Luck prevails over Dalke in U.S. Amateur championship match

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BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Curtis Luck, of Perth, Australia, won eight consecutive holes of the afternoon round to gain a commanding lead and defeated Brad Dalke, of Norman, Okla., 6 and 4, Sunday in the 36-hole final match of the 116th U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club’s South Course, which has hosted six U.S. Opens

“Yeah, it’s definitely sinking in now,” said Luck of his victory. “It’s obviously an amazing feeling to be named the U.S. Amateur champion for 2016. It’s something I’ve dreamt of since I was about 16.”

With the victory, Luck, 20, became the third Australian to win the U.S. Amateur, joining Walter J. Travis (1900, 1901, 1903) and Nick Flanagan (2003).

“Oakland Hills is known as being one of the toughest major venues there is, and it’s one that’s stood up to time,” Luck, No. 7 in the World Amateur Golf Rankingâ„¢, said. “To be a champion at such a tremendous golf course and a golf course that I had so much fun playing just, yeah, means the world.”

Dalke, a University of Oklahoma sophomore who celebrated his 19th birthday during Friday’s quarterfinal round, won the first hole of the afternoon 18 with a birdie to go 1 up, but Luck powered to a 7-up advantage by claiming the next eight holes. During that stretch, Luck was the match-play equivalent of 4 under par and posted an eagle and two birdies on the course that Ben Hogan dubbed “The Monster” during his 1951 U.S. Open victory.

“I think I started laughing walking down the fairway because I haven’t heard of that, and I haven’t seen it before,” said Luck of his eight-hole run. “What an amazing thing to do whilst you’re out in the final of the U.S. Amateur Championship.”

Eight consecutive holes won is believed to be the longest streak since the U.S. Amateur converted to a stroke-play, match-play format in 1973.

“I never really felt comfortable that second round,” said Dalke, a five-time Rolex Junior All-American. “I don’t know if it was the break or what. I just didn’t feel comfortable for some reason until finally on about 11 or 12, and finally I kind of got it going a little bit, but I think it was just because I was trying to make a comeback and the crowd was kind of getting motivated.”

With Luck holding a 4-up lead on the 25th hole, Dalke slashed his approach out of the rough to within 8 feet. Luck’s second shot stopped 17 feet short of the hole, but the putt was uphill.

After draining his birdie putt, Luck watched as Dalke’s halving attempt slid by the hole on the right side.

“I was just kind of waiting for that one spark to happen, because 4 down is attainable.” Dalke said. “You can come back from 4 down. But, I was just waiting for that spark, and I thought that might be it. Then he made a great putt, and I misread the putt, and all of a sudden I lose the hole and I’m 5 down. I think that was a turning point in the match, for sure.”

Luck, who won the 2016 Western Australian Open on the Australasian Tour, then won the 26th and 27th holes for a 7-up lead.

Dalke valiantly responded to Luck’s 7-up lead to win the 28th and 29th holes to cut his deficit to 5 down.

On the 32nd hole, Luck, who is the second Australian to win a USGA title in 2016 – joining U.S. Junior Amateur champion Min Woo Lee, who also hails from Perth – closed the match with a par when Dalke could not convert a par save from the rough.

In the morning 18 holes, Luck and Dalke traded wins on five of the first seven holes and Luck led 1 up.  He extended his edge to 2 up with a winning par on the 11th but Dalke took holes 13, 15 and 16 (with a birdie) for his first lead. A par by Luck won the 18th and squared the match at the lunch break.

Part of Dalke’s large family contingent included his parents, Kay and Bill, who were athletes at Oklahoma. Kay played golf and Bill was a linebacker for the national championship football team in 1975.

Three of the last four U.S. Amateur championship matches have had at least one international player. Luck, a semifinalist in the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur, is the sixth international winner of the U.S. Amateur in the last 10 years and eighth in the last 13.

The champion receives a gold medal and custody of the Havemeyer Trophy for one year.

Both finalists, if they remain an amateur, receive an exemption from qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis., June 15-18, as well as a likely invitation to the next Masters Tournament. The champion, if he remains an amateur, has historically received an invitation to the next Open Championship, conducted by The R&A.

“I’m going to the Masters and the U.S. Open,” Dalke said. “You can’t ask for much more than that. I’m excited. It gave me a lot of confidence. I believe in my game.”

Dalke was vying to become the first player from the University of Oklahoma to win the U.S. Amateur since Charlie Coe in 1958; Coe also won in 1949.

All quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Aug. 14-20. Semifinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.

The 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship consisted of 36 holes of stroke play (18 holes on each of Oakland Hills Country Club’s North and South courses), followed by six rounds of match play (all on the South Course).

The U.S. Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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