After trailing for a majority of the 36-hole championship match, Andy Ogletree surged past John Augenstein, winning four of the last seven holes to claim the 119th US Amateur Championship title, 2 and 1, at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.
Ogletree, 21, of Little Rock, Miss., was 4 down through five holes, but chipped away at Augenstein’s lead throughout the afternoon, completing one of the largest comebacks in a US Amateur final. The senior at Georgia Tech made just two bogeys over 35 holes in the final, equalling the mark set by 2008 champion Danny Lee and 2017 runner-up Doug Ghim.
Ogletree took his first lead of the match when Augenstein, 21, of Owensboro, Ky., failed to get up-and-down from the right greenside bunker at the 32nd hole.
After both players parred the par-3 33rd, it appeared as though Augenstein may square the match at the 34th when Ogletree hit his approach into the left greenside bunker. But the No.120 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) recovered and calmly rolled in a 10-foot par putt to maintain his 1-up advantage.
“I felt pretty confident over that bunker shot,” Ogletree said. “I don't think I would have nine months ago. I knew once I made that putt, I had a pretty good chance because I'm sure John was thinking he's going to tie it up there, and mentally that's hard to recover from.”
Both players hit their tee shots within 20 feet of the front-left hole location on the 181-yard, par-3 35th. The match seemed likely to extend to the 36th hole, but in a rare lapse of concentration, Augenstein rammed his birdie effort from the fringe 12 feet past the hole.
“I kept telling myself I'm going to win this championship, and just always believed that.” – Andy Ogletree
After Ogletree lagged his putt to within 3 feet, Augenstein missed the comebacker for par. Still away, he burned the left edge on his bogey putt and immediately conceded Ogletree’s par. It was a stunning turn of events in a championship match that featured 16 combined birdies.
“I showed a lot of resilience out there and never gave up,” said Ogletree, who was playing in his fifth USGA championship. “I kept telling myself I'm going to win this championship, and just always believed that.”
Early on, it looked as though Augenstein may run away with the match. After halving the first hole on Course No.4 with pars, the No.38 player in the WAGR drew first blood when Ogletree bogied the second.
Augenstein hit a 60-degree wedge to within 18 inches for a conceded birdie at the third hole, then followed with a beautiful tee shot at the 145-yard 4th, setting up another birdie from three feet. The senior at Vanderbilt University continued to pour it on, sinking an 18-foot birdie putt on the 5th to win his fourth straight hole.
After 34 consecutive holes without a bogey, Augenstein made back-to-back bogeys on Nos.11 and 12, reducing his lead to 2 up. He got one back when he made an up-and-down for birdie from just left of the drivable par-4 16th, but Ogletree converted a 20-foot birdie putt from just off the green at the 18th to cut his deficit to 2 down going into the break.
“I played really well on No.4 this morning,” said Augenstein, who shot a five-under 65 with match-play concessions. “He snagged that putt on No.18, which kind of flipped the momentum a little bit.”
Ogletree continued his strong play on Course No.2, birdieing the opening hole of the afternoon round to pull within 1 down.
“I fought my hardest … But in the end, I didn't make enough putts or hit enough great shots out there to beat him.” – John Augenstein
“I hit it in that right junk on No.1 for the fourth match in a row,” Ogletree said. “I think I had four divots about five feet apart. My 9-iron was pretty good and left me a good look straight up the hill and I made that one.”
The margin remained unchanged as the players completed 27 holes, until Augenstein birdied the par-5 28th to reclaim his 2-up lead.
The turning point in the match came on the 319-yard par-4 31st. Ogletree played conservatively on the drivable par-4, laying back with an iron, while Augenstein hit driver into the left greenside bunker. Playing first, Ogletree spun a sand wedge back to within three feet. Augenstein blasted his bunker shot to eight feet, but his putt lipped out. When Ogletree converted his birdie effort, the match was square for the first time since the opening hole of the match.
“I was really proud of that shot,” said Ogletree, of his 58-degree wedge from 104 yards. “It landed on the back slope and came back perfectly. That put a lot of pressure on [Augenstein] and definitely flipped the match.”
Ogletree led for just four holes, compared to 29 for Augenstein, but his ability to stay close in the morning round when Augenstein threatened to build an insurmountable lead set up his comeback on Pinehurst No.2’s inward nine.
“I fought my hardest,” Augenstein said. “But in the end, I didn't make enough putts or hit enough great shots out there to beat him. He was super solid and really made no mistakes.”