In playoff, Meth wins final Public Links
NEWTON, Kan. – The U.S. Amateur Public Links, in its last year of existence, refused to go quietly. It took 37 holes for Byron Meth of San Diego to outlast Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights, Ill., 1 up at Sand Creek Station Golf Course to become the final name inscribed on the James D. Standish Trophy.
“I think it would be cool to be known as the perpetual champion,” Meth, a 21-year-old rising senior at University of the Pacific.
Meth trailed 1 down on the 36th hole when Ghim fanned his tee shot into the driving range – marked as out of bounds – and made double bogey. Meth was grateful for new life until he learned that the first extra hole would be at the par-5, 10th, the hole he had conceded during the morning's 18 after three penalty strokes and had lost during the afternoon session with a bogey.
But Meth rifled a 3-wood into the fairway and after seeing Ghim’s 3-wood land in the hazard to the right, he punched a 4-iron on a conservative line. From there, Meth knocked a 9-iron from 126 yards to 20 feet and sewed up the victory with a gentle lag putt to gimme range.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had, but I’m glad it’s over,” Meth said, a smile still splitting his face.
The first 18 settled little with Meth falling behind for the first time all week, then squaring the match before lunch. Meth and Ghim dazzled the crowd with their fine play in the afternoon round. Meth built a 3-up lead through 26 holes, and shot 3-under 33 without any putts being conceded. But Ghim, playing in front of his future college coach, John Fields of University of Texas, (Ghim starts there this fall), stormed back to win four of the next five holes to go 1 up after 31 holes.
Ghim had rallied from 3 down to reach the semifinal and said he knew he could do it again. He kicked off his comeback by getting up and down for birdie from the left hazard on nine, then welcomed a shaky bogey by Meth at No. 10. When he canned a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 12, the match was all square. One hole later, Meth gifted Ghim the lead when he missed a 2-foot par putt.
“That’s the only time I saw Byron get angry all week,” said his father, Simon, who walked the entire match. “He grabbed the ball off the green and kind of smacked at it. Otherwise, you never could tell where he stood in the match. That’s a trait his longtime coach, Bob Madsen, taught him.”
Meth dug deep into his reservoir of resolve and released his anger on the next tee, smoking a 330-yard drive, he estimated. With the adrenaline flowing, he shoved a 9-iron from 176 yards into the right greenside bunker. He called it the worst iron shot he hit all week. He had only been in the bunker on one other occasion, but that didn’t stop him from nearly holing the shot. He won the hole when Ghim’s par putt slid by on the left. All square again.
With the tees moved up at the 33rd hole to 340-yard hole, Ghim seized the moment and drove the green.
“I saw a bunch of kids win the hole against me when I laid up with 3-wood,” Ghim said. “When I saw him lay up, I thought, ‘Why can’t I do it?’ ”
For good measure, he poured in the 20-foot eagle putt and regained a 1-up advantage. Meth and Ghim put on a show at the 34th hole. First Ghim hit his approach from 170 yards into the wind that landed on the crest of a ridge and fed down the lower tier to 8 feet below the hole. It had the makings of being a knockout punch, but Meth answered and planted his second 12 feet right of the target. Meth’s birdie try had the feeling of a must make with Ghim staring at an easy putt to go 2 up if he missed. Meth sensed it too. If I got 2 down at that point, it would be tough to win both 17 and 18,” he said.
Meth tapped the slick right-to-left bender and it dove into the heart of the cup for birdie.
“I've relied on my putter a lot in my life, and it definitely did not let me down today,” said Meth, who used an Odyssey Metal X No. 1.
Now the pressure shifted to Ghim. He jarred it. Another hole halved in birdies (and the fourth time that had happened on the day). Both players made par at 17, and so Ghim stepped to the tee at the 36th hole leading 1 up, and promptly knocked his drive OB.
“I guess I didn’t realize I was nervous until the club was coming down,” Ghim said. “I never had a tournament where so much was on the line.”
With Ghim in with six, Meth faced a 40-foot birdie putt that had to climb the ridge to the upper terrace of the green. He didn’t hit it, and watched in horror as the ball rolled back to his feet. Meth gathered his wits and two-putted for 5 to win the hole and send the match to extra holes.
Now it was winner take all: the match, the last APL title, and the likely invitation to the Masters. In other words, no pressure at all.
Ghim blinked first at the first extra hole, fanning a 3-wood into the hazard.
“It was a product of nerves,” he said. “I’ve never been in this position before. Next time I’ll be ready.”
His ball was dry but entangled in fescue and he had no choice but to pitch out. When his fourth flew long and his par chip slid by the hole on the left, Meth cozied his birdie putt near the hole and had the putt conceded. How will he celebrate, he was asked?
“I'll probably have a beer with my dad,” he said. “I turned 21 earlier this year, and we haven't had a drink together yet.”
Well earned after a marathon match that tested mental stamina and physical endurance as much as skill. Already thoughts of April in Augusta were dancing in his head.
“His friends are already fighting over who gets to caddie for him,” said his father.