Chris Botsford Wins Western Amateur

Aug. 4, 2003

Benton Harbor, Mich. - Fueled by excellent putting throughout the 101st Western Amateur final, fifth-year USC senior Chris Botsford built a 6-up lead through 10 holes and held on for a 3-and-2 victory over Cal State-Chico junior J.J. Jakovac on Aug. 3.

Botsford, 22, a Pasadena, Calif., resident out of college eligibility, made six birdies and won three holes with pars in the all-California final featuring two players previously tied for 175th in the Golfweek/Titleist Men's Amateur Rankings. It was his first major victory and the first win at the Western Amateur by a Trojan since Gary Sanders won in 1971.

The tone was set when the 6-3, 225-pound Jakovac of Napa, Calif., missed a 5-foot birdie putt at the first. Botsford went 1 up at the second when he holed a 20-footer while Jakovac missed from 9 feet. Botsford won Nos. 3, 4 and 6 with pars, then went 5 up with a 6-foot birdie putt at 8. It looked like Jakovac might cut the lead at 10, but he missed a 10-foot birdie putt after Botsford made a downhill 40-footer.

'I felt really comfortable over the ball on the greens today,' said the 5-9, 175-pound Botsford, 22, medalist at U.S. Amateur qualifying this year and last. 'I was really seeing the hole well and the ball was rolling well. The cup looked like it was getting bigger.'

Botsford called his week a 'dream come true' and admitted his goal was just to make the Sweet 16. 'Anything on top of that is just gravy,' he said.

Jakovac, the 2002 NCAA Division II champion playing his first Western, made things interesting with a back-nine rally. He played Nos. 11-15 at 5 under par, winning 11 with a birdie and 12 with a par to get to 4 down. A key was the par-5 13th, where Botsford halted the momentum with a 12-foot birdie putt before Jakovac made from 2 feet.

Jakovac, though, won the next two -- on a 3-foot conceded birdie at 14 and an 8-foot eagle putt at 15 -- to close to 2 down. But after he missed a 9-foot birdie putt at 16, Botsford clinched from 4 feet.

'I putted and hit the ball well all week until the front nine,' said Jakovac, who has played golf for only six years, since his sophomore year of high school. 'I just didn't want to get beat 6 and 5 or something like that. It feels good to salvage something out of the round.'

In the Sunday morning semifinals, Botsford beat Minnesota senior Justin Smith in 20 holes, and Jakovac ousted 2002 Western Amateur runner-up Adam Rubinson of TCU, 3 and 2. Botsford also needed to go 20 holes in the first round, beating Christopher Mayson of England.

Smith, runner-up in this summer's Sunnehanna Amateur, rallied from 3 down on the back nine, making a 23-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th to pull even. Smith made an 18-foot, downhill breaking putt for birdie on the first extra hole, but Botsford halved him on a 10-footer. Botsford won with a two-putt birdie on the 523-yard second.

Botsford was 8 under for the match, while Smith was 6 under through 19 holes.

'I was able to play well on the best course we play all summer,' Smith said. 'It's great to bring your A game to this tournament and go this far.'

Jakovac, on the strength of accurate iron shots and hot putting, went 5 under through 16 holes in eliminating Rice Planters champion Rubinson, who was 3 under.

'We both played so well, so I'm not disappointed,' said Rubinson, top-rated among the semifinalists, at No. 6 in the Golfweek/Titleist Rankings. 'I played great, but I didn't make all my putts.'

by Golfweek's Jeff Rude

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