Clay Ogden, 20, of West Point, Utah, rallied from a four-hole deficit after the first nine holes of the 36-hole final match to defeat Martin Ureta, 19, of Chile, 1 up, to win the 2005 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Shaker Run Golf Club.
Ogden, a rising junior at Brigham Young University, becomes the fourth player from Utah to win a USGA championship, joining George Von Elm (1926 U.S. Amateur), D. Scott Hailes (1995 U.S. Junior) and Annie Thurman-Young (2002 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links).
He also earns several exemptions and one likely invitation to play in the 2006 Masters. Since 1989, the APL champion has been invited to play in the Masters, but this berth is always at the discretion of Augusta National. He also receives a gold medal, possession of the James Standish Trophy for one year, a 10-year APL exemption, a two-year exemption to the U.S. Amateur, including this year’s event at Merion Golf Club, and a three-year exemption from local qualifying for the U.S. Open.
Ureta, a junior-to-be at the University of North Carolina where he was an honorable-mention All-American this past season, earns a spot in the 2005 U.S. Amateur, a silver medal, a one-year exemption out of local qualifying for the U.S. Open and a three-year APL exemption. He plans to play the Western Amateur and defend his title at the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst before heading to Merion.
The pivotal hole came at the par-4 34th when Ureta’s approach stopped 12 feet below the hole. Ogden followed with one of his best shots of the week, a pitching wedge from 118 that stopped 2 feet from the flag. Ureta came up just short on his putt and Ogden converted for his first lead of the match. The two competitors halved the par-5 35th with birdies – Ogden made a 5-footer after reaching the green in two – and the par-4 36th.
“I was thinking birdie, birdie, birdie the whole time,” said Ureta of his mindset after his stellar approach to the 34th. Then I saw what he did. I knew I had to make it. That was the match.”
Both players’ approach shots found the rough between the back bunker and the green. Ureta played first and his pitch missed the hole by inches. Ogden followed by stopping his pitch 2 feet short.
“I’ve never felt as nervous as I was for that last putt,” said Ogden, realizing what was at stake. His father/caddie, Bruce, gave him one last little pep talk before he stroked it into the middle of the hole. “It was an easy two-footer, [but] it looked like it was eight feet.
A year ago, Ogden lost to the eventual champion, Ryan Moore, in the quarterfinals, 2 and 1. This year, he barely qualified for match play, surviving a 10-for-7 playoff late Tuesday to get the second-to-last spot in the draw. He trailed in four of his six matches, including a major comeback against Derrick Whiting in the second round when he was down three with four to play and won in 19 holes.
In the quarterfinals, he defeated the media darling of the event, 15-year-old phenom Michelle Wie of Honolulu, Hawaii, 5 and 4. That made Ogden an instant celebrity as he did several interviews with national media outlets, including The Golf Channel’s Live from the British Open show on Friday night and the Dan Patrick Show on ESPN Radio.
Despite getting off to a slow start against Ureta, Ogden realized it was going to be a long day and maintained his patience. He was rewarded with a second-nine rally in the morning 18 in which he recorded three birdies, including an 18-footer at 18 to close the round and go into lunch just 1 down.
Just before a 35-minute weather delay, his approach to the par-4 20 th hole sailed over the green, which led to a double bogey and a 2-up lead for Ureta. Ogden then won holes 21 and 22, the former with an 8-iron approach from 176 yards to a foot for a conceded birdie, to get the match back to all square.
Ureta followed with wins at 26 and 27, the last coming with a 54-degree wedge approach to 12 feet, which he converted.
Ogden, however, would not go away. He ripped his tee shot at the par-3 29th to 12 feet to set up another birdie and he parred the 30th hole to square the match. Ureta won 13 with a par, but at No. 35, Ogden delicately flew an 8-iron approach just over the tree guarding the front of the green to within 5 feet for a birdie to square the match for a third time. He followed that with an even better shot to No. 34 and two holes later, the championship was his.