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Monday, July 3, 2017

Both the men's and women's Briitish Amateur champions come from the ACC

   Last month’s British Amateur championships, both men’s and women’s, were won by players from … the Atlantic Coast Conference.
   Wait a minute, are you talking about my men’s basketball brackets? No, it’s July, not March. Harry Ellis, a senior at Florida State, and Leona Maguire, a senior at Duke, were crowned as champions last month. No, they’re not Americans, only as Americanized as you get from spending three years in the ACC.
   In the case of Maguire, it’s hardly a surprise. The native of County Cavan in Ireland, Maguire has been the No. 1 player in the Women’s World Golf Ranking for most of the last two years.
   She was dominant in capturing the final of the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship at the Pyle & Kenfig Golf Club in Wales against her Southeast Conference foe, Spain’s Ainhoa Olarra, a junior at South Carolina, 3 and 2. No word if Olarra was bragging about the Gamecocks’ stunning upset of the Dookies on their surprising run to the Final Four.
   Maguire recently received the ANNIKA Award, which goes to the top player in women’s Division I golf, for the second time in her three years at Duke. She won the ACC individual crown while leading the Blue Devils to the team championship.
   Thriving in the miserable conditions that beset the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms, Maguire finished tied for second. Olarra finished tied for 10th at Rich Harvest Farms.
   Maguire, proudly sporting her Duke shirt and hat, birdied five of the first 11 holes to take a 3-up lead in the final. She stretched her lead to 4-up when she won the 12th with a par, but Olarra battled back to cut the deficit to 2-down. But Olarra had fallen into too deep a hole to climb out of and Maguire closed out Olarra by winning the 16th with a par.
   A year ago at Woburn Golf & Country Club, Maguire was the Smyth Salver winner as the low amateur at the Ricoh British Women’s Open, finishing tied for 25th. The win at the Ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship earns her a return trip to the Ricoh British Women’s Open, which will be contested beginning Aug. 3 at Kingsbarns Golf Links in Scotland and if there was ever an amateur golfer capable of winning a major professional championship, Maguire, particularly if the weather turns bad in Scotland, is the one.
   A week later at Royal St. George’s Golf Club, Ellis rallied from 4-down with five holes to go to claim The Amateur Championship on the 38th hole against Australian Dylan Perry.
   Ellis, a senior from England, helped the Seminoles reach the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms, although they failed to make the final eight for match play.
   The scheduled 36-hole final was all square after the morning 18 holes, but Perry took control on the front nine in the afternoon, building a 4-up lead through the 27th hole that he still had through 31 holes.
   Ellis’ drive on the 32nd was inches from finishing out of bounds, but a scrambling par won the hole and suddenly he was back in the match. He won the 34th and 35th holes to reach the 36th hole 1-down. When Perry missed a 10-footer for par on the 36th hole, the match was right back where it started, all square.
   A double bogey by Perry on the 38th hole opened the door and Ellis won the hole and the match. The British Amateur champion is traditionally invited to tee it up in the Masters and Ellis knew exactly what the drive is from Tallahassee Fla., to Augusta, Ga.: Four-and-a-half hours.
   Three Americans made it into match play at Royal St. George’s with Texas Tech’s Hayden Springer, a junior from Trophy Club, Texas, reaching the round of 16 before falling on the 19th hole to Perry, the eventual runnerup.
   Keeping up with the ACC theme, in the third round of match play, Jimmy Stanger, the ACC champion as a senior at Virginia this spring, fell to Paul McBride, a senior at Wake Forest from Ireland, in a barnburner that went to the 20th hole.
   Stanger of Tampa, Fla., has been one of the top players in college golf the last couple of years and is trying to make his case for inclusion on the U.S. side for the Walker Cup Match that will be played at Los Angeles Country Club in September. The victory at Royal St. George’s for Ellis makes it almost a certainty he will represent Great Britain & Ireland at L.A. Country Club.
   Mississippi’s Josh Seiple, a redshirt junior from Castle Rock, Colo., also fell in the third round of match play, suffering a 6 and 5 setback at the hands of Ellis,  the eventual champion.
   Penn State senior Cole Miller, a former Northwestern Lehigh standout, was invited to Royal St. George’s as a result of his individual win in the NCAA Washington Regional and couldn’t pass it up. He missed match play with rounds of 71 and 72 in qualifying for a solid 1-over 143 total. It took a 1-under 141 score to make match play.
   I’m guessing it’s an experience he’ll treasure for some time to come.

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