Sports

Stanford's Chung reaches U.S. Amateur golf finals

 

Stanford junior David Chung has beaten the reigning NCAA champion and the defending champion on consecutive days at the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship. Now comes the real test – beating the world's No. 1-ranked amateur golfer.

Chung, 20, will get that opportunity on Sunday when he takes on 20-year-old Peter Uihlein of Orlando, Fla., in the 36-hole championship of this country's national amateur finals at the 7,742-yard, par-71 Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place, Wash.

Chung and Uihlein have known each other since the beginning of their competitive junior golf careers. They have met twice previously in match play with Chung winning both – in the round of 16 at the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur (21 holes) and in the first round of the match-play portion of the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Championship (1 up).

"Peter and I have played since we were 10-years old," Chung said. "The first time I saw him was at Mid Pines and Pinehurst. We were playing some junior tournament. It's the first time I ever saw him and we played in the Junior Worlds that year. I've known him for a long time and we're really good friends.

"I know he's a great putter. He hits it far. Really knows weaknesses and extremes and, so, you know, I expect him to play well today and get preparation from Ben today on seeing stellar golf. So I think I'm pretty prepared for anything."

Chung earned the right to perhaps become the first Stanford player since Tiger Woods to win a U.S. Amateur after he defeated defending champion Byeong-Hun (Ben) An in the semifinals on Saturday, 1 up.

Chung, who has won the Western Amateur and the Porter Cup already in 2010, will be out to ruin Uihlein's 21st birthday on Sunday. Uihlein advanced with a 4 and 3 victory over Patrick Cantlay, 18, of Los Alamitos.

An, who was the first defending champion to reach the semifinals since Woods in 1996, held a 3-up lead through six holes against Chung and was the equivalent of 6-under par with four birdies and an eagle with match-play concessions.

"Like Tiger (Woods) says, I want to come out firing on all cylinders," Chung said. "(An) did that. I don't think anybody could have beaten him in the first six holes today. But, I knew I would have my chances and I'd have to take advantage of them going into the back nine. Luckily, I was able to do that . . . I had to stay patient."

Chung, a college All-American, slowly chipped away at An's lead and won holes 10 and 12 with birdies to narrow the margin to just one hole. He squared the match with a par on the par-3 15th and took the lead for the first time with a birdie on the par-4 16th.

Chung then lost the lead when he suffered only his second bogey of the round on the 164-yard, par-3 17th. He and An went to the 485-yard, par-5 18th all square. An hit his second shot into a bunker while Chung reached in regulation, but had a long downhill putt. An blasted out of the bunker and his long par putt rolled off the putting surface. Chung putted to within 3 ½ feet, An missed his putt and then conceded the match.

"I'd have to say today was by far my toughest match of the tournament and the toughest match-play opponent I've played in a while," Chung said of An, who is a freshman at Cal.

An, an 18-year-old Korean native who surpassed Woods as the youngest U.S. Amateur winner at 17 in 2009, was vying to become the first repeat winner since Woods, who won three consecutive U.S. Amateur championships from 1994-1996.

The 36-hole final is set for Sunday. The winner receives custody of the Havemeyer Trophy for the ensuing year as well as an exemption into the 2011 U.S. Open and likely invitation to the 2011 British Open. Both finalists are likely to receive an invitation to the 2011 Masters Tournament.

That was definitely on Chung's mind as early as Friday's quarterfinals.

"I was just thinking Masters invitation possibly, US Open, British Open," Chung said. "How great would that be? Crow's Nest, playing Augusta. I went out there in '08 for the first time ever, and I felt like I was in heaven, like in paradise. It's the ultimate dream for a golfer, especially a competitive golfer to play in the Masters.

"Obviously, I couldn't keep that off my mind yesterday. I was able to stay in the moment a little bit today, but it was definitely on my mind throughout the round."

And it will be on Chung's mind again, should he become the next U.S. Amateur champion.

-- Palo Alto Online Sports/USGA

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