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Amateur Golf at La Jolla : Richard Gets Aggressive and Wins

Ron Richard decided it was time to start playing aggressive golf again as he approached the 15th hole in the final of the 86th Trans-Mississippi Amateur Golf Championships at the La Jolla Country Club Sunday.

Richard, who had originally planned not to compete in this year’s tournament, got in at the last minute when another player became ill. But he was playing a little too cautiously, trying to protect his 4-up advantage over Australian Stephen McCraw. But Richard ended any chances of a comeback when he nailed a 22-foot birdie putt on the 466-yard, par-five 15th hole to close out McCraw for a 4-and-3 victory and his second Trans-Miss title in three years.

“When I was 4-up on 11 I tried to get to conservative,” Richard said. “Then I said ‘It’s time to play golf again.’ ”

And he did, making the longest putt of the match to become the 11th player to win multiple championships in the 89-year history of the nation’s oldest amateur match play tournament.

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The final did not begin as if Richard would win as comfortably as he did. McCraw, trying to make the Trans-Miss transcontinental by becoming the first foreign titlist, won the first hole to go 1-up. McCraw, who reached the semifinals of the British Amateur two weeks ago, was playing excellent golf, having won rather easily in the quarterfinals and semifinals Saturday.

McCraw bogied No. 3 to go even then Nos. 7, 8 and 9 to give Richard a 3-up lead. Richard had the same lead against Randy Reznicek in the semifinals, but lost two strokes over the next three holes. This time, Richard did not falter, although he went 4-up on No. 11 only to give it back when his chip shot rolled 12-feet past the pin on No. 13.

The players halved No. 14 and the match looked as if it would go at least another hole when Richard’s second shot on No. 15 went into the bunker and he put his wedge shot 22-feet from the pin. But McCraw missed a five-foot putt for birdie to set up Richard’s winning putt.

“I told my caddie I missed two putts from inside of five feet on this hole, so it owes me,” Richard said.

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Business at home was good enough for McCraw, an accountant, to continue his two-month golfing trip at the Western Amateur later this month. But for Richard, an accounting instructor and golf coach at Westark Community College in Fort Smith, Ark., it’s back to business as usual.

“I start summer school (today),” Richard said.


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