After going extra holes twice to reach the last match, Jeff Castle expressed some concern about the grueling nature of the Maryland State Amateur men's championship, which requires seven rounds of the two finalists.
So, yesterday at the Elkridge Club, Castle personally eliminated one-third of the final round with a blazing 31 on the front nine in the afternoon and cruised by fellow collegian Jarrod Page, 7 and 6, to become the 2006 titlist.
The Towson University rising senior reached the halfway point of the 36-hole test with a 3-up lead, then squashed all chances of a Page comeback with four birdies and an eagle 3 on the par-5 seventh, virtually guaranteeing the victory.
"He was playing so good," Page said. "It's hard to make birdies and get tied. You just can't do anything about it."
Castle, who plays out of Turf Valley, shot just two bogeys through the 30 played, losing one of the holes, as he became the second Tiger in three years to capture this tournament. Billy Wingerd won in 2004.
"All week long I've been hitting it well and haven't been making a lot of bogeys. In match play, that's a key," he said. "And on the first nine of the second round, it was like I couldn't do anything wrong. I just got that feeling that if I hit it straight enough, I'd hit it where I wanted."
In his first stab at the Amateur, Castle qualified with a 1-under 70, survived extra-hole matches with Rick Sovero and Greg Rodgers and eliminated the medalist, Mike Mulieri.
Of his eagle, Castle said he hit a perfect drive, hooked a 5-iron to within six or seven feet, then putted out. "I've kind of been watching other people play there and watching how the balls react," he said of No. 7.
Castle said the 31 wasn't his best nine ever: He shot a 30 over nine holes while winning a college tournament at James Madison.
His margin of victory was the fourth largest ever in the tournament.
"My putter didn't let me down all week," Castle said. "Any time I had a putt that meant something I made it."