning 10 with a par, and 12 with a long eagle putt, but Ricky answered with a birdie on 13. Just when it looked like the match was over, Hunter dropped a birdie of his own on 15 to again reduce the deficit to 2 holes, with three to play. Adversity struck as Mahan's tee shot found the knarly, deep rough on 16. Check out his lie… He played a great shot to the front of the green, and saved par once again giving himself a fighting chance. With Roger Maltbie narrating, Ricky narrowly missed this birdie, keeping the tournament
alive. A spectacular chip from behind the green on 17 left Ricky with a tap in par - which Hunter conceded for the Championship.
(Ricky Barnes with Brother/caddie Andy and the US Amateur trophy!)
A great match - and a wonderful ending to a truly fine championship. This was a showcase for the sport of golf, with kudos to the players, fans and folks at Oakland Hills and the USGA for putting on such a
spectacular event. Good luck to Ricky Barnes and Hunter Mahan at the Masters, and in the remaining years of their college and perhaps, professional careers.
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