It was a hard fought battle at
TPC at Sawgrass between
Winter Haven’s Aaron DeWitt and
Fleming Island’s Benny Opperman for the final round of the “
2020 President’s Day Match Play Championship”.
It’s been more than a month since the start of the Match Play Championship which was played at
Magnolia Point Country Club and Hyde Park Golf Club with the finals at TPC Sawgrass for the championship round of the Boys 13-18 Division. The upper Tier called the “
Russell Knox Division” finished their match three weeks ago at TPC with Campbell Kennedy defeating Adam Vermut.
During the opening round of the championship anyone who lost was given the opportunity to return and cycle back for a second chance at victory. The “
Tiger Woods Division” is that division of 16 who competed to bring home a lower tier championship.
The contest of strong will took 17 holes to decide the victor with the match either 1-up or All Square all day. Starting on the back-nine both players would take the lead at one point or another during the round as they navigated the course. Each player would also be handed golden opportunities to take a commanding lead, but neither player could take advantage when the opportunity presented itself. The deciding holes would come near the end at the tough par-4 6
th and the short par-4 7th holes.
On the 6
th hole (their 15
th hole) DeWitt would lie center cut in the fairway, 190 yards out and looking good with 0pperman on the hill left facing a 45 degree downhill lie which was destined for the water right. DeWitt hitting first would endure his worst shot of the day with a thinned pull hook into the left rough some 60 yards short of the green. Opperman would somehow muscle the downhill shot landing just five feet short of the waterline near the front right side of the green ending up in excellent position to regain control. DeWitt would chunk the pitch shot and then misjudge the speed of the green with his chip sailing the ball past the pin some 20 feet. Opperman now in control would chip to five feet, but like we always say “you never know when the tide will change” and in a split second what looked sure to be a lost hole for DeWitt would turn uplifting as he nailed his 20 footer center-cut to save a bogey and apply the pressure on his opponent. Opperman (1 down) still had the edge to tie the match with a par, but pulled his pressure putt missing left to tie the hole remaining one down with three to go.
On the short par-4 6
th hole (their 16
th) the “Gods” would be kind. DeWitt would stand on the tee box with driver in his hand just smiling as he glared down the fairway thinking “hole, your mine”. Although confident he could drive the green, his added power to the swing would push the ball right with the ball sailing out of bounds for sure until a friendly tree near a neighboring house diverted the ball flight deflecting it back into play ending up some 60 yards from the green. Opperman would nail his drive landing some 40 yards right of the green. The TIDE could have turned here once again as DeWitt would again chunk his pitch hitting the right side of the green and ending right, down the hill. Opperman again would have hope, but his pitch would come up three feet short spinning down the hill ending some 15 yards right of the green right beside DeWitt’s ball. Both players would put their next shot to within three feet and declare “Good-Good” and walked to the par-5 8
th hole (their 17
On the par-5 DeWitt would bomb a drive to the right side of the fairway and Opperman would push his drive right and out-of-bounds. He would reload and strip his third shot down the fairway landing five yards behind DeWitt. Opperman not giving up would pure his approach shot hitting the green, but facing a 40 footer for par with a glimmer of hope to go to the final hole. DeWitt playing smart would lay up to 50 yards short of the green on his approach. He would pace off his third shot by walking to the flagstick. On the way back, again another smile and then a glare as he nipped a routine pitch that bounced twice and rolled dead center into the cup for “Eagle-3 to end the match and be crowned as “Champion” of the “Tiger Woods” Division.
Great match! Fun to watch!
Jack Aschenbach, PGA