Celebrating its 50th installment at the Seattle Golf Club, the Pacific Coast Amateur crowned a new champion in Will Zalatoris of Plano, Tex., who defeated Nahum Mendoza of San Diego, Calif. in a two-hole playoff.
Zalatoris adds the Pacific Coast Amateur title to an already impressive resume, which includes winning the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur, 2014 Texas State Amateur, and twice winning the Trans-Mississippi Amateur (2014, 2016).
Zalatoris, who will be a junior at Wake Forest, started the final round two strokes off the lead, and teed off on the first hole a group ahead of round three leaders Nahum Mendoza of San Diego, Calif. and Rico Hoey of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
After making bogey on the par-4 third hole, Zalatoris would correct his front nine by making a birdie-four on the par-5 seventh and another on the par-5 ninth to close out his outward half in one-under 35.
With the leaders playing in the group behind him, Zalatoris made the turn in a position very familiar to him in his young amateur career – within striking distance of a title.
With a growing gallery, Hoey struggled to find the back of the cup and fell out of contention, while Mendoza couldn’t take advantage of opportunities to put the championship away.
After plunking a tee-shot into the greenside hazard on the par-3 16th, Zalatoris took two steps back with a double-bogey five and went from one clear of Mendoza to one behind with only two holes remaining.
Zalatoris would make a clutch par on 17 and follow it up with making a clutch up-and-down birdie from 60 yards on the final hole to close out his combined score of 3-under par. He would post a four-round total of 74-69-70-72 (285).
Waiting at the scoring table, Zalatoris didn’t have the chance to see Mendoza approach the final green. Short-siding himself into the green-side bunker on his approach shot in two on the par-5, Mendoza would not be able to get up-and-down for birdie, missing a downhill five-footer that would have won him the championship. Mendoza and Zalatoris, who were teammates in last month’s Palmer Cup, headed for a playoff.
A large gallery followed the playoff, which began on the par-4 first hole. Both players would make pars on the first playoff hole and head to the par-4 second hole, where Zalatoris would eventually tap in for par after a great approach and a conservative first putt to within three feet.
Mendoza, in a precarious spot in the rough behind the green, would not be able to get up-and-down, allowing Zalatoris the opportunity to join a prestigious list of past champions to hoist the Dr. Ed Updegraff Trophy.
Asked of his time at his second Pacific Coast Amateur, Zalatoris sung high praises of the venue and the championship experience.
“The course got drier and firmer all week,” he said. “It was just in phenomenal shape, especially when you combined firm and fast. It was an absolute treat to be here.” Of the 87 players who started the championship, only four finished under par. The Pacific Coast Amateur was last held at Seattle Golf Club in 1999, and the winner of that championship, Ryan LaVoie, shot a four-round total of 2-under par, and was the only player that year to finish under par.
Not only did Zalatoris have high praises for the golf course and its staff, he shared an equally positive and memorable narrative about his competition this past week.
“Any time you have a field of 87 guys and almost every single guy can step up and win it, it is challenging. Playing against Nahum, a teammate of mine at the Palmer Cup, was a blast. This entire week has just been an absolute pleasure. The list goes on-and-on. I could name all of the All-Americans that are here and Mid-Ams that have a tremendous track-record, it just feels good to win against such a strong field.”
The 50th event proved memorable, with USGA Sr. Managing Director of Rules & Competitions John Bodenhamer in attendance to present a proclamation to the Pacific Coast Golf Association for the championship and its history.
Bodenhamer, the former executive director of the championship for over 20 years before leaving for the USGA in 2011, addressed the crowd and mentioned how the USGA views the championship results when deciding on international team players. Zalatoris shared a personal goal that was accelerated by his performance at the Pacific Coast Amateur.
“One of my goals that I have kept quiet and really haven’t told anyone was to make the World Amateur team. That wasn’t a reality two months ago but it can be a reality now just because of winning this tournament.”
Finishing runner-up was Mendoza with rounds of 70-73-68-74 (285). Sitting in a tie for third was Ryann Ree of Redondo Beach, Calif. (71-73-72-71-287) and first-round leader K.K. Limbhasut of Bangkok, Thailand (68-69-75-75-287).
Northwest players Aaron Whalen of Ephrata, Wash. and a sophomore at Washington State University, finished in sixth place; while Carl Yuan, a sophomore at the University of Washington who last week won the PNGA Men’s Amateur, finished in a tie for 10th.
In closing out his post-championship speech, Zalatoris provided many thanks to those in attendance and finished by saying, “We will see you next year at Chambers.”
Next year’s Pacific Coast Amateur Championship is set to take place July 25-28, 2017 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.
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ABOUT THE PACIFIC COAST AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Although its present history only dates from 1967, the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship’s roots make it one of the oldest amateur golf championships in America. The first tournament was held on the links of San Francisco Golf Club at The Presidio, April 24-27, 1901. Championships were held annually through 1911, all being conducted in California except for the 1909 championship, which was held at Seattle Golf Club in Washington. The Pacific Coast Amateur then ceased to exist, only to be reconstituted at Seattle Golf Club on August 10-12, 1967 with the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern California, Oregon and Arizona golf associations participating. Today, 15 member Pacific Rim golf associations comprise the Pacific Coast Golf Association.