TUCSON, ARIZ. -- The University of Arizonaˇ?s Nathan Tyler won the 83rd Arizona Amateur Championship at Tucson Country Club in dramatic fashion with a 7&5 victory over the stateˇ?s most decorated amateur Ken Kellaney of Phoenix.
"To be the state champion is an incredible feeling," Tyler said. "It hasnˇ?t sunk in just yet. Iˇ?ve lived in Tucson since I was there years old and my very first job was at a caddy here at the club. With itˇ?s great heritage and traditions, to win it at Tucson Country Club makes it even that much more special."
Tyler, who was the No. 3 seed in the Championship, played near flawless golf and was 40-under par through the 125 holes that he played. On Saturday against Kellaney, he said he had to fight off a few nerves.
"On the first hole, a 546-yard par 5, his 35-foot eagle hole, rolled 10-foot past the hole and it had a real pressure put to make birdie, that was quickly a turning point in the match.
"When I ran that putt by, I gave him a glimmer of hope," Tyler said. "But when I made it, I think that gave me a lot of confidence as I went 1 up and put a little pressure on him. It all has to do with momentum in match play. Depending on who you play, itˇ?s hard to come back especially against a player like Ken and luckily I didnˇ?t have to face that."
Kellaney, playing in his eighth Arizona Amateur final in 20 starts was gracious in defeat.
"I played like a 51-year-old banker," he said. "He played really well and I needed three aside to beat him today. If you can make the final you should be proud of that, and Iˇ?ve won more finals then Iˇ?ve lost. He is a great competitor and I wish him well next week at the Olympic Club."
Tyler won the third hole to go 2 up and then put together a strong effort winning holes six through 10, to go 6 up. Kellaneyˇ?s only winning hole was the par four 11th, but it was too little, to late Tyler sunk a 20-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole, then was conceded another birdie putt on the 13th to close out the match.
Playing in just his third Arizona Amateur, Tyler twice before found himself on the losing side of the matches, falling to eventual champions Ben Kern in 2004 and Jeff Berkshire in 2005. In his third outing, he wanted to make sure to end up the winning side.
"I didnˇ?t want to repeat what happened at the two previous championships and losing to the winner," he added. "Now I can say Iˇ?m the champion."
With that championship comes the famed Kachina that will temporarily be housed at Tucson Country Club.
"Iˇ?ve always loved Kachinas and my mom got me one when I was 10 years old," Tyler said. "Iˇ?ve moved so many times, itˇ?s not looking so hot right now. But now, I have a new one, in a case and I canˇ?t screw it up."
Tyler wonˇ?t have much time to enjoy his victory, heˇ?s heading immediately to San Francisco for the U.S. Amateur Championship with some additional confidence in his bag.
"I played really solid this week and I think that will help and get me in the right frame of mind for the Amateur," he said. "The only two thing I need to work on is my driving and putting. My speed was off to say the least, but I was able to get in on the right line and make the shots. You have to trust it."