Ironically rated as the 11th-most difficult hole in the stroke-play portion of the 68th U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, the 523-yard, par-5 11th at Colleton River Plantation Club’s Dye Course ranked No. 1 in momentum swings during Saturday’s 36-hole final match.
The reachable par 5 served as eventual champion Philip Barbaree’s downfall during the morning 18 holes, then as the launching pad for a historic comeback in the afternoon session.
Barbaree, 17, of Shreveport, La., seemed to be in cruise control in the morning, making birdie on No. 10 to take a 3-up lead. With Andrew Orischak, 16, of Hilton Head Island, S.C., in deep rough way right off the tee, then in a greenside bunker for his third shot, a 4-up lead seemed likely. As is often the case in match play, expect the unexpected.
"In the first round, I was 3 up and hit two great shots. ... He hit an unbelievable shot,” said Barbaree. “I didn't think there was any chance he would make birdie there. He makes birdie, I three-putt, and that was the turn of the match right there."
Orischak birdied the next two holes to square the match, then won 16 and 18 to take a 2-up lead into the lunch break. The break did little to cool Orischak’s momentum, as he won the 19th and 20th holes with birdies to build a commanding 4-up lead.
When the match returned to No. 11, Barbaree was 5 down and on an 18-hole winless streak. Orischak was again in trouble off the tee, but this time he couldn’t hit his way out of it and Barbaree earned a much-needed win.
"Just a good birdie there,” said Barbaree. “He was out of position. Then on 12, I really thought after I made that putt, it sent more of a message. I knew after that putt, I had a really good shot at it. I knew momentum was changing."
Barbaree made birdie on the ensuing hole and the match was officially back on. Orischak, who remained focused and patient all week, admitted he may have gotten ahead of himself.
“I made par, so looking back on it, I shouldn't have been as frustrated as I was,” said Orischak. “Again, that was probably my biggest downfall was getting ahead of myself. Everything was moving too fast at that point.”
Barbaree won three of the final five holes to extend the match to extra holes and won on the 37th hole. Barbaree tied the largest comeback in U.S. Junior history, matching Andy Hyeon Bo Shim, who overcame a five-hole deficit with 18 holes to play in 2012.
Former U.S. Amateur Runner-Up Takes in Final Match
Among the large gallery following Saturday’s final match was Bluffton resident Tom McKnight. Other than living a couple miles down the road from Colleton River Plantation Club, McKnight had several more ties to the championship.
McKnight, now an instructor and resident at nearby Berkeley Hall, competed in several USGA championships, most notably a runner-up finish in the 1998 U.S. Amateur at Oak Hill in which he defeated Sergio Garcia in the semifinals before dropping a 2-and-1 decision to Hank Kuehne in the final. The most recent mid-amateur (25 and older) to reach the U.S. Amateur championship match, McKnight had a double rooting interest in runner-up Andrew Orischak. McKnight has “taught him a few things” and both also have ties to the University of Virginia. McKnight graduated from UVA and Orischak has announced his intentions to play for the Cavaliers starting in 2017.
Both McKnight and Orischak were donned in UVA apparel, but McKnight is a fan of Orischak regardless of collegiate ties.
"He's just a good kid, comes from a nice family,” said McKnight. “He's beyond his age, mature in a lot of ways. His game will take him a long way, but I'm more impressed with the way he handles himself, so I'm not surprised he made it this far."
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.