Plano, Texas native and Wake Forest collegiate player embraced the pressure down the stretch, winning in a thrilling two- hole playoff against San Diego, Calif.’s, Nahum Mendoza; Ephrata’s Aaron Whalen finished sixth
PACIFIC COAST GOLF ASSOCIATION (Seattle, Wash.)– Celebrating it’s 50th installment at the Seattle Golf Club, the Pacific Coast Amateur has crowned a new champion in Will Zalatoris of Plano, Texas.
Zalatoris, a collegiate player with Wake Forest, came into the final day two-strokes off the pace setters in the final group. After teeing off on the first hole a group ahead of round three leaders Nahum Mendoza and Rico Hoey of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Zalatoris exuded confidence in his quest to become champion.
After making bogey on the par-4 third hole, Zalatoris would correct his front nine by making a birdie-four on the diabolical par-5 seventh hole and another on the par-5 ninth hole to close out his outward half in one-under 35.
With the leaders behind him, Zalatoris made the turn in a position very familiar to him in his young amateur career – within striking distance of a title.
With Hoey struggling to find the back of the cup on his day and falling out of contention coupled with Mendoza not wavering in his play nor climbing the leaderboard, the growing crowd of 100+ members and onlookers shared a nervous energy that the championship was going to go down to the wire.
After plunking a tee-shot into the green-side hazard on the par-3 16th, Zalatoris took two-steps back with a double-bogey five and went from one clear of Mendoza to one behind with only two holes remaining.
Zalatoris would make a clutch par on 17 and follow it up with making a clutch up-and-down birdie from 60-yards to close out his round at -4 on the 18th. He would post four-round totals of 74-69-70-72 (285). Then the nervous waiting game began.
Waiting at the scoring table, Zalatoris didn’t have the chance to see Mendoza approach the final green. Short-siding himself into the green-side bunker on his approach shot in two, Mendoza would not be able to get up-and-down for birdie, thus forcing extra holes.
The growing group of members watching the Palmer Cup graduates walk the fairways in extra holes, pressure was mounting for all of those in attendance, especially Mendoza and Zalatoris. Both would make pars on the first playoff hole and head to the second where Zalatoris would eventually tap in for par after a great approach and a conservative first putt to within three feet.
Mendoza, in a precarious spot behind the pin in the rough after a difficult approach shot into the green, would not be able to get up-and-down, allowing Zalatoris the opportunity to join a prestigious list of past champions to hoist the Dr. Ed Updegraff trophy.
Asked of his time at his second Pacific Coast Amateur, Zalatoris sung high praises of the venue and the championship experience.
“The course got drier and firmer all week. It was just in phenomenal shape, especially when you combined firm and fast. It was an absolute treat to be here.”
Not only did Zalatoris have high praises for the golf course, he shared an equally positive and memorable narrative about his competition this past week.
“Any time you have a field of 87 guys and almost every single guy can step up and win it, it is challenging. Playing against Nahum, a team mate of mine on the Palmer Cup team was a blast. This entire week has just been an absolute pleasure.”
“The list goes on-and-on. I could name all of the All-Americans that are here and Mid-Ams that have a tremendous track-record, it just feels good to win such a strong field,” Zalatoris said with a smile.
The 50th event proved memorable, with John Bodenhamer in attendance from the USGA to present a proclamation to the Pacific Coast Golf Association for the championship and its history.
With Bodenhamer in attendance and having previously mentioned how the USGA views the championship results when deciding on international team players, Zalatoris shared a personal goal that was accelerated by his performance at the Pacific Coast Amateur.
“One of my goals that I have kept quiet and really haven’t told anyone was to make the World Amateur team. That wasn’t a reality two months ago but it can be a reality now just because of winning this tournament.”
Finishing runner-up was Mendoza with rounds of 70-73-68-74 (285). Sitting in a tie for third at the conclusion was Ryann Ree of Rendondo Beach, Calif. (71-73-72-71-287) and first-round leader K.K. Limbhasut of Bangkok, Thailand (68-69-75-75-287).
Low Washingtonian for the event was Aaron Whalen of Ephrata with rounds of 71-70-72-69-289 (+1).
In closing out his championship speech, Zalatoris provided many thanks to those in attendance and had one message for those on-looking.
“We will see you next year at Chambers.”
The 2017 Pacific Coast Amateur Championship is set to take place July 25-28 2017 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.