July 11, 2009
DENVER, Colo. -
Stanford junior Steve Ziegler won the last three holes to defeat Tom Gempel one-up in the 36-hole finals of the Colorado Golf Association Match Play Championships held Friday at the Bear Creek Golf Club in Denver, Colorado.
Ziegler, a native of Broomfield, Colo., was two down to with three holes remaining, but Gempel finished double bogey, bogey, bogey to let the championship slip away.
"It was unfortunate that it ended like that," said Gempel, a 22-year-old who plays out of the Pinery Country Club and played collegiately at the University of Colorado. "I was pretty tired and hungry at the end. I hope (the outcome) didn't have anything to do with that, but it may have. I was nervous all week, but I think it got the best of me at the end."
"I was surprised he finished the way he did," Ziegler said of Gempel. "But this whole week I was trying a new match play philosophy. I was playing the course and old man par. It made all the difference this week. I was just forgetting about what my opponent did."
Gempel tried to be philosophical about what happened down the stretch.
"I'm pretty disappointed," he said. "But I played about as well as I've played in a long time. I've come a long way in the last month. I was once this close to quitting golf. So I'm proud of the way I played."
Ziegler was pushed for the first time all week. In his first five matches at Bear Creek, the player from The Ranch Country Club was 18 under par and his closest match was 4 and 3. On Friday, he played his first nine holes in 5-over-par 41, but was 2 under for his final nine. That included a 78-yard hole-out for an eagle on the par-4 10th hole that squared the match. And though Gempel rebounded to regain the momentum with birdie putts of 1 foot, 8 feet and 8 feet in the middle of the back nine, Ziegler prevailed in the end.
For Ziegler it was another in a long list of impressive accomplishments in the last several years. He's won two state high school titles, claimed his first college victory, was one of eight American college players selected for the prestigious Palmer Cup team and made the round of 16 at last month's British Amateur. And now he`s the 2009 CGA Match Play champion.
Winning a CGA title for the first time "is huge," Ziegler said. "It's been a giant monkey on my back. I've played in (CGA) events since I was a kid, and they're difficult to win. It's a huge accomplishment. I'd put it up there alongside my state (high school) wins and my first college win."
Ziegler joins a list of CGA Match Play champions that includes Hale Irwin, Steve Jones, Brandt Jobe and Kevin Stadler.