Bandon, Ore. – Surviving his fourth straight match that went the distance, Georgia Tech’s Tyler Strafaci joined the names of his teammate, 2019 champion Andy Ogletree, and Yellow Jacket legends Bobby Jones and Matt Kuchar on the Havemeyer Trophy, outlasting SMU junior Charles “Ollie” Osborne 1-up Sunday night in the 36-hole championship match of the 120th United States Amateur Championship.
Just a few months after the Covid-19 pandemic scuttled the spring golf season and forced a change in his plans to turn pro, Strafaci duplicated the feat of his classmate Ogletree, who accomplished last August at Pinehurst, N.C., winning amateur golf’s most important championship. The 22-year-old Tech senior’s captured his third major win this summer, coming on the heels of victories at the North & South Amateur on July 4 and the Palmetto Amateur a week later. He will return to Georgia Tech for a fifth year in 2020-21 as a three-time All-East Region and two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer.
The U.S. Amateur championship comes with a berth in the 2021 Open Championship in addition to an exemption into the 2021 U.S. Open and a potential invitation to the 2021 Masters that go with reaching the semifinals. Strafaci also will get a position on the United States team for the 2021 Walker Cup next May 8-9 at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., not far from his home. He is the second member of his own family to win a United States Golf Association title, joining his grandfather, Frank, who won the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
Strafaci’s win also gives Georgia Tech the distinction of being the first collegiate golf program to have two different team members win the U.S. Amateur in back-to-back years.
But his run to the title was not without considerable drama; Strafaci won his final four matches 1-up. After concluding his first two matches in the U.S. Amateur without playing the par-5 18thhole, Strafaci survived unusual circumstances on the hole and came up with big shots of his own.
In Sunday’s final, the Yellow Jacket senior came to the final hole tied again after watching Osborne birdie the 34th and 35th holes of the match with birdies. After a tremendous drive, Strafaci pulled a 4-iron from 246 yards and hit it to 15 feet, leaving him two putts for birdie. Osborne also hit an excellent tee shot, but left his second shot on the grassy bank adjacent to a greenside bunker to the right of the green. After Strafaci put his eagle putt within a foot of the hole, Osborne missed his birdie attempt and conceded the hole and the match.
Like his teammate Ogletree in the 2019 final, Strafaci found himself trailing by a significant margin in the morning 18, but steadied himself to get close by the break. Osborne picked up where he left off in his semifinal match when he won three of the last four holes to put away Matthew Sharpstene, 4 and 2. Sunday, the SMU junior birdied six of the first 12 holes to lead by five holes. Strafaci bounced back with three birdies of his own and won four of the final six holes to trim the deficit to one hole.
After the break, Strafaci birdied No. 2 to square the match, then took his first lead on the par-4 7th (the 25th hole of the match) with a long birdie putt. After the players halved the next five holes, Osborne birdied the 31st hole (the par-5 13th) to square the match again as fog began rolling in from the ocean. But Strafaci hit the par-4 14th with a 3-wood and eagled from eight feet to pull back in front, and went two ahead with a par at the par-3 15th.
Osborne battled back with birdies on the net two holes to tie the match yet again as Strafaci found a fairway bunker off the tee at 16 and the penalty area on 17 with is second shot, leaving the players tied going to the final hole.
Strafaci’s five-hole comeback also nearly matched what matched what Tiger Woods accomplished in the first of his three consecutive victories in 1994 when he rallied from 6 down after 13 holes to beat Trip Kuehne at TPC Sawgrass.
Strafaci reached the championship match with a 4 and 2 opening-round victory over Kelly Chinn of Great Falls, Va., a 2 and 1 win over Julian Perico of Peru in the round of 32, and 1-up victories over Segundo Oliva Pinto of Argentina, Stewart Hagestad of Newport Beach, Calif., and Aman Gupta of Concord, N.C.
In the semifinals, the Tech senior saw a 4-hole lead through 12 holes evaporate by the time he got to the 18th hole against Aman Gupta, but he survived 1-up when Gupta landed his tee shot in a fairway bunker and failed twice to get out. In the quarterfinals, Strafaci needed to make a 3½-foot par putt to oust 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad by the same margin, and in Thursday afternoon’s Round of 16, a rules breach by Segundo Oliva Pinto’s caddie on No. 18 gave Strafaci a 1-up triumph after the two were deadlocked going to Bandon Dunes’ par-5 closing hole.