By John Stewart
Serge Hogg won three of the last six holes with pars and went ahead for the only time he needed (a par at the 202-yard 17th) to secure a 1-up victory over Steve Cha in the final of the 12th annual Match Play championship, conducted by the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation at Mount Pleasant Golf Course on July 26.
At the 17th, with the match even, Hogg hit it right off the green, pitched to three feet and sank the putt. Cha drove onto the hillside on the left, was barely able to get a club on the ball and lofted a shot to the green that landed softly and ran down to the hole, stopping four feet away. When he missed, Hogg made and the latter had the lead.
Cha made a great effort to stay in the hunt when he drove into a green-side bunker at the 364-yard finishing hole. He blasted long and needed two putts, while Hogg again came through with a fairway-green and two putts for a half and the victory.
For the first 12 holes, Cha's putter had him in command of the situation while Hogg hit it "all over the place." Cha birdied the first from seven feet (1 up) and from 16 feet at the fifth (2 up) and ran in a 25-foot par putt after missing the green at the third. Hogg rapped home a 20-foot birdie putt at the seventh, and the margin was one at the turn.
As it developed, the 12th marked the end for Cha and the 13th was a critical win for Hogg.
Cha hit fairway-green and drained a 45-foot birdie putt (2 up) at the 377-yard 12th, but as quickly as his spirits rose, they dropped when Hogg came from out of sight to make a par-4 at the 389-yard 13th (1 down).
While Cha went from rough to bunker to green and a two-putt bogey, Hogg took a more circuitous route. From the rough by the bordering 10th fairway, he nailed a shot that carried into the trees behind the green and almost into a hazard. His third shot hit the edge of the collar and scooted down 25 feet past the cup, where he rolled in the putt.
Cha hit fairway-green at the 14th but three-putted, giving Hogg a life after he had gone fairway-bunker on the green and two putts, the second from five feet. From there, Hogg hit the three fairways and three of four greens, and Cha, no fairways and two of the greens.
At the 15th, Cha needed four to reach the green, his chip for par stopping a foot from the cup. When Hogg two-putted for par, the match was square. They halved the 16th, although Cha had a good try for birdie from 15 feet.
"I was just trying to stay close," Hogg said of the early holes. Once he got to even he did a better job of keeping the pressure on his foe and left little margin for error. While the winner shot 1 over par for the last six holes, Cha was 4 over.
Hogg won two Maryland Amateur Stroke Play titles in the 1990s and had a couple of shots as a professional before getting his amateur status back. He was the medalist in the 2006 Match Play, his first competition of this sort since his strong Junior years.
The title marked an early birthday present for him; he turns 35 next week. Cha is 39 but admitted to giving away 10 years of experience, as he didn't start playing golf until after college. He has a BMGC Spring Publinx title in his resume.
"I expected him to be a tough opponent and I expected him to make a lot of up-and-downs," Cha said, being right on both counts. In the end, "the putting was an issue."
Over the course of two weekends, Hogg defeated Peter Betzold, Brendan McKinney and Lance Bajkowski, two excellent players with winning experience, and Kevin Carmen. Cha defeated Jerry Flannery, Jr., Enos Hill, Alex Church and Andy Peet.
Posted July 27, 2009