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Kansas Golf Associaition

Another Win for the Ages!

Bryan Norton Wins His Third Kansas Amateur in a 34 Year Span

Sam Stevens Finishes Runner-Up for the Second Consecutive Year

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Stroke Play Results -- Match Play Results

The 104th Kansas Amateur Match Play Championship 36-hole final match played last Sunday at Mission Hills Country Club had its moments of heartache, drama and joy.  Bryan Norton, age 55, held on to secure a 2 and 1 victory over Sam Stevens, age 18, in a match that will be Bryan Norton, 2014 Kansas Amateur Championremembered for awesome golf and strange bounces of a golf ball.

Both finalists had difficult roads to the ultimate match.  Norton, the #4 seed and playing on his home golf course, used local knowledge and sleeping in his own bed to his advantage to secure wins over Ryan Argotsinger in the quarterfinals and Chase Hanna in the semifinals on Saturday.  Argotsinger was a quarterfinalist in 2013 and is a member of the Southern Mississippi golf team.  Hanna was the defending champion and the this year’s medalist, having shot a competitive Mission Hills CC course record of 6-under par 64 on Tuesday in the opening stroke play round.   Stevens advance with wins against Zachary Dittmer, the two-time winner of the Kansas City Amateur, and Doug Albers, another Mission Hills CC member.

First the heartache.  The 18 year-old Stevens from Wichita, knew he was playing his opponent’s home golf course and that local knowledge and crowd support would have to be overcome.  Before he could even utter his first “that’s good” concession, Norton made what he said was his “first chip-in of the year” from the back fringe to win the first hole with a birdie.   On the second hole Stevens missed the fairway and had trouble with a bad lie resulting in another lost hole.  Stevens continued to struggle throughout the morning round.  Poor lies in the rough, impossible lies in a bunker or putts that kept defying gravity – you name it and it was happening to Stevens.  Norton on the other hand, was enjoying the “member’s bounce” and taking advantage of the youngster’s troubles.

After only eight holes, Norton enjoyed a 4 up lead built on a 3-under par stretch and winning five of those eight holes.  The rest of the morning round was Stevens just trying not to lose sight of Norton.  On the 13th hole Norton made a routine par while Stevens was struggling just to get out of a greenside bunker.  A 5 hole advantage to Norton might have seemed like a runaway match, but Stevens is a very talented and competitive player despite his short time in high level competitions.   On the 18th hole Norton made one his few mistakes by driving over the left side club property fence.  The out-of-bounds penalty enable Stevens to win the final hole of the morning round with a routine par and head for the lunch break down 4.

Now the drama.  Using the “honor” on the opening hole of the afternoon, Stevens crushed his drive to the center of the fairway past all of the bunkers and ready to put his approach close to the hole.  He did.  In the meantime, Norton wasn’t able to get to the green.  Stevens won the hole with an easy par to lessen Norton’s lead to 3.  On hole #2, Stevens converted a short putt for birdie while Norton failed to advance a greenside chip.  All of a sudden, Stevens had won three holes in a row and was now only 2 down.

The third hole at Mission Hills CC is a short par three with a very difficult putting green guarded by deep and difficult bunkers.  The wind was at the players’ back, so Stevens selected a pitching wedge for the 150 yard shot.  He hit it flush and on line.  The crowd of 100+ (mostly MHCC members!) looked on in awe as Stevens’ ball flew directly into the hole only to be spit out by its collision with the hole liner.  The force was so great that the ball rolled 15 feet straight right and down into a bunker coming to rest against the far lip.    Wide-eyed, dropped-jaw looks of amazement were seen throughout the crowd and KGA officials and the golf course superintendent examined and repaired the hole damaged by Stevens’ near ace.  Norton’s tee shot found the green for a two-putt par and a return to 3 up.

Of the 17 holes played in the afternoon round, 14 of them were won by one of the players.  Only three holes were halved, including the final hole of the match.  Norton was able to again get his lead to 5 up, but Stevens kept coming back.  After making a “good all the way” birdie putt on #14, Norton was dormie 4 – a good thing!  Every pair of eyes on the action at the next green thought the match was about to end as Norton stood over a two-foot hole-halving putt.   He missed.   The match continued to the 16th tee, now dormie 3.  Stevens, with the honors, drove it left toward the water hazard not often in play.  Norton was in the middle of the fairway after his drive.  Being shorter in distance off the tee, Norton played his approach to the green and the ball rolled to the back fringe no thanks to a gust of wind keeping it in the air longer than planned.  Again, everyone thought the match was about to end as Stevens was standing in thigh-high grass to play his ball from the edge of the lateral water hazard.  Only a player of his youth and strength could have hit that shot into the left greenside bunker.  Still away, Stevens calmly stepped in and made his best bunker shot of the championship to within one foot of the hole for a conceded par.  Now Norton only needed to get it up and down for the win.  His chip did not roll out as much as the downward slope appeared to have in store.  Norton missed the putt and the match moved to the 17th tee with Norton dormie 2.

Both players found the fairway with their drives.  Norton was away.  Standing over his six-iron shot to the green with a difficult wind, Norton had thoughts of failure and success debating in his mind.  He decided to go with the vision of success and struck a crisp shot to within 15 feet of the back left hole location.   Stevens could not match or better his approach and his lengthy birdie putt was not successful.  Norton left his first putt within tap in range for a hole and match winning concession.

Now for the joy!  Both players were greeted with resounding and prolonged applause as they made their way to each other for a hug and handshakes all around.

In accepting the congratulations of many of his fellow Mission Hills members, Bryan Norton told Sam Stevens that what happened to Sam on the #3 hole was the turning point of the match.  He had just lost three holes in a row to Stevens and he needed something to happen to change the momentum.  But for the strange bit of luck, Norton knew that a different player could have been making the victory speech!

Bryan Norton, age 55, is now a three-time winner of the Kansas Amateur.  His first win came in 1980 at the age of 21.  His second win came in 2002 at the age of 42.  This win shatters an 80-year old record for oldest champion set by Jack Robertson in 1934 at the age of 45.   Add 10 years to the record age!

Two interesting side notes – Sam Stevens is the fourth golfer to be Kansas Amateur runner-up in two consecutive years but the first golfer to accomplish it as a teenager.  Bryan Norton advanced to this year’s final match by winning a semifinal match against Chase Hanna, the defending champion.  So, in back-to-back matches Bryan Norton defeated both of last year’s Kansas Amateur finalist (both still teenagers).

Fred Rowland, the veteran amateur golfer from Leawood, did not make the match play bracket but he had a very notable performance in the Kansas Amateur.  The 75 year-old Rowland was honored at Mission Hills Country Club the night before the championship began with his induction into the Kansas Golf Hall of Fame.  Then on Tuesday morning, perhaps still inspired by the event of the previous evening, Rowland shot his age; a 5-over par 75.  A peak at the scorecard shows that he finished with a bogey on each of his last three holes (numbers 7 through 9).   That is not the first time Rowland has shot his age in a Kansas Amateur.  He accomplished the same feat in 2009 at Kansas City Country Club at the age of 70.

The KGA wishes to thank the members and staff of Mission Hills Country Club for hosting the premier Kansas amateur golf championship during its Centennial celebration in 2014.  It was truly an outstanding venue and a historic, record-breaking championship.