2004: Putnam wins Pacific playoff

By Dave Seanor

Eugene, Ore.

For Michael Putnam, it was validation. For Spencer Levin, it was a blown opportunity.

Putnam, a Pepperdine senior from University Place, Wash., won the 38th Pacific Coast Amateur Championship Aug. 6, beating Levin and Andrew Martin in a playoff. Putnam shot 67-70-67-73 for a 7-under-par 277 total at Eugene Country Club. His birdie on the second playoff hole was the clincher.

“I’ve been champing at the bit to get a major amateur win,” Putnam said after Round 3. “I feel like I’ve been knocking at the door for awhile, even in college. I have a couple of wins, but I haven’t really broken through with a major victory in a good tournament.”

He proved remarkably resilient in doing so. In Round 3, Putnam bogeyed the third and fourth holes to fall three shots behind Levin, with whom he was tied for the lead after 36 holes. But a run of four consecutive birdies gave him a three-shot lead over Levin after 54 holes.

Then, 10 holes into Round 4, Putnam had made four bogeys and found himself trailing Levin by two shots. He rebounded with three birdies down the stretch, which was enough to put him in a playoff with Levin (70) and Martin (68), the reigning Australian Amateur champion who caught the leaders with four birdies on the back nine.

“I hit a couple of bad shots, hit a couple of bad putts and before I knew it I was 4 over and a couple down,” Putnam said of his front-nine travails. “I held my composure coming to the back nine. I knew if I played a great back nine I still had a good chance to win.”

On the first playoff hole, after near misses by Levin and Martin, Putnam babied a 4-foot birdie putt that would have secured the victory. Undaunted, he hit his second shot at the next hole just as tight. This time, the putt was firm and true. The victory pushed him up four spots to a tie for sixth in the Golfweek/Titleist Amateur Rankings.

Meanwhile, Martin’s performance was another notch for the Australians who have been barnstorming America, hoping to emulate the success of 2003 U.S. Amateur champion Nick Flanagan.

Michael Sim won the Southern Amateur; Aron Price won the Players Amateur and Rice Planters; and James Nitties took Ryan Moore to 19 holes in the Western Amateur final.

No. 2-ranked Levin may not have won, but he continued a torrid summer in which he has been low amateur at the U.S. Open (T-13) and scored victories at the California Amateur, the Scratch Players Championship and the Porter Cup. His downfall was a four-putt from 110 feet on the 70th hole. He bogeyed the par 5 and Putnam made birdie to grab a share of the lead.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever four-putted in my whole life,” Levin muttered as he changed shoes in the parking lot, where he had retreated to blow off steam. “That was the whole tournament. . . . I guess I choked.

“It’s not like I came back to get in the playoff. I backed into it and gave it away.”

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