Jerry Courville Jr. made the putt he needed most to win the 15th annual U.S. Mid-Amateur golf championship at Caves Valley Golf Club yesterday.
Fortunately for him, it was only from a foot away.
With the par-4, Courville, from Norwalk, Conn., and in his 14th USGA championship, claimed a 1-up victory over Warren Sye, a first-time USGA tournament player from the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario.
It turned out to be a championship that was there for the taking on any number of occasions, one that either player could have won.
Courville, 3 down after six holes and still 2 down after 12, charged back into contention with winning pars at the next two holes, and the two halved the next three holes to get to the 18th even.
Both reached the green of the 400-yard closing hole in 2, with Courville 20 feet past the cup and slightly left of the pin. "I knew how fast that was, and I wanted to be left of that pin," he said.
Sye was front right, 16 feet away. To that point, neither had made a back-nine putt longer than three feet.
Courville's birdie bid slid by on the right side. Sye's ball jumped off the putter face, stayed high and rolled five feet past. From there, his par putt curled around the left edge and stayed out of the hole.
Courville then tapped in for par and heaved a sigh of relief. It was the perfect time to get his only lead of the match, played in warm sunshine over an immaculately groomed 6,688 yards.
Earlier putting by both players had not been accurate. Sye made the longest putt of the day, a six-footer on No. 5 for birdie to go 2-up. Eight-to-10-footers might as well have been 50-footers.
Sye missed two of the critical ones -- a downhill five-footer for birdie (and a 2-up lead) at the 14th that became a three-putt bogey when he missed on the return trip, and the second one at 18.
Courville nearly drove the green at the 310-yard 16th, the ball hitting on top and dropping two yards down the side bank. From there, he pitched to five feet . . . and missed. Sye needed two strokes from 10 feet.
At the 17th, both missed the green, pitched on and two-putted -- Courville from five feet, Sye from four.
"I was down early, but hung in, knowing anything could happen," said Courville, a 36-year-old recent U.S. Amateur medalist who came here from the Walker Cup matches.
"Physically, I'm exhausted and a little sore, but I'd played through that all week anyway," he said of his aching back.
Of yesterday's round, Courville said, "At 16, I had to hit the putt firmly to make it. It was either firm or play outside and let the ball break in. I put it between the two.
"At 17, the putt broke. I had to play it outside the hole, and didn't hit it hard enough. At the time, I thought, 'At least I didn't lose the holes.' If you let that get you down, you have no chance at all."
Sye, 39, attended the University of Houston and played on the same golf team as Fred Couples and Jim Nantz. He is a two-time Canadian amateur champion and a veteran of Canadian international teams.
"I was cruising along, playing well through 11-12 holes, then I got sloppy," Sye said. "And to 3-putt the 14th and 18th greens! The first one really changed the whole match. I could have gone 2-up.
"That first putt at 18 -- it exploded off the putter. Then I hit a bad one. . . . It's painful to take. And it's going to be a long winter.
"What did I have -- 34-35 putts? You can't win with that."