Hitchner 7 under for 72 Holes, But He and Capan Miss Sweet 16 at Western Am
August 3, 2018
NORTHFIELD, Ill. -- Derek Hitchner, a former state high school champion and 2018 Minnesota Mr. Golf finalist, rallied over his final 27 holes, but it wasn't enough to make the Sweet Sixteen at the Western Amateur. He finished the 72 holes of qualifying with a total of 277, 7 under par at Sunset Ridge Country Club, but it took a 273 (11 under) just to get into a six-man playoff for the last spot.
Davis Shore, who was a freshman on the Alabama team that finished second at this year's NCAA Championships, won the playoff with a birdie on the third extra hole.
Cole Hammer, a freshman-to-be at Texas, shot a 9-under 61 in the third round on his way to an aggregate of 261 (23 under), and tied Sam Stevens for medalist honors. Stevens was on the Oklahoma State team for the 2017-18 season, but he didn't play in the NCAA tournament, which the Cowboys won on their home course in Stillwater. Nevertheless, he managed to post 65-66-65-65--261 to claim his share of first place in stroke-play qualifying this week.
Outside of the U.S. Amateur, the Western Am is probably the most prestigious amateur tournament in the United States.
As for Hitchner, he opened with a 71 on Tuesday, but came back with a 65 in the second round, which the Pepperdine recruit needed just to make the 36-hole cut (137). After the first nine holes of the third round Thursday morning, he was 3 over par, but he played the back nine at Sunset Ridge in 2 under for a 72, and then closed with a 69 in the afternoon for his 277. That earned him a tie for 28th place.
Hitchner won the boys Class AA individual championship at the state high school tournament in 2016, at the end of his sophomore year at Blake, with a record score of 65-69--134 at Ridges at Sand Creek. He finished fifth as a junior and was second this year with a 138 (71-67).
Also in contention for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen was Frankie Capan, the North Oaks junior member who spends his winters in Phoenix -- and shot 59 this spring in the process of winning the Arizona state high school championship by 10 strokes.
Capan, a soon-to-be freshman at Alabama, made the cut with a pair of 68's, and he got to 7 under for the tournament with a third-round 70. So he would have needed a 67 to make the playoff, but had to settle for a 74 in the final round and wound up tied for 36th at 280.
The match-play portion of the Western began Friday morning.
The last time a player with Minnesota connections won the Western was 2006, when Bronson La'Cassie, who came from Australia to play at the University of Minnesota, claimed the crown. Having beaten Dustin Johnson 6&5 in the quarterfinals, La'Cassie defeated Pablo Martin of Malaga, Spain, 2&1 in the championship match. A year later, La'Cassie turned professional. He made it to the PGA Tour in 2014, after finishing sixth on the Web.com Tour money list -- and winning the Cox Classic -- the year before.
La'Cassie finished 186th on the money list in his one season on the PGA Tour and lost his exempt status. He hasn't played in a PGA Tour of Web.com Tour event since 2016.
MEN'S AMATEUR GOLF
At Sunset Ridge Country Club
Stroke-play Qualifying (top 16 advance to match play)
T1. Cole Hammer 65-68-61-67--261 (-23)
T1. Sam Stevens 65-66-65-65--261 (-23)
3. Isaiah Salinda 67-65-67-65--264
4. Collin Morikawa 68-63-66-68--265
T5. Min Woo Lee 67-67-66-66--266
T5. Brandon Wu 66-69-67-64--266
What it took: 273 (-11) -- Davis Shore won a 6-for-1 playoff with a birdie on the third extra hole
T28. Derek HItchner 71-65-72-69--277
T36. Franie Capan 68-68-70-74--280
Missed cut (137)
Jack Ebner 71-80--151