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Wisconsin's Cahill Rues Missed Fairway That Led to Loss September 21, 2016 | ST. LOUIS, MO. By Tom Mackin

Kevin Cahill lives 35 minutes from Erin Hills, next year's U.S. Open site, and said "I think the players are going to like it." (USGA/Chris Keane)

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When Kevin Cahill came to the 18th tee at Old Warson Country Club with a 1-up lead over Matthew Sughrue in the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur, he had just one thought: hit the fairway and he would win the match.

But after struggling with his swing throughout the championship, his drive landed in the right rough. Sughrue, from Arlington, Va., went on to win the hole with a par, then sealed the match with another par on the 19th hole, advancing to Thursday’s championship match against Dave Ryan of Taylorville, Ill.

“Obviously it’s disappointing when you have a 1-up lead going into the last hole,” Cahill said. “I just had to hit that fairway. I didn’t drive it well on that hole. I think I hit it maybe twice during all the rounds this week.”

By reaching the semifinals, Cahill advanced farther than he ever has in a USGA championship. He is also exempt from qualifying for the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Senior Amateurs. But he clearly wanted more.

“I thought I had a pretty good chance to win the tournament,” said the 56-year-old Cahill, who lost, 6 and 5, to Steve Liebler of Irmo, S.C. in the quarterfinals of the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.

Cahill extracted some revenge for that loss, knocking off Liebler, 4 and 3, in the Round of 16 yesterday, then defeating John Hornbeck of Saratoga, Wyo., 1 up, in the quarterfinals.

He recaptured some momentum during his win over Liebler, but it was short-lived. “I tried carrying that over into today, but every once in a while I would go low and left with my driver,” he said. “The strength of my game is basically driving it straight, and that wasn’t there, especially on the last two holes today.”

Throughout match play, Cahill, of Waukesa, Wis., battled both his opponent and his own swing.

“It was just a weird week,” he said. “But swing thoughts are like fruits and vegetables, they have a shelf life. They’re good for a while and then all of a sudden they don’t work anymore. So you’ve got to find something else to make it work. That’s why I’m surprised I got this far.”

Cahill had a 1-up lead over Sughrue through five holes before the pair exchanged the lead multiple times. Cahill’s tee shot on the par 4 14th landed in a pond, a miscue that led to Sughrue taking the lead for the first time. But Cahill won the next two holes with pars and halved the 17th to enter the 18th 1 up.

“I had opportunities to win,” said Cahill, who will represent Wisconsin in the USGA Men’s State Team Championship next week at the Country of Club of Birmingham (Ala.). “I just wish I had been swinging better. That’s the disappointing part.”

Along with playing in the U.S. Senior Amateur at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn., next year, Cahill is also looking forward to the U.S. Open being played for the first time in his native Wisconsin, at Erin Hills, 35 minutes from his home in Waukesha.

“Our State Amateur was there in 2015 (Cahill finished 12th) and I just played it two weeks ago,” he said. “It looks big and wide open, but you have to hit it straight. There are no trees, but there’s lots of fescue and bunkers. I think the players will like it.”

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites.

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