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FORT WASHINGTON, Pa.–Michael Hyland’s only 32 years of age, but his golfing career came full circle Saturday in the 111th Amateur Championship final at Manufacturers G&CC. Hyland established his career in 2000 with a victory in the Golf Association of Philadelphia Amateur. He turned professional shortly thereafter only to return to the amateur ranks in 2005. Today, he added his name to a select group, defeating Stephen Hudacek, III of Glenmaura National GC, 1-up, in the 36-hole final for his second J. Wood Platt Trophy. Hyland is the 17th individual to win two or more Amateur titles and the first to do so since Andy Thompson turned the task in 1998. J. Wood Platt holds the record with seven crowns.
“I never thought it would happen again. In these things you get old quick,” said an emotional Hyland of Marlton, N.J. “If you look at the trophy there are so many great champions on there. To have my name on there twice is unbelievable.”
Said Hudacek, 23, competing in his first Amateur final, “It’s a real confidence builder for me. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty good player but now I know I can compete with the really elite guys in the Philadelphia area. It’s been a thrill. This is my favorite tournament of the year.”
The championship match resembled Hyland’s rollercoaster decade. A blazing hot putter helped the affable Hyland forge a 5-up advantage after 15 holes. Some rough patches ensued as Hudacek whittled and whittled away at Hyland’s lead before finally drawing even after 32 holes with back-to-back birdies. Hyland immediately responded, though, with consecutive birdies of his own to go back to 2-up before equaling a Hudacek par on No. 18 (par 5, 460 yards) to secure the victory.
“It’s the hardest tournament I play in all year,” said Hyland. “I stayed calm all week and let the other younger guys get upset. This is such a grind playing 36 holes each day.”
As stated, Hyland controlled the contest early. He was 5-under par aggregate after 14 holes and 5-up in the match when momentum left his side. Reaching yet another par 5, No. 15 (537 yards) in two – Hyland was 6-under on the par 5s today – he registered a three-putt par. The scorecard read halves for both players, but, in essence, Hyland lost that hole after squandering a makeable birdie chance. The result proved a foreshadowing of things to come. Hyland’s putter went frigid, real fast. Meanwhile, Hudacek shook off some early jitters and won No. 16 (par 4, 433 yards) with a routine par and No. 18 (par 5, 460 yards) with a nicely played birdie from short of the green. Hyland three-putted 18 after reaching it in two strokes and held a 3-up lead at the break.
“I felt I had some momentum coming back there. Michael was playing so well all day, it was nice to finally have something go my way,” said Hudacek of Scranton, Pa. “Eighteen holes left, spotting three [holes], I’m definitely still in it. My game plan was to keep doing what I did week. Get on the greens and give myself 20 footers. I’m very confident over the putter.”
Hudacek birdied hole 19 (No. 1, par 4, 385 yards) and pared No. 22 (No. 4, par 3, 187 yards) to move 1-down. Both players appeared to be tiring a bit at this point, with some wayward shots and putts beginning to rear heads. Hyland birdied the 25th hole (No. 7, par 5, 500 yards), he again reached it in two, and would make the turn at 2-up.
The two halved No. 28 (No. 10, par 4, 422 yards) with bogeys. Hudacek got it to 1-down after two-putting No. 29 (No. 11, par 3, 185 yards) from 20 feet for par to win the hole as Hyland failed to get up-and-down from the bunker short of the green. The next six holes turned crazy, with birdies deciding every one. Three by each player.
Hyland started the barrage with another four on a par 5 (No. 12, 521 yards). He ripped a 4-iron from 225 yards to 30 feet and two putted. Hudacek missed the green and watched his 20-foot birdie chance slip to the right (check).
Hudacek, however, showed the mettle of a savvy veteran. He recorded red figures on each of the next two holes to draw square. On No. 32 (No. 13, par 3, 223 yards), Hudacek cracked a 4-iron to 20 feet and made birdie. On No. 33 (No. 14, par 4, 426 yards), Hudacek “hit the best shot of the today” when he escaped the fairway bunker from 170 yards with a 7-iron to 12 feet for birdie. However, the unflappable Hyland responded with his characteristic grin and sauntering walk by carding consecutive birdies himself. On No. 33 (No. 15, par 5, 537 yards), from 225 yards, he knocked a 4-iron on to 20 feet and two putted. He added a gap wedge from 130 yards to three feet on the next hole (par 4, 433 yards) to increase his lead to 2-up with two to go.
The resilient Hudacek responded with a fantastic 18-foot birdie on the 35th hole (No. 17, par 4, 370 yards) to remain alive – Hyland missed a 15-foot birdie attempt.
“I couldn’t get down on myself because I kept losing to birdies on that back nine,” said Hyland. “I know for the fans and everyone else that was some excitement right there. We birdied every hole between 12 and 17. I thought I was going to need one on 18.”
On the final hole, both players found the fairway, but Hudacek, who has a very low ball flight, couldn’t elevate his approach enough to hit the upper green. Hyland overshot the putting surface by a yard with his second shot but nestled a chip onto the green to 15 feet. Hudacek, whose chipping struggled at times, came up short with his third stroke and then missed a lengthy birdie try. Hyland’s gentle birdie effort stopped inches from the cup.
“I told my caddie Mike [Marvin], that I’ve been in this position so many times and I was getting really tired of having the lead late and watching someone else give the speech,” said Hyland. “I’ll be looking back at this one for a long time. I know if I had not won this my buddy who got married today at the wedding I missed would not have forgiven me. I really missed a lot, but he’ll understand.”
17. Michael Hyland, Little Mill CC, d. 23. Stephen Hudacek, III, Glenmaura National GC, 1-up.
NOTES–This was the eighth time Manufacturers G&CC hosted the Association’s Amateur Championship. The last time was 1996. Bill McGuinness of Tavistock CC defeated Chris Hoyle of Llanerch, 2&1, for the title that year … Hudacek was the first Glenmaura National GC representative in the final … Hyland is the only Little Mill CC member to reach the championship match.