NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Patrick Tallent, of Vienna, Va., defeated Bryan Norton, of Mission Hills, Kan., 2 and 1, on Thursday to win the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, held at the 6,825-yard, par-72 Big Canyon Country Club.
Tallent, 61, who was playing in his 27th USGA championship, took home his first victory and custody of the Frederick L. Dold Trophy for one year.
The morning started well for the 2010 Senior Amateur runner-up, who won two of the first three holes. He birdied the ninth hole from 12 feet for a 4-up advantage at the turn, Norton, 55, staged a comeback by picking up holes 11, 12 and 14.
“I had no pressure at all,” said Tallent. “After I made that birdie on 9, I thought this is pretty much over, and then I come out and I parred 10 and made a tremendous par on 11, and I’m thinking, that should have shrunk that hole up to about that big after I knocked that putt in for par, and yet he made it [for birdie], and then on 12 it was shocking."
Tallent was surprised that his tee shot flew the green into a bunker on the par-3 hole that resulted in a bogey. He made another mistake on the 14th hole, hitting his approach over the green.
“I made a bad shot on 14 there," said Tallent. "I got a little too aggressive; hit it over there to the left [and made bogey].”
While Tallent was hitting a rough patch, Norton, who teamed with Bill Glasson, Jim Kane and Joey Rassert to lead Oral Roberts University to second place in the 1981 NCAA Championship, saw his chance to rally.
“I felt like it was a matter of Pat getting up early, and for 10 or 11 holes he hit it exactly where he wanted to and it put a lot of pressure on me,” said Norton, who reached the championship match of the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur but was forced to default to Nathan Smith after nine holes because of a calf injury. “Kind of like how I was putting pressure on guys in early matches. I was able to get the momentum, but after I got it I wasn’t able to get anything to go in that was meaningful. I had my chances.”
Tallent hit his approach shot over the green on the par-4 14th and was unable to convert a par putt from 5½ feet, which allowed Norton to trim his deficit to one hole.
However, after Norton’s tee shot came up short of the green on the 216-yard, 15th hole, Tallent selected a hybrid club and hit it to 14 feet.
“Man, I hit the best shot you ever saw on that hole, didn’t I?,” said Tallent. After Norton pitched up for a conceded par, Tallent sank his putt to restore his 2-up lead.
Both players would struggle with the 546-yard par-5 16th hole, and after Tallent bogeyed, Norton failed to capitalize by missing a par putt from 3½ feet.
“I did a nice job fighting my way back,” said Norton. “When you do that, you can’t make many mistakes and I didn’t on the back, but 16 was certainly a mistake.”
Tallent would complete the match in dramatic fashion on No. 17 by sinking a 30-foot birdie putt with Norton just 3 feet away for his own birdie.
The final was almost a reversal of Tallent’s experience in 2010. Paul Simson built a 4-up lead at the turn, then held on for a 2-and-1 victory at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando, Fla.
“I never thought I would win one,” said Tallent. “You know, when I was young and foolish, I thought I might be good enough to do something, and I played pretty well in the Mid‑Am a couple times, got to the Round of 16 [in 1995], and Jerry Courville beat me, and he went on to win.”
Tallent, who was the No. 60 seed in the match-play bracket, is the lowest seed to win the title since the USGA began seeding players at the Senior Amateur based on qualifying scores in 1992.. Bill Shean was No. 58 in 2000 when he won, and O. Gordon Brewer was No. 53 in 1996.
“This is nerve‑racking because we’re not used to playing under conditions like this,” said Tallent. “Although I’ll be honest with you, you can get nervous playing in anything, but it’s certainly more nervous playing in a USGA event, so it’s spectacular, fantastic. I can’t express my joy at having won this event.”
By winning the title, Tallent receives a 10-year exemption from qualifying for the U.S. Senior Amateur, plus exemptions into the next two U.S. Amateurs and U.S. Mid-Amateurs, and an exemption into the 2015 U.S. Senior Open. He also will be exempt from local qualifying for next year’s U.S. Open.
Norton receives exemptions into next year’s U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Open, plus a three-year exemption to the U.S. Senior Amateur.
The U.S. Senior Amateur consists of 36 holes of stroke play, after which the field is reduced to the low 64 scorers for match play. Six match-play rounds determine the champion, with the 18-hole final.
Mike Hughett of Owasso, the only Oklahoman in the field, lost in a playoff for match play after tying for 64th in the stroke play qualifier.
The U.S. Senior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.