Watertown (July 8, 2020) They’ve each played in four Junior Amateurs and made match play every year. And yet they’d never met head-to-head—until Wednesday afternoon.
When Alexander Gu beat Cody Brew of Tumble Brook Country Club and Matt Doyle eliminated Ben Boyd of Wampanoag Wednesday morning, the the battle the two friends talked about for weeks came to fruition. Sort of.
“The problem was, we were thinking it would be in the finals,” said Doyle. “Oh well.”
In the end, it was Doyle’s day. Following a 3-hour rain delay that interrupted the match after four holes, Doyle defeated his friend, 5 and 4, shooting one-under through 14 holes. Gu, uncharacteristically was three over on each side.
Doyle, who lost to Connor Belcastro in the 2018 final, will play Shelton 16-year-old Kyle St. Pierre in tomorrow’s final.
“Give Matt all the credit,” said Gu, who was plagued by a balky putter. “He played very steady. I had some putts that I thought were good that didn’t fall, but Matt was solid.” Gu, who has been making swing changes in preparation for college golf at Dartmouth said he “had a lot of positive things to take away from the week.”
In the other semi, St. Pierre and Hop Meadow Country Club’s Jack Bosworth had a fight-to-the-clubhouse battle in which the lead changed hands nine times, including on the 17th when Bosworth birdied to go ahead and on the 18th, when St. Pierre hit his approach to inches to tie the match. St. Pierre won on the 20th hole, with a par.
Last year St. Pierre lost in the semi-finals last year to eventual Champion Ben James. Bosworth, two years and about 12 inches of growth ago, stunned the championship and his brother James with a 69 to make match play. Today he beat Aidan Stuart (like Doyle, from Madison Country Club), 4 and 3 in the quarterfinals to meet St. Pierre.
St. Pierre had eliminated Jackson Roman of Shuttle Meadow, 3 and 1.
The two semi-finals exemplified what was an unusually level playing field in the Junior this year. The reason: Overwhelming favorite James, who went on last year to play on the U.S. Junior Presidents Cup team at age 16 was forced to withdraw. James was invited to play in the North & South Men’s Championship prior to the Connecticut/New York/ New Jersey travel restrictions, accepted and then was forced to quarantine upon his return last week.
The quarterfinals contained less of the drama than the rounds of 32 and 16 had. In matches Tuesday four went extra holes (including one each of Gu’s and Doyle’s) and six others ended at holes 17 or 18.
Wednesday’s quarters went more quickly. Gu beat Brew 4 and 3, Doyle beat Boyd 3 and 2, St. Pierre beat Roman, 3 and 1 and Bosworth eliminated Stuart, 4 and 3. It often came down to short putts missed, several competitors said. Greens were fast, firm and rolling out, especially prior to the rain. Players who were aggressive on birdie putts or chips often found themselves with four- and five-footers coming back.
“My putting let me down,” said Cody Brew, 15, making match play in his first Junior Amateur. Brew, who had been down three after six holes, narrowed that to one at the close of the front nine, but then three-putted ten to give Gu the momentum again. He finished with a birdie and four pars and took the match. “Put him on your player-to-watch list,” said “veteran” Gu when it was over. “He can win this thing.”
Things went similarly in the Doyle/ Boyd match. Boyd fought back from being one down after five to take a one-up lead after 10. But Doyle ran off five pars and a birdie and the match was over on No. 16. “I’m not playing great,” he said after. “I think I only hit a few [five] fairways. But I was able to make shot when I needed to.”
The Bosworth/Stuart match was more one-sided. Bosworth made three birdies on the front while Stuart, clearly off his game, shot 45 and was 5-down. He fought back to win the 10th and the 13th, but by then it was too late. “I just was not good today,” said Stuart, who had hoped, with friend Matt Doyle, to put two Madison Country Club members in the semis. “I was sloppy. I’ll work on being a little better under pressure, hitting tee shots well when I need it, and not letting little things bother me.”
St. Pierre never trailed in his match with Roman, who was clearly off his game. Both were well over par on the front, but St. Pierre settled down and won the 11th, 12th and 13th to put Roman, who had driven out of bounds on the short par-4 12th, in a hole from which he could not recover. He fought back, but St. Pierre birdied the par-5 16th and the par-4 17th to win.
The absence of Defending Champion Ben James left Doyle, who won last week’s Connecticut Junior PGA Championship at Keney Park, as the most highly ranked junior in the field.
And how does that feel without Ben James in the field?
“Like I’ve got a chance,” laughed Doyle.