Clemson senior Ben Martin finished runner-up Sunday afternoon in the championship match of the U.S. Amateur at Southern Hills Country Club. Martin was defeated 7 & 5 by Byeong-Hun An, who at age 17 became the youngest winner in the history of the prestigious amateur event.The 36-hole championship match brought a close to a grueling week for Martin. It began on Monday, when the Greenwood, S.C. product fired an opening round 73 during the first day of stroke play. He followed that with a two-under par 68 in the second round, which positioned him as one of the top seeded players for the match play portion of the championship.
Martin then won five matches to advance to the finals. He defeated Tyson Alexander in 21 holes during his first match play event. In the second round of match play, he knocked off Chris Ward of McKinney, Texas in 19 holes. He beat his third-round opponent, Nico Geyger of Chile, by a score of 2 & 1. In the quarterfinals, Martin again won by a score of 2 & 1, defeating David Lingmerth of Sweden. On Saturday, Martin put together his best effort during the match play portion of the event and won 5 & 4 against Texas senior Charlie Holland in the semifinals.
Sunday’s 36-hole finale proved to be a difficult day for Martin, a two-time All-ACC performer. The morning session featured back and forth action for the most part, with neither player owning more than a one-hole advantage through the first 15 holes of the day. However, An won three of the last four holes to take a three-up advantage into the final 18 holes. Amazingly, Martin’s last hole won in the morning round was the par three 14th hole. He hit his tee shot off the flagstick, and the ball bounced directly right and into a greenside bunker. It was typical of Martin’s day, although An double bogeyed the hole to give Martin the improbable win.
Martin struggled in the second round Sunday afternoon. He bogeyed four of the first five holes, which allowed An to take a five-up advantage. After the two halved the sixth, Martin again suffered back-to-back bogeys and fell another hole down against his opponent. Martin looked to have new life on the ninth and 10th holes, as he made par and An bogeyed both. But An came right back and birdied the 11th, burying a 15-footer that put the pressure back on Martin. His birdie attempt just missed, putting the lead back at five holes. Martin bogeyed the 12th and 13th and lost both holes, which allowed An to secure the championship. Martin was eight-over par on the 13 holes for the second round Sunday.
Due to his runner-up finish, Martin should now be eligible to play in both the 2010 Masters and U.S. Open events. The champion and runner-up of the U.S. Amateur are eligible for the next year’s U.S. Open, provided both players are amateurs. Martin played in the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and actually held a first-round lead at one point before missing the cut.