After never trailing at any point through five matches and 92 holes, Byron Meth fell 1 down to Doug Ghim on the 10th hole of the championship match after hitting a ball out of bounds and two into a water hazard.
But in the end, Meth, 21, from San Diego, climbed back from the deficit to reach the spot where he had been all week – on top – and defeated Ghim in a closely contested 37-hole match to claim the 89th and final U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, at the 7,365-yard, par-71 Sand Creek Station Golf Course.
In the first APL championship match played between co-medalists since 1929, Meth and Ghim did not disappoint, playing an entertaining, extremely competitive match marked by a high level of play. The players halved four holes with birdies, and Meth made 11 birdies to Ghim’s seven birdies and three eagles (one conceded).
The morning and afternoon rounds had similar rhythms. In both, Meth went up – 3 up in the first 18, 2 up in the second – before Ghim, 18, of Arlington Heights, Ill., came back to take the lead during the middle of the course. Meth recovered during the closing holes, and the players walked off the 18th green the way the day had begun: all square.
But when they finished playing the 18th hole for the second time, the momentum was clearly with Meth, who proved to be the tougher competitor. Standing on the 36th tee with a 1 up lead, Ghim hit a drive right, out of bounds. He made a double-bogey 6 on the 429-yard closing hole, allowing Meth to win despite a three-putt.
The first hole of the playoff was the par-5 10th – a hole Ghim had won twice on Saturday. After both players found the fairway with their drives, Ghim hit another shot to the right – this time with a 3-wood – that found the lateral hazard running down the right side of the hole. Ghim was able to hack out, but hit his fourth shot over the green. Meth played his second away from trouble into the left rough and found the green safely in regulation. When Ghim’s chip didn’t find the hole, two putts gave Meth the championship.
"It's just an absolute honor," said Meth of being the final APL champion. "My dad and I were joking about being the perpetual champion coming into this [championship]. It was a week I'll never forget."
Ghim and Meth kept the mood light, even as they endured the pressure-filled crucible of a championship final. Arriving on the first tee to start the second 18, Ghim fist-bumped Meth and said, Let’s have some fun.
"I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face all day," said Meth, a senior at the University of the Pacific. "It was just an absolute blast and one of the best weeks on the golf course I’ve ever had, regardless of the actual scores and the results. It was just so much fun."
For the second consecutive match, Ghim found himself 3 down early in the round. Despite a late surge against Meth that positioned him 1 up on the 36th tee, Ghim could not finish the comeback the way he did against Michael Gellerman in the semifinals.
"I’m proud of how I fought at various times when it looked like there might not be any chance to get to the next round," said Ghim, who will attend the University of Texas this fall. "I feel like I proved myself, and I’m very excited for the future."
For his victory, Meth receives a gold medal and custody of the James D. Standish Trophy. If he remains an amateur, he will receive exemptions into the next two U.S. Amateurs and a three-year exemption from local U.S. Open qualifying. He is also likely to receive an invitation to the 2015 Masters Tournament. Ghim is exempt into next month's U.S. Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.
Hunki Yun is the director of strategic projects for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Trostel is the senior curator/historian at the USGA Museum. Email him at email@example.com.
Newton, Kan. – Results from Saturday’s 36-hole final at the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship being held at 7,365-yard, par-71 Sand Creek Station Golf Course.
Byron Meth, San Diego, Calif. (134) def. Doug Ghim, Arlington Heights, Ill. (134), 37 holes