By Ken MacLeod
Tate Williamson of Broken Arrow walked all six rounds in three hot days of the Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur Championship, and it seemed to be taking its toll at the midway point of his championship match against Quade Cummins of Weatherford.
A series of loose shots led to bogeys on holes nine and 10, putting him three down to the redshirt freshman at the University of Oklahoma, who was zipping around in a cart like most of the competitors in what began as a 64-man field at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club.
All it took, however, was a 35-foot birdie putt from just off the green at the par-3 11th, and the rising senior at Northeastern State University was reenergized. Two holes later, he pulled off a miraculous punch shot from under a tree from 150 yards to two feet for another birdie at the par-5 13th, then birdied two of the next three as well.
The furious rally fell just short, however, as Cummins capped Williamsonâ€™s birdie on the 14th hole with one of his own, then, leading by one after Williamson birdied 16, stuffed his approach shot on 18 to within two feet to win the final hole and escape with a 2 up victory.
The strapping Cummins, who spent his redshirt season changing his shot pattern from a draw to a power fade, played impressive golf throughout the day, birdieing his first three holes and shooting 5-under in disposing of Drew Posada of Shawnee 4 and 3 in the morning semifinals, then making birdies on three of the first five holes against Tate.
â€œI was just trying to hit greens and sometimes I hit them close enough to make putts,â€ Cummins said. â€œThe birdie putt I made to cap his birdie on 14 was really big, he was playing really well at that point.
Williamsonâ€™s rally was derailed momentarily when he three-putted the par-3 15th. The 7-foot par putt slid by, one of the few clutch putts Williamson failed to convert all day. He rallied from two down through 12 in his semifinal match with former Southern Nazarene star Michael Hearne by making a series of 5-10 foot putts, many to save par, then was aided when Hearne drove his tee shot out of bounds right on the par-4 17th to give Willaimson his first lead in the match. He closed it out 1 up with a par on the final hole.
â€œI wasnâ€™t striking the ball the greatest, but my putter saved me all day,â€ said Williamson, who works at Forest Ridge Golf Club in Broken Arrow and finished in the top 20 of all 10 events he competed in for NSU as a junior. â€œThe greens here are in great shape and roll true, which helped a lot. Quade played really well in the finals. Iâ€™d have liked to have won, but it was a great match."
Asked if he was tiring at the midpoint of the championship match, Williamson just laughed and said â€œIâ€™m sure tired now.â€
Cummins, who lost in a quarterfinal match to eventual champion Brendon Jelley in 2014, will take the momentum from this victory in to competing for playing time in a OU lineup bristling with young talent.
â€œIâ€™ve been starting to play well this summer,â€ he said. â€œI had top fives in the OGA Stroke Play and the Magnolia Amateur in Mississippi.
With the 1 up lead on the 18th tee and out-of-bounds not far from the right edge of the fairway, Cummins was happy to be able to trust his new swing.
â€œThis is one of the first times Iâ€™ve really had to trust it under pressure and it was great to just hit it down the left side and have it fade back to the middle,â€ he said.
OU coach Ryan Hybl was just as pleased.
â€œAnytime a guy can win his state amateur championship, it is a big deal, and I am excited for Quade and his accomplishment this week,â€ Hybl said. â€œHe has been working really hard, and he is starting to see his results from his work.â€
Hearne, a native of Wales who is now a real estate agent who also works part time at the host club, had upended two-time defending champion Jelley of Tulsa and Oklahoma State 1 up in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
Oklahoma Golf Association
State Amateur Championship
Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club
July 25-27, 2016
Tate Williamson, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (28) def. Mike Hearne, Oklahoma City, Okla. (8), 1 up
Quade Cummins, Weatherford, Okla. (3) def. Drew Posada, Shawnee, Okla. (34), 4 and 3
Quade Cummins, Weatherford, Okla. (3) def. Tate Williamson, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (28), 2 up