By MATT HARNESS/WGA
GLENCOE, Ill. (Aug. 5, 2017) — Not once during regulation did Norman Xiong, of Canyon Lake, California, believe he had a grip on winning the 115th Western Amateur at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois.
Not even when he led Doc Redman, of Raleigh, North Carolina, 4 up through nine or 3 up through 15. It wasn’t until Redman missed his par putt on the 22nd hole that Xiong could celebrate winning the championship. It was the longest final match in tournament history and only the 13th time one went to extra holes.
“I tried to have fun and stay in the moment,” he said. “I played one hole at a time.”
A sophomore at Oregon, Xiong is the 25th medalist to win the tournament and the first since Chris Williams, of Moscow, Idaho, in 2012 at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park. He finished stroke play at 14 under.
After dropping three holes in a row, Xiong nearly saw the title slip away from him on the 18th hole. But Redman’s 20-foot birdie putt lipped out to send the match into extra holes.
“After 16, I started to feel it,” Xiong said. “I got a little more nervous, a little more tense. Before that, I was loose. Doc and I had fun out there … before 16, it was a relaxing round. We tried to keep it light, even though it’s such a big stage.”
A similar scenario played out on No. 1 when Xiong’s 15-foot birdie putt to win lipped out. The players halved the second with pars and the third with birdies. Redman two-putted for his birdie on No. 3, while Xiong needed to make a 15-footer to keep his title hopes alive.
On the par-4 fourth, Xiong hit his approach to 12 feet, and Redman was more than 100 feet away, off the front right of the green. Xiong easily two-putted for par, but Redman couldn’t convert his par putt to keep the match going.
Despite being down late, Redman said he never counted himself out.
“I wanted to stick to what I’d been doing, see if I could get some birdies,” he said. “There was nothing crazy going on in my head.”
The match went back and forth at the beginning, with Xiong winning the first and Redman taking the second. The two didn’t halve a hole until they each made par at No. 8. In all, 13 of the 22 were won outright. They both made five birdies over the first 18 holes and shot 2 under.
“There were massive swings,” Redman said.
Added Xiong: “We didn’t tie too many holes, and it didn’t seem to be too one-sided. We didn’t give too many [holes] away.”
After a successful freshman season at Clemson in which he won two tournaments as was selected the ACC Freshman of the Year, Redman proved he’s one of the best players in the world with his showing at Skokie Country Club. He tied for sixth in medal play at 10 under.
“I played awesome in stroke play, which was very encouraging,” he said. “To hang tough and beat some very good players [in match play], then to come back from four down to Norman says I’m right up there with the best of them.”
Like Redman, Xiong enjoyed a strong start to his college career. He won once, posted seven top 10s in 10 starts and earned the Phil Mickelson Award as the top newcomer in college golf. Winning the Western Amateur will raise his profile even more.
What’s more, Redman and Xiong both exhibited the sportsmanship the sport prides itself on. Redman conceded Xiong’s four-foot putt for par on 18 because he said he didn’t want to win on a possible Xiong miss. Prior to that, Xiong gave Redman par putts on Nos. 16-17 that measured longer than two feet.
Following six days at Skokie Country Club and 145 holes of competition, they each praised the tournament and golf course, which Xiong called one of the five best he’s played.
“Every day was a pleasure to play out here,” he said.
Redman complimented the hospitality displayed by the club and said the strength of the field separates the Western Amateur from other top-tier tournaments.
“You can’t beat it,” he said.