John Harris, a 41-year-old insurance executive from Edina, Minn., regained his putting touch in the afternoon and defeated Danny Ellis of Haines City, Fla., 5 and 3, Monday to win the U.S. Amateur golf championship at Houston.
Harris earned a spot in next year’s Masters, U.S. Open and British Open for his victory in the 36-hole final.
He took a three-hole lead after 10 holes of the morning round but Ellis rallied for a one-hole lead on No. 17. Ellis bogeyed No. 18 and the finalists started the afternoon round even.
Between rounds, Harris’ 15-year-old son Chris advised his dad to change his putting stance.
“I tend to get conservative out there,” Harris said. “Chris is very aggressive. His big thing is to remind me to trust myself and let it happen. He’s a big help.”
Harris birdied the first hole to go 1-up and increased the lead to 3-up again with a 24-foot birdie putt on the 29th hole.
But Harris then missed a four-foot putt for a bogey that would have halved the par-three No. 12 hole, giving him his second bogey of the day on the hole. Ellis won the hole with a par.
Ellis, who played at Clemson, remained close until the start of the afternoon back nine. “I didn’t putt real well and I didn’t hit my driver too well either,” he said.
Ellis conceded the match without putting out on the 33rd hole.
Bernhard Langer, after his victory Sunday at the German Open, topped the list of automatic qualifiers for Europe’s Ryder Cup team, which will play the United States at The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England, on Sept. 24-26.
Langer was followed by world No. 1 Nick Faldo of England, Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie, Italy’s Costantino Rocca, England’s Barry Lane, Welshman Ian Woosnam, Englishmen Peter Baker and Mark James and Scotland’s Sam Torrance.
Chosen as wild-card picks by captain Bernard Gallacher were the Spanish pair of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal and Joakim Haeggman, who will be the first Swede to play in the event.
Neither Ballesteros nor Olazabal has won a tournament since March of 1992. Ballesteros is struggling through his worst season since turning pro in 1974, and Olazabal almost ruled himself out of this year’s competition.
“I will share one secret with everyone,” Olazabal said. “I was concerned whether or not because of my bad form I should have told Bernard not to pick me.
“But Seve telephoned and we had a long talk. He reminded me of our record in the Ryder Cup (11 wins in 12 matches) and that only a few weeks ago we beat Tom Watson and Payne Stewart in a match-play contest in Spain.”
“There is a special chemistry between Seve and me and playing together does seem to bring out the best in our games.”