BETHLEHEM, Pa. – On consecutive holes, Patrick Christovich removed his cap and stared at the ground, waiting to hear the ball of his opponent, Corby Segal, find the bottom of the hole and eliminate him from the 34th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Instead, he got the sound of silence. And a reprieve. And soon thereafter an unlikely 1-up triumph in 19 holes at the Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course.
I’m not even sure what just happened, Christovich, 36, of New Orleans, La., said while shaking his head in disbelief. I’m kind of in shock right now.
Two down with two holes remaining in Tuesday afternoon’s Round-of-16 match, Christovich sank lengthy must-make putts and then expected Segal to send him home with one of two 4-footers to halve the hole and win the match.
Segal, however, missed both, and when Christovich birdied the par-5 first hole with a 6-footer, he was the one moving on to the quarterfinals to meet 2005 Mid-Am champ Kevin Marsh, whose two victories Tuesday included a 20-hole triumph over four-time champion Nathan Smith.
I did have my hat off twice, because the last thing you expect is for Corby to miss those putts, Christovich said. Corby has one of the best short games in this field, but, you know, that’s golf. They weren’t easy putts to make under the circumstances. I definitely feel for him, because he is a great guy and a great player.
Segal, 43, who caddies on the PGA Tour for veteran Briny Baird, said he wasn’t surprised when Christovich converted from 12 feet at the 17th for par and from 20 feet uphill at the 18th. Those putts forced him to have to sink his. But it just didn’t happen.
I’ve seen enough golf to know that you expect him to make those, said Segal, of Santa Clarita, Calif., who had nine total putts on the first nine of his Round-of-32, 5-and-4 victory Tuesday morning over fifth-seeded Kenny Ebalo. I’m proud of myself that I handled my emotions. I’m not disappointed in anything except the putt at 18. I came out of it and pushed it.
Christovich earned a measure of redemption, having been knocked out of the Mid-Am the last two years in the Round of 64. Last year at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.), it was Segal who dispatched him, 4 and 3. Christovich also lost in the first round of match play in the 2011 U.S. Amateur.
He handled me pretty easily last year, Christovich said. I knew I was in for a battle.
Christovich led 2-up after a birdie at the fourth and a par at the sixth, but Segal turned the match upside down with wins at Nos. 7, 9, 12 and 13. They traded wins at 14 and 15 and Segal looked to be in control until Christovich got hot with his putter at gut-check time.
He made the putts he had to make, said Segal, who fell one step short of equaling his quarterfinal run in the 2012 Mid-Am. But I still should have put him away. It’s hard when you’re on the other side of things [as a player], and I guess if anything I’m just disappointed because I was playing well.
Missing the cut at the U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club proved a positive experience for Christovich that has carried over to his play this week at Saucon Valley. He shot an opening 81 on the Riverside Course only to come back with a 3-under 68 on the Highlands Course.
I needed a 64 to make match play, but I was telling my wife that you can’t ever quit in this game. You can’t ever give up, he said. I think still having that mindset today really helped. I just hung in there and tried all the way to the end.
And he enjoyed a result that didn’t end his championship.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.