Michael Sim didn’t have the glittering resume of some of his competitors in the 52nd Sunnehanna Amateur, but the Australian walked away from Sunnehanna Country Club with something the others didn’t have: the title.
Not that it was easy. Adding his name to the legendary list of winners at Sunnehanna required five extra holes in the final round on a broiling day atop the Allegheny Mountains.
Sim, countryman Jamie Arnold and Nicholas Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., finished 72 holes at 7-under-par 273 and embarked on Sunnehanna’s four-hole aggregate playoff.
When they walked off the 18th green following those four holes, Arnold (16) had been eliminated and Sim (15) and Thompson (15) headed to the first hole of sudden death.
And the death, indeed, was sudden. Sim stuck a sand wedge from 85 yards to 5 feet. Thompson also had a good approach, but his spun to 13 feet away. Thompson missed, Sim didn’t, and the Sunnehanna Amateur green jacket was his.
“I remember hearing Tiger Woods say one time on television that ‘My mother could make that putt,’ and that’s what I felt about that one,” said Sim. “It’s great to win a tournament like this one.”
Sim, 20, from Perth, is a member of the Australian Golf Union, which is participating in amateur tournaments across the United States this summer.
Sim finished fifth in last year’s Sunnehanna and produced the best round of this year’s tournament, a second-round 63 that included eight birdies.
“I admit I struggled off the tee today, but I made some really good par saves that kept the round going,” Sim said. “You have to get the ball in the fairway here. That’s the key, no doubt.”
Thompson, an All-American at Georgia Tech who has Walker Cup aspirations, was pleased with how he played, but disappointed that he couldn’t get one more birdie.
“It turned out that we put on a pretty good show, didn’t we?” Thompson said.
The Palmer Cup took some players who might otherwise have played at Sunnehanna, and Trip Kuehne and Lee Williams withdrew after they earned spots in the U.S. Open.
But as usual, most of the best amateurs in the world participated, including six Australians – two of whom finished first and third.
Kevin Kisner (Georgia), who tied for 13th with teammate Chris Kirk at the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship, was a factor most of the week, but struggled to 73 in the final round and tied for fifth.
Defending champion Jack Ferguson of Clemson self-destructed Sunday with a 3-over 73. He double-bogeyed the first hole after sailing the green with his approach. It was a precursor of his day.
Because of weather problems the past five years, this year’s tournament eliminated the 36-hole marathon on Saturday and moved to a four-day event. Nonetheless, each of the first three rounds was delayed at least once.