He was near Tinseltown, so it’s only fitting Blake Collyer put on a Hollywood finish.
The young Victorian appeared headed for a painful US Amateur exit, falling one stroke on the wrong side of the cut line with a bogey followed by a double-bogey on the 14th and 15th holes at the famous Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.
But just like a classic movie script, the blond-headed hero wouldn’t lay down without a fight and with a stunning eagle-birdie finale up the 17th and 18th, Collyer rode into the match play phase without even needing to endure a playoff.
“I’m going to have wake up in the morning and pinch myself just to make sure this actually happened,” Collyer beamed afterwards.
“I’m still shaking now.”
Back-to-back three-putts left Collyer his mountain to climb and it looked like a summit too far when he found sand off the tee on the short 16th hole.
But he splashed his short trap shot inside 30cm and kept his dream alive.
On the long par-five 17th, Collyer was “hoping birdie-birdie” and was still 288m from the pin after his drive, so decided to just grab a three-wood and “hit it as hard as I could”.
“I got down there and I was in the left rough, still 48m from the hole and I just thought, that’s it, it’s nearly over,” he said.
“Then I just thought get some club on, roll it up and see what happens, I might still manage a birdie if I hit a good one.
“So I hit it, caught it nicely … it landed at about 40m and just kept rolling, straight at the hole. I thought it was going to pull up short, but the greens are quick and, yeah, it just dropped.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking. My heart definitely skipped a beat.”
Collyer, a member at Metropolitan, composed himself as best he could, then drilled a drive down the left side of the famous last hole, leaving himself 172m from the pin.
“I had so much adrenaline flowing through me, I couldn’t believe it. I hit an 8-iron and it just rolled to about five feet.
“Seriously, I was shaking so much. I’m surprised my putter even hit the ball,” Collyer joked.
“But yeah, it went in the middle and I was in. I still can’t believe it even talking about it now.”
Collyer drew American youngster Collin Morikawa for his first match play contest, but will be aided by having Sydney mate Ruben Sondjaja as his caddie after the Iowa State University student didn’t advance.
“I wish he’d made it through, but it will be good to have Ruben on the bag, just to make a couple of jokes and keep me from getting too nervous,” Collyer said.
“But yeah, it feels like a bit of a free hit now after that, so I’ll just reset and go again. It feels like I’ve done all the hard work – now I can just go for it.”
Collyer’s drama capped another solid day for the record band of Australians at the world’s most prestigious amateur championship, although two West Australians might not share the same sentiment for a while.
Last year’s US Junior champ Min Woo Lee made a bogey up his last hole, the ninth, at Riviera to fall agonisingly on the wrong side of the four-over mark by a stroke, while his WA state teammate Day made two late bogeys to miss by two.
A foursome of Aussies advanced, though, with the red-hot Dylan Perry again leading the way.
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Perry, runner-up at Britain’s The Amateur recently, again impressed with an impressive one-under-par 69 – despite a triple-bogey – at Bel Air Country Club, putting him at one under overall and in a tie for 19th.
His fellow New South Welshman Travis Smyth made two early birdies at Riviera to give himself a nice buffer and, despite a few late bogeys, he advanced easily with a 72 to finish two over.
At the same score and in a share of 35th, Queenslander Shae Wools-Cobb continued to cash in on his late call-up as an alternate with book-end birdies of his round at Riviera to shoot a 73 and move on comfortably after his opening 69 at Bel Air.
Forbes ace James Grierson played early today, so couldn’t have realised what the cut might be. But he’ll be ruing his inability to make one birdie today to capitalise on his opening 70, with a string of late bogeys consigning him to a 76 and a six-over total alongside Day in T85.
His NSW state teammate Harrison Endycott was always chasing after his opening 75 and eventually carded a fighting 72 at Bel Air only to miss out by three at seven over.
Australian Amateur champ Matias Sanchez, of Melbourne, was another who couldn’t find a birdie and his 75 at Riviera left him at nine over.
Sondjaja had a day he’d rather forget with an 80 at Riviera to finish at 12 over, while young Melburnian Karl Vilips couldn’t cash in on a couple of early birdies and fell away to a 78 after a quadruple-bogey on the eighth at Bel Air took the wind from his sails en route to a 14-over total.
Oklahoma’s Hayden Wood set a stroke play record of nine under par with a 67 at Bel Air after his 64 yesterday at Riviera enough to secure medallist honours.
The knockout match play phase begins tomorrow.
A 13-for-8 playoff for the final match play berths will be played early at Riviera tomorrow. The playoff starts on the drivable par-4 10th hole, followed by holes 14 through 18 with No. 18 repeated as needed until the final spots are filled.