Kristopeit edges Tucker to win Yamaha Section Match Play Championship

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By Ken MacLeod

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As director of golf at Lincoln Park in Oklahoma City, Aaron Kristopeit manages a 36-hole facility that is going to be pushing 100,000 rounds for the current fiscal year. Also one that seems to be hosting a high school, college, OGA or professional event of some stature just about every week.

That leaves little time for his own game. Kristopeit said he had played twice in 2023 prior to the Yamaha South Central Section Match Play Championship which began Monday at The Oaks Country Club in Tulsa. Which makes it all the more impressive that he ran off five victories to win his first section major, culminating with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole Wednesday for a 1 up victory over Zach Tucker in the championship match.

Tucker, an assistant professional at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, had erased a three-hole deficit on the back nine to tie the match on 17, some due to his own proficiency and some due to Kritopeit miscues. But Kristopeit rallied to play the 18th flawlesssly, driving within 90 yards of the pin on the 462-yard par-4, then wedging on and making the birdie.

“It’s great to win a section major,” Kristopeit said. “I was having some struggles coming down the stretch but I hit a good drive on 18 and was able to make that putt.”

After being down early, Kristopeit won holes 5, 7, 8 and 9 to take a 3-up lead at the turn. He capped the nine off with a fairway metal on the 220-yard uphill par-3 ninth to about 4 feet for birdie. He missed a birdie try of about the same length on the par-4 12th which would have given him a 4-hole lead. Tucker won the 13th with a par, then cut the lead to one with an unlikey win on the par-5 16th.

After each player had hit twice, Kristopeit was in the middle of the fairway 98 yards from the hole while Tucker was about 230 yards out, left of the cart path with a tree overhead and one directly in front of him. Somehow he hit a 4-iron that stayed low enough to escape the cathedral he was in then rose above the tree in front and made its way all the way to the front of the green perched on a hill. Kristopeit hit a gap wedge that bounced over the green and he was unable to get up-and-down while Tucker chipped up to 5 feet and made his putt.

“I had 230, ball way above my feet and I hit the same club I did on 9, my 4-iron, which is my favorite club in the bag,” Tucker said. “It was crazy. I was thinking somehow make a 5 and hope he doesn’t birdie, but he made the mistake there.”

Kristopeit hit the lip with his second shot on 17 from a fairway bunker and Tucker made another par to pull even.

“Hats off to Aaron for putting a good swing on it on 18 and rolling in that putt,” Tucker said. “I’ve known him a long time. He was at Quail Creek when I was a 16-year-old bag boy. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He’s a good player.”

“I was leaking oil coming in but fortunately was able to make a good swing on 18,” said Kristopeit, 41, who edged Austin Peters of ┬áThe Territory 1 up in the semifinals. “It’s pretty cool to win a section major.”

Tucker, 31, has won assistant’s match play titles in both New England and Oklahoma. He knocked off both Cary Cozby of Southern Hills and Northeastern State University teammate Brent Williamson on Tuesday, with both players shooting well under par in the semifinal against Williamson.


 

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Ken MacLeod

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