Kazuma Kobori wins Western Amateur in thrilling championship match
The Western Amateur came to a close Saturday with a thrilling final at North Shore Country Club.
Kazuma Kobori and Christiaan Maas met in the final after knocking off Matthew McClean and Drew Goodman, respectively, in the semifinals.
Kobori would ultimately come out on top in the event that sees the final two contenders play eight rounds of golf in six days, but it wasn’t without drama.
The championship match got off to a hectic start with a hole for the ages at the par-4 second. Kobori was forced to play about 50 yards short of the green out of a fairway bunker, putting Maas in the driver’s seat from the center of the fairway.
Maas then hooked his approach well left into a thick group of trees. Fearing a lost ball, the Texas Longhorn hit a provisional and made his way up toward a search party for his first ball.
After Kobori pitched his third to 6 feet, Maas was able to find his second shot, but could only punch it through a small window and into a greenside bunker that left him short-sided with the green running away from him.
Presumably needing to hole the bunker shot to keep the match all square early in the day, Maas opened the face of his most lofted wedge and splashed out a brilliant shot that hit the stick and fell to the bottom of the cup for the par of a lifetime.
Kobori walked in his par putt for what the broadcast called, “One of the greatest halves in Western Amateur history.”
Maas failed to make par at the next two holes, giving Kobori a 2 up lead, but neither player would see a bigger lead throughout the day.
Birdies at nine and 10 gave Maas a 1 up lead, and it looked as if the South African had found the form that got him to the championship match.
However, momentum wouldn’t swing his way for long.
Kobori birdied the par-5 12th to pull the match back to all square. The two were still all square as they stood on the 17th tee.
Finally, someone blinked.
After the New Zealander found the fairway at the short par 4, Maas hooked his tee shot into the left rough with a hybrid and watched as his ball settled behind a tree, leaving a difficult approach. Maas was able to navigate the tree in front of him, but his ball rolled well over the green and he failed to get up and down for par. Kobori played his approach safely to the middle of the green and two-putted for an easy par and a 1 up lead heading to the final hole.
Both players found the fairway at the par-4 18th and hit solid approach shots inside 20 feet.
Kobori was first to putt at the 18th with a chance to make a walk-off birdie and Maas could only watch as Kobori rolled it in the center of the cup to claim the Western Amateur.
“For me to be holding this [trophy] right now is unreal,” Kobori said. “I was pretty nervous [on the final putt] and thought I’d try to give it a run. Christiaan putted so well all day I figured I needed to give it a go and I’m just glad it went in.”