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Norman Xiong had to work longer for the Western Amateur title than he may have expected around the turn, but in the end he got the job done.
Xiong blew a 4-up lead on the back nine at Skokie Country Club in Saturday afternoon’s final against Doc Redman but rebounded in the ensuing playoff to secure the title. It took four extra holes – the 22-hole duel was the longest final in tournament history – but Xiong closed out the match and the Western Amateur title with a par.
The win for Xiong means a clean sweep, as the incoming Oregon sophomore earned medalist honors Thursday. He becomes the first player since Chris Williams in 2012 to sweep the medalist and overall titles at the Western Amateur. He’s also the first Ducks player to win the Western Amateur – which started in 1899, is the third-oldest amateur championship in golf and boasts winners such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Ben Crenshaw, Justin Leonard, Curtis Strange and Hal Sutton.
“Every day was a pleasure to play out here,” Xiong said.
Xiong can now smile at the fruits of that pleasure, and breathe a massive sigh of relief. The Canyon Lake, Calif., product dispatched Derek Bard, the 2015 U.S. Amateur finalist who recently finished his career at Virginia, 2 and 1 in his morning semifinal. Redman, meanwhile, took down Cameron Champ, maybe the hottest player in amateur golf this summer, 3 and 2 after winning Nos. 13-15.
But the final appeared it might be a blowout halfway through. Redman, an incoming Clemson sophomore, lost the first two holes of the match, was 3 down through five and found himself 4 down to Xiong at the turn.
But Redman, of Raleigh, N.C., battled his way back. He won the 10th with a par – only one of the first 10 holes of the match was halved, in fact – and birdied 13 and 14 to halve those holes and stay 3 down. Then Xiong began to falter. After Redman made a third straight birdie to win the 15th and move within two, Xiong bogeyed 16 and 17 to lose both holes.
“After 16, I started to feel it,” Xiong said. “I got a little more nervous, a little more tense. Before that, I was loose. Doc and I had fun out there … before 16, it was a relaxing round. We tried to keep it light, even though it’s such a big stage.”
A big stage, with the match suddenly all square.
Redman appeared he actually might win it outright at the 18th, as he faced a 20-footer for birdie to capture the hole and the Western Amateur. His effort came so close.
Redman then conceded Xiong’s four-foot par putt, meaning the hole was halved. A playoff it would be, and right away the golf gods returned the lipout favor to Xiong, as his 15-foot birdie putt to win on the first extra hole (the par-4 first) hit the cup and stayed out. Two holes later at the par-5 third, Xiong needed a 15-foot birdie putt to drop just to stay alive, and he did just that. His triumph would be secure a hole later at the par-4 fourth when Xiong two-putted for par from 12 feet while Redman failed to do the same from over 100.
Xiong started the week with no shortage of pedigree. He entered college a semester early this spring, and then proceeded to tear it up to the tune of a win and seven total top 10s. Despite coming in halfway through the season, Xiong did so much in the spring that he still earned the Phil Mickelson Award for top newcomer in men’s college golf.
Redman was no slouch himself, winning twice as a freshman and posting eight total top 10s in a full season. He was one of five – including Xiong, of course – to be named to the national All-Freshman team.
It was a long day and week for Xiong. But after all was said and done, everything finished in his favor as his profile continues to rise.