WEST ORANGE, N.J. – Cameron Young needed to make something happen with one desperate swing.
No pressure, though.
Young launched a 9-iron some 150 yards into the wind. The ball was hanging in the sky for an eternity before it landed on the 12th green at Essex County Country Club and came to rest four inches from the cup.
It was easy from there.
The 19-year-old Scarborough resident closed out a three-hole aggregate playoff with a tap-in birdie and extended the Ike Championship. Young went back to the 18th hole in sudden death, made a solid par and won the MGA’s amateur stroke play title when Peter Kim failed to get up and down from the front bunker for par.
It was an epic title defense.
“This is really cool,” said Young, a rising sophomore at Wake Forest who captured last year’s Ike at Friar’s Head. “Cameron Wilson did it a few years ago and he’s one of the best players to come out of here, so to follow in his footsteps and get back-to-back wins, that’s fun.”
Plenty dramatic, too.
Young started the day well off the pace. He struggled to make anything happen on Monday and came into the day eight shots off the lead.
He responded with a 64 before lunch to get into the final group with Kim.
“It was really important to get off to a good start and let them know I was coming,” said Young, who headed into the final round within two shots of the lead.
They were tied at 10-under in a matter of eight holes.
“I can’t really complain how I played,” said Kim, a New Jersey resident who’s a rising senior at West Point. “Maybe I left a few putts out there, but that’s golf.”
Young inexplicably cooled on the final nine holes of regulation, dropping a shot when he three-putted from the edge of the 14th green.
Kim had a number of birdie looks coming in, but narrowly missed on Nos. 16 and 17. He striped a drive on the 18th hole, then dropped his approach within 10 feet. Kim calmly rolled in the birdie, reacting with an enthusiastic fist pump.
“I knew he was making the putt,” said Young, who escaped the fescue then came up with a marvelous lag putt from across the supersized green and got in with a par to post a 4-under 68. “I told my dad it was going in, and Peter did make a great putt.”
They headed for the 10th tee for a three-hole aggregate playoff.
Both players made par on the first hole. Young missed the green left at the 11th, a tricky par 3. He failed to get up down. Kim hit a clutch bunker shot, escaping with a par.
The adrenaline was pumping on the next tee.
“It seems like the bogey made it easier for me on the next hole because I was able to swing as hard as I can and knew that I would be hitting second into the green,” said Young, whose drive went 310 yards into a stiff breeze. “It freed me up.”
Then came the memorable approach.
“That was nice,” Young said. “I had the exact same shot on the 16th hole earlier so I was trying to make the same swing. It was the same distance, so I was confident in how it was going to come off, and then I was just lucky that it rolled to within four inches.”
Given the circumstances, it was more than impressive.
“Knowing who he is, I’m not really surprised he stuck it to like a foot,” Kim said. “It was a good fight. I played my hardest. I did the best I could, but Cameron just played a little better.”
61st Ike MGA Stroke Play Championship
At Essex County Country Club
1. Cameron Young, Scarborough 71-64-68-203 *
2. Peter Kim, Metuchen, N.J. 63-70-70-203
3. Stewart Hagestad, New York 68-68-69-205
4. Kieran Purcell, Nutley, N.J. 68-73-67-208
5. Trevor Randolph, Franklin Lakes, N.J. 73-68-67-208
6. Michael Graboyes, Watchung, N.J. 71-68-71-210
7. Paul Pastore, Greenwich, Conn. 71-74-67-212
7. James Nicholas, Scarsdale 72-69-71-212
7. Christian Cavaliere, Katonah 73-67-72-212
7. Evan M Grenus, Glastonbury, Conn. – 71-71-70–212
11. James McHugh, Rye 71-69-73-213
12. Tyler Cline, Tuxedo 65-73-76-214
12. Ryan Davis, Berkeley Heights, N.J. 71-69-74-214
14. Sam Bernstein, New York 72-68-75-215
14. Ryan Snouffer, Sparta, N.J. 67-70-78-215
(* Won in sudden death)