BANDON, Ore. (AP)Tyler Strafaci won the U.S. Amateur on Sunday at foggy Bandon Dunes, overcoming a big early deficit and surviving another tight finish to beat Charles ”Ollie” Osborne 1-up.
With father Frank Jr. at his side as a caddie, Strafaci two-putted for birdie – with the short second conceded – on the par-5 36th hole before Osborne’s 8-footer to halve and extend the match went by the right side of the cup.
”That had to be the most competitive, best match I’ve ever played,” Strafaci said. ”I executed shots coming down the stretch, and I just nipped him. It was fun. It was fun to be out there.”
Strafaci, the rising Georgia Tech senior from Davie, Florida, earned spots next year on the U.S. Walker Cup team and in the British Open after both finalists got spots next year in the Masters and U.S. Open.
Strafaci joined grandfather Frank Strafaci, the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public winner, as a USGA champion. He became the second straight Georgia Tech winner and fourth overall, following Andy Ogletree last year at Pinehurst. Bobby Jones won the Havemeyer Trophy in 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930, and Matt Kuchar in 1997.
”I always wanted to be the first Strafaci to make a Walker Cup,” Strafaci said. ”It’s been a rough couple of years because I’ve been pretty close to it, and now that I’m on that team, I feel like I’ve made (my grandfather) proud, and I feel like it’s just unbelievable. I mean, it’s something I’ve dreamt about and something that my father has told me about, stories about my grandfather. So it’s awesome.”
Osborne, from Reno, Nevada, will be a junior at SMU. He also had his father, Steve, alongside as a caddie.
Strafaci hit a 4-iron approach from 245 yards on the final hole.
”I was like, `You’re not going to hit this close with a 2-iron. You’re going to hit it close by hitting the best 4-iron of your life,” he said. ”I stepped back, and I closed my eyes and put my hands over my eyes like that, and I said, ”This is your time to hit a winning shot. Go get it!” I’ve done it a bunch of times back home, and I knew I could execute it, and I trusted myself, and I did it.”
Five holes down after 12 holes, Strafaci won four of the next five holes to cut the deficit to one going into the afternoon round. He finally caught Osborne with a birdie win on the par-3 20th and took the lead with a birdie on the par-4 25th.
”You’re kind of excited when you’re 5-up, but you know you’ve got a lot more golf to play, and then obviously he came back,” Osborne said. ”Like you kind of just go up and down throughout the day, you’re excited, you’re a little down. I tried to stay mellow the whole day, and it was a good match.”
Strafaci squandered a chance to double the advantage on the 28th when he missed a 1 1/2-foot birdie putt. They halved the par-3 30th with birdies, with Strafaci making a 20-footer after Osborne nearly holed his tee shot.
Osborne tied it with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 31st, his first hole win since the 12th. Strafaci struck back on the par-4 32nd, driving the green and making a 6-foot eagle putt after Osborne rolled in a 30-footer for birdie.
Strafaci took the par-3 33rd with a birdie, but Osborne countered with a birdie win on the par-4 34th and took the par-4 35th on a concession after Strafaci hit his approach into trouble short and right of the green.
”I wasn’t really nervous,” Strafaci said. ”I just didn’t execute.”
Starfaci went the distance for the fourth straight round.
”It’s crazy. I’m not going to lie; it’s stressful,” Starfaci said. ”Winning the Am is amazing, but winning four matches in a row on 18, that’s something I’m always going to look back on if I’m in a major and I’m even going into the last hole with someone like Brooks Koepka or Tiger or someone like that down the road.”
On Thursday afternoon in the round of 16, he won the 18th and his match against Segundo Oliva Pinto when Oliva Pinto’s caddie, Bandon local Brant Brewer, cost the Argentine a hole penalty for touching the surface of a greenside bunker.
On Friday in the quarterfinals, Starfaci halved the 18th with Stewart Hagestad after taking the lead on 17. On Saturday in the semifinals, Strafaci lost a four-hole lead, then won the 18th to edge Aman Gupta.
”I made so many putts,” Strafaci said. ”I putted so good. Pressure putting.”
DIVOTS: In July, Strafaci won the North & South Amateur and Palmetto Amateur in consecutive weeks. The 22-year-old Strafaci entered the week ranked 56th in the world. Osborne, 20, was 460th. … Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler traveled from Georgia to watch the final.