CALDWELL, Idaho – In what may be the toughest championship field of the season, the top two seeds in the 2018 Match Play Championship expectedly met in the final match this past Memorial Day. Top seeded Derek Bayley of Rathdrum, Idaho won that match 6&5 against the two seed Grayson Huff of Eagle, Idaho in dominating fashion.
Play began Saturday morning at TimberStone GC with Bayley out in the first tee time, fresh off a trip to Florida for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship (making it to the first round of match play). Bayley won that first match decidedly 6&5 against Randal Cross. Not far behind was Huff, who faced Daniel Uranga, and came away with a solid opening round 3&2 victory. Bayley’s next match was a little tighter, but he still won 2&1 to advance to the next round where he bounced back with an 8&6 win in the quarterfinals. Huff’s path to the semifinals was a breeze, knocking off his opponents 5&3 and 7&6.
The semifinal matchups made for an exciting Sunday afternoon. Bayley, a Washington State golfer, faced off against fellow college golfer Hunter Ostrom (Notre Dame) in the top half of the bracket. Ostrom also looked impressive in his matches over the weekend, and a victory in 19 holes over Boise State’s Connor Johnstone set the tone for what was to come in the semifinals.
In the bottom half of the bracket, Huff (who plays at Auburn University) would face 6 seed Greg Law. The semifinal matchups featured players who are all under the age of 23, but have had plenty of experience at the top of the leaderboard in IGA championships.
Ostrom and Bayley both came out firing on the front nine; Ostrom took a two shot lead at the turn thanks to birdies on 5 and 8. Ostrom maintained a lead of one on the 17 tee box, with Bayley realistically needing a birdie on 17 or 18 to tie the match. Bayley’s shot on 17 under pressure was phenomenal – landing perfectly on the upslope of the tiered green and rolling up to a couple feet right of the pin on top. Ostrom missed a long birdie attempt and Bayley made his short birdie putt shortly after.
The Huff/Law match was close for the entire duration. A couple of bogeys by Huff on the front allowed Law to tie it up at the turn. A couple of late bogeys by Law let Huff back into the match, and the two went into 18 all square. Pars by both on 18 meant everyone in the foursome was headed to the first tee for extra holes.
On the short par 4 1st hole, Bayley went first and knocked his second shot to about 15 feet. Ostrom’s massive drive set up a short wedge shot into the green, but he flew it just over the back. In the other pairing, Huff hit his approach on the green to about 15 feet as well, and much like Ostrom, Law flew his short approach just long. Ostrom’s chip was nearly impossible to get close, and he was unable to get it on the green, giving Bayley the win. Law’s chip landed a few feet from the pin, but Huff drained his birdie putt to advance to the final.
Monday’s final was expected. Bayley won the 2017 Match Play Championship against Huff, and there was no doubt that these two had the game to meet again. What no one expected, though, was for the final to be a blowout.
Bayley birdied 3 of the first 4 holes. On the par 4 5th hole, Huff’s drive was locked on to the pin, rolling up and just catching the edge of the cup – almost a hole-in-one. Bayley had about 50 yards in; his approach shot landed, took one bounce and trickled into the middle of the cup for an eagle 2 to match Huff.
The rest of the match was full of similar shots from Bayley and his 29 on the front left little hope for a Huff comeback. The match ended 6&5 on the 13th hole, both players showing a lot of respect for each other as they shook hands. Bayley continued to play in an attempt to best Huff’s course record 61 (shot at the 2017 Match Play), and Bayley eventually tied that score.
View full results here.
Huff will go back to prepare for his junior season at Auburn, and Bayley plans on turning pro later this year after finishing up his final classes at Washington State.