N-S Champ Eyes August Return to No. 2
Matt Savage is hoping to be back in Pinehurst in mid-August.
Fresh off an epic victory over Jamie Lovemark in 40 holes at the 108th North and South Amateur Championship, Savage was effusive in his praise for the fabled No. 2 and eager to return for the U.S. Amateur Championships, which will be held here Aug. 18-24.
"This place is incredible," Savage said of No. 2. "I haven't had this much fun on a golf course in a long time. Hopefully I will be back in a month if all goes well."
Savage will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship at Innisbrook in Florida at the end of the month.
All week the Louisville native said he felt comfortable on No. 2, noting that the creative shot-making that No. 2 demands suited his game.
"When I look back on this week it will be my chipping and putting that made the difference," Savage said.
With a crowd of nearly 200 people following, Savage's 3-foot birdie on the fourth hole -- the four extra hole of the 36-hole final match -- positioned him for the win, and when Lovemark missed a 4-foot birdie attempt, Savage claimed the championship and the coveted Putter Boy trophy..
The match, which lasted more than 7 hours, tested Savage's new approach to match play.
"I always had this mentality in match play of trying to get it over as fast as I could," Savage said. "For some reason that's how I felt -- like I had to win every hole.
"This week I tried to hit good shots and not give them (opponents) holes, and have a chance to win every hole. I ended up playing a lot better and getting matches over quicker."
Savage was the 78th-ranked amateur in world rankings prior to today's win. Lovemark a rising junior at USC was the ranked No. 5. Lovemark is exempt from U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying as a member of the 2007 Walker Cup team.
Lovemark forced extra holes with a birdie on the final hole of regulation, the par-4 18th.
When the match went to extra holes, Savage said he knew the longer it progressed, the slimmer his chances.
"I was worried once we got past (hole) No. 2," Savage said. "He was guaranteed birdies on (hole Nos.) 3 and 4, or at least I thought, and once we got to (holes) 4, 5, and 6 I was just hoping to hold on for dear life."
The two golfers halved each of the first three extra holes and headed to the par-4 fourth.
Earlier in the round, Lovemark overcame a 4-down deficit by winning hole Nos. 4, 5, 6, and 7 to even the 36-hole match after 25 holes.
"I definitely didn't want to get back to No. 5," Savage said. "I haven't played that hole very well."
On the 568-yard par-5 fourth hole both players drove their tee shots into the fairway. Savage, worried he couldn't reach the green in two shots like his opponent had twice, earlier in the match, pulled a 3-wood from his bag and let rip. He blistered a 270-yard shot to the front edge of the green, about 45 feet from the hole. His eagle putt rolled to within six feet. He birdied and then had to sweat out Lovemark's birdie attempt.
"I was really surprised Jamie missed his (birdie)," Savage said. "After the putts he made on 18 and 2, I was like he's going to make this one."
Lovemark's 9-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole squared the match and forced extra holes. On the 38th hole the rising junior at the University of Southern California, knocked home a testy 14-footer for par to halve the hole.
Savage took a 3-up lead midway through the morning 18, winning holes 8, 9, and 10.
Lovemark trimmed the margin to one by winning the 12th and 13th before Savage won 15 and 17 to take a 3-up advantage into the afternoon round.
Lovemark won the opening hole of the afternoon round to move to 2-down, but Savage won the next two holes to take a 4-up lead into the fifth hole.
Late in the match Savage twice held a 1-up advantage. A birdie putt on the par-4 12th gave Savage the lead until Lovemark earned a birdie on the par-4 14th. The tie was short-lived, as Savage answered with a short birdie putt on the par-3 15th.
He carried the lead to the 18th tee. Both players drove their tee shots left of the fairway. Savage's shot went left of the cart path and settled softly in pinestraw. His second shot soared out of the pinestraw, around several trees and landed off the back right of the green.
Lovemark's second shot landed softly on the green about 12 feet from the pin.
Savage's chip went wide of the hole and Lovemark buried his birdie putt to square the match and force extra holes.
Savage said after the match that nerves may have gotten the better of him on the 18th.
"I hadn't hooked a drive all week," he said. "But it is what it is. I hit some squirrelly shots on 17 and 18 but then on 18 I made the (par) putt and made him have to make his."
The only time Savage trailed the match was when Lovemark chipped in for birdie on the opening hole of the 36-hole final.
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2477 or by e-mail at tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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