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Martinson defeats Kania, 2&1, for 110th Amateur title

  BETHLEHEM, Pa.–Justin Martinson of Hartefeld National, a senior at the University of Delaware, exemplified the spirit of his school’s mascot, clawing back for a 2&1 victory over Michael Kania of Overbrook GC on Saturday in the 110th Amateur Championship Final at Saucon Valley CC’s Old Course.

  The Fightin’ Blue Hen fought himself and his game all day long, trailing a determined Kania 2-down thru 25 holes, before winning the next three to gain an advantage he would never relinquish.

Michael Kania (left) with Terry Sawyer,
Golf Administration Committee chairman.
  “That’s definitely a group of great players,” said Martinson, 21, of Avondale, Pa., when told of previous champions like Jay Sigel, Buddy Marucci, William Hyndman, III and J. Wood Platt. “It’s a great honor.”

  For the Kania family in general, it was another heartbreak. Last year, brother James, Jr., fell in his attempt to join father James, Sr., as the first father-son tandem to each win the Amateur Championship trophy.

  “Coming in it’s something you hope for but it’s not something you expect,” said Michael Kania of making the final. “I was real excited the past two days. Everyone at Overbrook was wishing me good luck. Qualifying starts with 300 people so to be one of the final two is awesome.”

  Martinson’s comeback started innocuously enough. Kania was 2-up after winning the 23rd hole (No. 5, par 4, 481 yards) and seemed well in control standing on the 26th tee (No. 8, 423 yards), a par 4 that bends to the left. Kania, solid with the driver all day to that point, however, pulled his tee shot into the left tree line as Martinson found the fairway. Kania was then forced to chip out, but knocked a fantastic third shot to eight feet right of the flag. Martinson knocked a wedge from 130 yards to the center of the green and was left staring at a 15-footer for birdie. Martinson’s under-par try just stayed right of the hole and it looked like Kania would escape with his lead intact. Kania’s putt than emulated Martinson’s chance, though, and skimmed by the hole. His lead was cut in half.

  On No. 27 (No. 9, par 3, 210 yards), Martinson stepped up and with an air of fresh confidence about him, rocketed a 4-iron that just missed being an ace. He had 15 feet left for birdie. Kania pushed his drive into the right bunker, barely extricated himself but still got caught up in the collar, and would eventually make four. Martinson was conceded a par after just missing with his birdie try.

  Martinson’s momentum continued on the next hole, No. 28 (No. 10, par 4, 355 yards).

  Despite finding the fairway bunker closer to the green, he blasted out from 95 yards and two putted from 15 feet for par. Kania wasn’t as fortunate. His drive landed just to the right of the same fairway bunker and his second shot clipped a tree. It landed off the putting surface and after a first chip that came up short of the green, Kania again, was in trouble. He was 1-down.

  “I could feel the swing coming,” said Martinson.

  Kania appeared to have an opportunity to at least halt Martinson’s momentum on hole No. 30 (No. 12, par 4, 447 yards) with a 25-foot birdie chance from above the flagstick. His try ran a couple feet past and Martinson, gaining momentum with every stroke, drained a downhill 15-foot under-par chance of his own to move two ahead.

  Martinson went 3-up after No. 32 (Hole 14, par 3, 183 yards) when he hit the center of the green with a 5-iron and Kania landed in the right greenside bunker with, in reality, no chance to get his sand shot close. He would skull it over the green and make five.

  “After that hole I definitely started to think I had it,” said Martinson.

  There was no quit in Kania, though, and the lanky, long-hitter hit a pair of fantastic short chip shots that stopped within a two feet of the hole for pars to get back to within one.

  On No. 35 (No. 17, par 4, 422 yards), both players hit solid drives, Kania in the right rough, where he said he’s been all week, and Martinson in the fairway. Kania, up first from 156 yards caught a flyer lie and knocked a 9-iron 10 yards over the green. Martinson, after considerable conversation with caddie Tommy Ellison, a University of Delaware teammate, decided for the conservative play and lofted a 52-degree wedge from 114 yards to 25 feet but up the hill. Two putts later, Martinson held the J. Wood Platt Amateur Trophy.

  In the morning round, the pair of championship contenders went back-and-forth until Kania gained the upper-hand by winning the final two holes. On No. 17 (par 4, 422 yards), Kania went fairway to green and two putted from 30 feet and Martinson, who struggled with the short putts all day, missed a five footer for par. The closing hole produced a bit more drama when both players stopped their approaches within 10 feet of the cup. Martinson, behind Kania’s position, just missed his try at 3. Kania stepped up and drained his.

  “I was confident. At that point I was 2-up in an 18-hole match,” said Kania. “I should be able to at least come down the stretch and be in good shape.”

  Martinson won the very first hole (No. 1, par 5, 560 yards) of the match with a birdie, but Kania responded and built a 2-up lead twice, after Nos. 8 and 13.

  Martinson displayed a deft touch on No. 14, after both players missed the green to the right, with a delicate pitch that stopped rolling five feet in back of the cup. Kania’s chip, more difficult and longer than Martinson’s, but on the same line, caught the green’s downhill slope and ran all the way to the front of the putting surface. He three-putted and conceded Martinson’s par.

  However, the pace of play became an issue on the 15th, and after both players were informed of such, Kania appeared rattled.

  Martinson added to the Kania nervousness with a smart 30-yard pitch to three feet.

  Kania, who found trouble off the tee, had a downhill 15 footer for the halve but missed.

  The two halved 16 (par 4, 501 yards), Kania making a nice 12 footer for the four, before heading to the final two holes.

  Martinson is the first University of Delaware player since ironically, James Kania, Sr., to win the title. He is the first member of Hartefeld to win the crown.

Final
3. Justin Martinson, Hartefeld National d. 12. Michael Kania, Overbrook GC, 2&1

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