August 17, 2007
PEBBLE BEACH – This one was a classic.
In an epic 39-hole match that tied for the longest in NCGA Amateur history (1947), Ryan Hallisey of Granite Bay prevailed over Jeremy Gearhart of Atascadero at Spyglass Hill Friday in one of the most competitive finals in recent memory.
Hallisey, a 19-year-old rising sophomore at the University of Nevada-Reno, established an early 3-up lead in the morning 18 via a deft short game. But consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes by Gearhart, playing in his first major amateur competition after getting his amateur status back, brought the lead back to 1-up. A Gearhart three-putt on the final hole of the morning round left the match at 2-up in favor of Hallisey.
After a Hallisey bogey on the second hole of the afternoon round cut his lead to 1-up, the match would remain either all square or 1-up for the rest of its duration. Hallisey (right, with NCGA President Dean Bartee) ended the morning three-under-par, but clearly was beginning to struggle with his swing as the afternoon unfolded. “I went into the day with a lot confidence,” the champion said. “I hit some bad shots and I lost it. My short game really saved me today.”
Gearhart squared the match for the first time on the 24th hole with a solid 20-foot birdie putt. After losing the lead and then squaring the match again on the 30th hole, once more via a lengthy birdie putt, Gearhart was finally able to take the lead on 31st hole after a Hallisey bogey.
But the lead was short-lived. Going for the green on Spyglass Hill’s par-5 14th hole in two, the San Luis Obispo County champion’s shot splashed short into the lake fronting the green. “I was trying to get to 2-up,” the former Hooters Tour professional said of his 227-yard 3-iron that found water. The mistake squared the match – a state it would remain until the 39th hole.
After both players were able to get up and down from just off the green on the 36th hole, the finals moved into extra holes for the first time since 1998 when Matt Christensen defeated Ray Otis in 37 holes.
On the first extra hole, Gearhart (below), a 23-year-old who recently became a father for the first time, had a clear advantage after Hallisey landed his approach in the front bunker. Gearhart then shanked his 75-yard wedge to the extreme rough right of the hole. “I was leaking oil big time,” the runner-up said. “That shot was a freak accident – when you’re playing well that doesn’t happen. Every good player knows that it can happen, but it never entered my mind that it would happen then.” Both players were able to secure bogeys again extending the match.
The 38th hole witnessed more quality short game play as both players again got up and down for par on the tricky par 4. The 39th and final hole was almost anti-climatic as both players, undoubtedly feeling the length of the match, again missed the green long – Gearhart in a bush in the dunes and Hallisey just long in the rough. Hallisey’s bogey beat Gearhart’s double bogey finally ending the match.
“It became who could hold on the longest,” the champion and aspiring PGA Tour pro said. When asked how it felt to add his name to a trophy with some of the legends of the NCGA’s past including Charlie Seaver and Roger Maltbie, Hallisey replied, “It hasn’t sunk in; I’m just too tired.”