Aug. 28, 2010
University Place. Wash-- Big Game fever has risen early this year, as Stanford junior David Chung defeated Cal freshman Ben An in the semi-finals of the USGA's 2010 US Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, WA.
Today, closely scrutinized by Dottie Pepper, Roger Maltbie, the NBC Golf Crew, and several thousand spectators, David Chung unseated the reigning US Amateur Champion extending an already spectacular summer of golf, including winning the Western Amateur and the Porter Cup.
Attempting to aggressively defend his title, Ben An opened the match with a birdie on the 2nd hole and an eagle/birdie combination on the 5th and 6th holes to lead by three holes as Chung began his surge with a decisive birdie on the 7th hole.
In spite of winning the 9th hole, the defending champion's momentum of the front nine began to diminish with a misread putt on the 8th green. Chung's charge paralleled An's fade, or in the case of his drive off the 10th tee, An's hard slice.
An's mistake left him in treacherous territory; a blind approach shot from thick fescue. After he found a greenside bunker, rather than the green, An was forced to concede the hole to Chung's intelligent play and flawless approach.
A colossal drive on the 12th tee gave Chung a birdie to An's par and a critical par save on 13 halved the hole, leaving Chung down one. "The 14th hole was crucial at that point," said Chung. Leaving his approach short of the green, "I decided to hit a flop shot, something I've practiced for years, just for fun, and I finally got the chance to hit the shot." With a wedge shot that spectators later claimed to have soared upwards of 50 feet in the air, Chung saved par and stood on the picturesque par-3 15th tee down one hole.
An, fighting nerves, stress, and chants of "Chung, Chung!" overshot the green on both his drive and his subsequent pitch, as Chung's par squared the match.
Paralleling the waters of Puget Sound, Chung placed his 16th hole approach shot pin-high and made a lengthy putt to take the lead for the first time in the match, building his momentum for the final holes. An implausible birdie par save from An squared the match again, leaving spectators breathless from the excitement of the rivalry and the vertical climbing of the golf course.
Lined by fescue-covered mini-mountains and ravenous sand traps, the 18th hole received two steely drives, as both balls found the fairway. The approach shots, however, defined the contest's outcome as An landed in a bunker while Chung's strategic approach placed him on the green promising a straightforward par to end the match, celebrating Chung's patience, determination and intelligent game.
Armed with an insider's guide to Chambers Bay, Chung enjoyed several lengthy conversations earlier in the week with world renowned golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones Jr, who not only designed Chambers Bay, but also created Stanford's Siebel practice facility.
"David has been hitting great shots this week, really creative shots," says Robert Trent Jones. "He is using the course effectively, and he knows where to hit his approach shots, how to use the backboards and the course's cushions. That's what we talked about all week." Of course there was some other strategy discussed, "today on the 14th hole, I told him to Beat Cal."
In addition to Mr. Jones, Chung's team for the week includes his mother, sister, plus a legion of cardinal-wearing fans and Quin Koplitz, a local Chambers Bay caddie, whose cousin, Shannon Koplitz, plays for Stanford's softball team.
"Having so many people out there, being able to feed off the crowd has been nice.
To be on the west coast for the Am and to have Stanford followers supporting me has been such an amazing experience."
Tomorrow's round, promises Chung, will be "very fun," as the 36-hole final matches David Chung against long-time friend and current world number one amateur, Peter Uihlein, a junior at Oklahoma State. Regardless of tomorrow's outcome, Stanford can celebrate yet another victory over Cal. After all, golf is a game... and today was Big Game.
-----Elizabeth Clair for GoStanford.com---