Chapman birdies final hole to capture Junior-Amateur championship.
HAMILTON – As far as epic amateur golf battles go, Wednesday’s final round at the 74th New York State Junior Amateur at Seven Oaks Golf Course has to rank near the top.
There were momentum changes on nearly every hole as Christian Chapman made the biggest putt of his life, knocking in a 25-footer for birdie on the par-5 18th to edge Nathan Han by one stroke.
“I don’t believe it,” Chapman said moments after draining his winning putt. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It was incredible. I played awesome both days. To shoot 6-under … that’s my best score in a tournament, and it was just an incredible battle. There are no words to describe how awesome a battle it was.”
Chapman finished with a 138 total after carding rounds of 68 and 70. Han, who put on a putting exhibition on the final six holes finished at 139 (70-69).
“It was incredible to watch,” Chapman said of Han’s performance on the greens. “He made almost every putt he needed on the back nine. I have to congratulate him and thank him for making me work so hard today. It makes it more memorable.”
Danny Gianniny shot 2-under 70 Wednesday to finish solo third with an even-par total of 144. Jeremy Sisson shot 73-72 to finish fourth at 145, while Matt Dreimiller placed fifth after a solid round of 72 Wednesday for a 146 total.
The only big putt Han missed on the final six holes was a 12-footer for birdie that would’ve forced a playoff.
“Overall I was drilling everything, said Han, who has runner-up finishes this year in the state high school championship and the state junior-am. “It wasn’t my best ball-striking round, but I managed to make a ton of putts. On the last hole, it broke a little more than I thought. I thought I put a good stroke on it, but misread it a little.”
Chapman entered the final round with a two-stroke lead over Han, who pulled even four different times, but never led. Han shot 36 on his opening nine and Chapman shot 37. After Han birdied the par-4 10th to pull even for the third time, Chapman regained the lead with a birdie on the par-5 12th.
The drama was just beginning as every time it seemed Chapman was ready to gain control, Han drained a tough putt to keep it tight.
On the par-4 13th, Han made a 12-footer for birdie to match Chapman, who hit his approach to within 30 inches. With the lead remaining at one stroke, Han drilled a seven-footer to save par on the par-3 14th. Then, on the par-4 15th, Han made an eight-footer for par to once again match Chapman.
Chapman finally seemed primed to take complete control on the par-4 16th, as he stuck his approach to within two feet and Han blasted his third from a greenside bunker 16 feet past the hole.
With a one-, or two-shot swing likely, Han did the improbable by draining the 16-foot downhill slider for par on the 16th and Chapman lipped-out his short birdie putt and the margin remained just one stroke. Han then drew even by birdying the short par-4 17th to add to the drama heading to the closing hole.
“I did get frustrated,” Chapman said. “He made a ridiculous putt on 16 for par. It was probably the best putt anyone hit all week. Then I missed a two-footer for birdie and I’m thinking ‘what just happened?’ Then he makes a birdie to tie me on 17, and all I just kept telling myself is that ‘it’s not over and that I still have one hole left.”
On 18, Chapman turned the tables on Han. Both players were forced to layup with their second shots. Chapman’s approach hit and spun back about 25 feet short of the hole. Han looked to have the advantage by hitting his wedge approach pin high and 12 feet right of the hole. But Chapman read his birdie attempt perfectly and matched it with a pure stroke.
“It was about 25 to 27 feet and broke right,” Chapman said. “I played more speed to take some break out of it, so I played it a ball and a half outside left and it dropped right in the middle. It was an amazing putt to make.”
Han had one last chance to match, but his birdie attempt slid by the left edge.
“It definitely was wild,” Han said. “I haven’t putted this well in a long time. I kept my composure and managed to make a lot of those tough putts today to keep me in it.”
After an amazing effort to keep pace with Chapman, Han was disappointed in the final result, but also happy with his play.
“I’m pleased with my tournament,” Han said. “I’ve been going through a little rough stretch lately, so it’s good to play well. My swing came along this week and I’m really happy with the way I played yesterday and today.”
For Chapman it was the win of his young career and one he’ll always cherish. Not only because he won, but how he played, and what it meant to his entire family.
“This tops my high school win,” said an emotional Chapman, who won the Section V title this past spring. “I’ve always wanted to win the state championship. … It means a lot. … And it’s for my parents. Without their help and support I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Thomas McPartlon (147) finished solo sixth and Chris Lee placed seventh with a 149 total. Austin Fox (150), Jake Hommel (152) and Kyle Gilroy (152) rounded out the top 10.
Juniors Division age-group champions: Danny Gianniny (17); Jake Hommel (16); and Chris Lee (15).
-Nick Sardina – Mid-York Sports Re