(PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif.) – Doc Redman, of Raleigh, N.C., completed a comeback for the history books on Sunday by making an eagle and a birdie on the 35th and 36th holes, then adding a conceded birdie on the 37th hole to defeat Doug Ghim, of Arlington Heights, Ill., and capture the 117th U.S. Amateur Championship at The Riviera Country Club. It was a final match that featured brilliant shotmaking and putting by both Redman and Ghim, with neither player holding larger than a 2-up lead.
Redman, a sophomore at Clemson University who had a remarkable string of one-putt greens, missed an 8-foot par putt on the par-3 34th hole to go 2 down with two holes to play. But he rallied to square the match by dropping a 60-foot putt from the back of the green for an eagle on the par-5 17th, then converting an 8-footer for birdie on No. 18. Ghim had putts for birdie on No. 17 and for par on No. 18, but never got the chance to attempt either of them.
It was a disappointing outcome for Ghim. While he trailed for 16 holes through late in the morning 18 until the 11th hole of the afternoon round, he won the 31st and 34th holes to go 2 up and dormie. Then Redman dropped the bomb of a putt on No. 17.
“When it went in, it was like, wow, OK – that’s quite a blow,” said Ghim, the winner of the Pacific Coast Amateur last month and the No. 7 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. “My dad kept reminding me on the next hole that you are still winning. He might’ve just made the putt of his life, but you are still winning this and you have to make him go get it from you.”
Redman, the No. 70 player in the world, did just that. On the iconic 475-yard 18th, he drove into the right rough near some large trees, and was forced to hit a fade with his 9-iron from 167 yards. He curled the approach shot perfectly, setting himself up with an 8-foot putt for birdie directly below the hole. Ghim, who had left his approach short of the green, pitched up to within short distance before Redman buried the putt to send the match to extra holes.
On the 37th hole, Riviera’s famed 315-yard par 4 10th, Redman drilled his tee shot into perfect position, at the front entrance to the steep, narrow green that runs away from the player. Ghim hooked his 3-wood tee shot into nasty rough and was forced to thrash the ball out with a wedge. It came out hot and ran through the green into the front bunker. After going bunker to bunker, then missing his bogey putt, Ghim conceded Redman’s 12-footer for birdie, and the match.
The putt on No. 17, after a second shot on the par 5 that ran through to the back of the green, triggered the unlikely comeback for Redman, who joined Ghim later on Sunday as one of 10 players named to the USA Walker Cup Team for the Match against Great Britain and Ireland in three weeks at The Los Angeles Country Club.
“All that was going through my head was about making the putt and putting a good stroke on it,” Redman said. “Honestly, I was just going through, you know, ‘you’re going make this, you’re going to make this, and it worked out well.”
Redman’s round was marked by an uncanny ability to hole putts, none bigger that on the 35th hole, but also several putts that kept Ghim at bay in the morning, and kept his opponent from extending his lead in the afternoon. In the morning, Redman knocked in a sweeping 40-footer for birdie on No. 13 to take his first lead, then kept Ghim from drawing even by holing a 30-footer for par on No. 16.
“I always have a lot of confidence from mid-range,” said Redman, the ACC Freshman Player of the Year for 2016-17. “When I see one go in, I definitely get big eyes and I know that I can make anything. That’s what happened today. It was a really special putting day, obviously.”
Ghim had defeated Sahith Theegala in 19 holes in the Round of 32, and Redman earned a pair of 1-up victories en route to the final, but their combined 10 match wins were just a prelude to the championship final. The players combined for 10 birdies in the morning, with Redman shooting 4-under 66 and Ghim 1-under 69, with only three holes won – two by Redman and one by Ghim.
“Especially in that first round, we were both playing so well,” said Redman, who received a phone call of encouragement on Saturday evening from Dabo Swinney, coach of Clemson’s national championship football team. “I played really well on that back nine, and he stuck with me shot for shot and I stuck with him. Then the wind picked up on the second 18 and it was a totally different game. We both just hung tough.”
Redman grabbed a 2-up lead with another long putt, a 30-foot birdie on the 20th hole, and although their pattern of halving holes continued – 10 of the next 13 were halved in pars – Ghim took advantage of a couple of loose tee shots by Redman early in the final nine to take a 1-up lead, his first advantage since the 11th tee in the morning. When Redman missed the green on the par-3 34th hole and – in a rarity – missed his par save from 8 feet, Ghim seemed in firm control.
“I actually was really surprised when Doc missed on the 34th hole,” said Ghim, who also lost the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship match in 37 holes, to Byron Meth. “It felt like every time we won a hole it was so significant because we weren’t giving each other anything. It felt weird to even have a putt to win the hole. It’s just a testament to how good we played.”
For the match, Redman hit 19 fairways and 14 greens with rounds of 66-69 with match-play concessions. Ghim hit 16 fairways and 16 greens and had rounds of 69-68. Redman’s comeback closely resembled that of 2012 U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox, who as the No. 63 seed won the 35th, 36th and 37th holes to defeat Michael Weaver at Cherry Hills Country Club.
“I felt like I did everything that I could to force him to make incredible shots,” said Ghim. “He stepped up and did it, and kudos to him. I’m very happy for him.”