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Allen Goes the Distance for Title

Dakota Ridge grad edges Ahern for CGA Jr. Match Play crown


by Gary Baines - 7/16/2010


The temperature reached the mid-90s, and in the previous two days, the finalists had each played more than 60 holes of tournament golf, also in very hot conditions.

So what did Nick Allen and John Ahern do on Friday? They played what is believed to be the longest match in the history of the CGA Junior Match Play Championship.

Allen, from Raccoon Creek Golf Course, defeated Ahern on Ahern's home course 1 up in 36 holes to capture the Junior Match Play title at Bear Creek Golf Club in west Denver.

Allen, a recent Dakota Ridge High School graduate who will play college golf at Cal State East Bay, halved the 36th hole with a bogey to claim his first CGA championship.

It was just the fourth year since the CGA Junior Match final was switched from 18 to 36 holes, and each of the previous two-round championship matches has been settled before the final hole of regulation.

The eight-plus hours of golf on Friday -- in hot and competitive conditions, with the golfers walking and carrying their own clubs -- pushed both players to the limit. After they each stayed close to par over the first 18 holes, the best either did in the afternoon round was 77.

"We played OK in the morning, but in the afternoon I think we were both so tired that we were just trying to get the ball in play, then trying to make a putt" said Ahern (pictured at left), a senior-to-be at D'Evelyn High School.

"When I got to hole 6 this afternoon I was basically dead," noted Allen (pictured at left). "Then I had to start grinding. It was a long day and a long week."

In Friday's final between the longtime friends, Allen only trailed for one hole, but never was more than 2 up in the final 18.

Allen missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 34th hole that would have ended the match, but he was still 2 up with two holes to play. Ahern, a left-hander, won the 35th hole with a par as Allen took a double bogey on the par-3. Both players hit their drives on No. 18 into the native left of the fairway, and after extricating themselves, Allen made a bogey, while Ahern had a 10-foot putt for par that would have forced extra holes. The putt slid by the cup, and Allen earned the championship.

"I decided (in the midst of the second round) that I was going to try to keep making pars, and if he started making birdies and beat me, that was fine," said Allen, who credited a recent change from a claw grip to a conventional putting style for his success this week. "I was going to let him make the mistakes."

Allen (pictured at left), playing his final CGA junior championship, went out with what he called the biggest victory of his life.

"It's amazing, it's awesome," said the 18-year-old, whose father Donald is the general manager at Raccoon Creek Golf Course. "I'll be known as one of the guys who have won (the CGA Junior Match Play). There are a bunch of PGA Tour players who have won this. And there are a lot of kids around here who are great players who have never won it. Now I have, so it's an amazing feeling."

With the win, Allen's name will go on the Junior Match Play trophy alongside those of such luminaries as Hale Irwin, Mike Reid, Bill Loeffler, Brandt Jobe and Leif Olson, all of whom have played on the PGA Tour.

As for Ahern, he liked his chances going into the week, especially with the event being on his home course. But he struggled at times with his putting down the stretch on Friday, including missing a 2-foot par putt on the 32nd hole, which he lost.

"It's a bummer, but you just keep going and try to get better," said Ahern, who was also the runner-up in the national PGA Junior Series event held in Colorado a couple of weeks ago. "Neither of us played very well in the afternoon, so it was kind of a crapshoot."

The match was certainly a congenial affair as Allen and Ahern have been good friends for almost a decade. There was plenty of verbal encouragement and praising of good shots.

"It makes it easier," Ahern said of competing against a friend. "A good guy won."

Among those watching the match was Mark Crabtree, who won two of his four CGA Match Play titles at Bear Creek. Crabtree coaches the University of Louisville men's golf team.

VIEW MATCH PLAY BRACKET


Go to CGA Junior Match Play Results Archive




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