Valencia High alumni Max Homa impressed on the world stage last week as he took on the best amateurs in the world, at the U.S. Amateur Championship. Homa became eligible for the opening rounds of the championship after finishing in second place at the U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament at the Crystalaire Country Club in Palmdale.
Just over 300 players that competed in qualifying rounds all across the country were invited to the stroke play section of the championship, which was held this year at Chambers Bay Golf Course, located near Puget Sound, Washington.
The opening two rounds of stroke play are particularly intimidating to competitors as it cuts down the field down from 312 players to 64. Homa, who just finished his freshman year at UC Berkley, has never made it past the qualifying round in the past, but found himself in a great position after firing a first round 69, giving him a share of third place. The pressure kept building as he needed a solid second round to ensure himself a spot in the 64-player field, but he stumbled a bit, dropping a 5-over 76.
Homa’s two-round total of145 was good enough to tie for 24th place, putting him in an incredible position to make a run at the championship, but this time a different hurdle stood in his way, five rounds of match play. This form of play is a unique challenge for golfers without much experience, as it requires players to focus on beating a single opponent instead of putting a solid score up against a field. This is a strenuous time for many players, but Homa found many years of practice payed off.
“I was definitely nervous,” he said, “but more excited that I had made it to match play knowing how hard that was to accomplish.”
Facing hometown favorite T.J. Bordeaux of nearby Tacoma, Homa played an up and down 16 holes before knocking out his opponent by going up by two holes on the 17th. With his confidence growing, Homa played two of the best matches of his life while knocking out his next two opponents, Carter Newman and Harris English, seven up with six to play, and four up with three to play respectively.
In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Max Homa had become one of the final eight players vying for title of the U.S. Amateur Champion. But he was not about to let his success prevent him from playing at his best level.
“I was just pleased to see such positive results on such a huge stage,” he said.
The bad news for Homa was looming though, as the bracket had set up for him to face last year’s champion, Byeong-Hun An of Korea. The match started out poorly as he found himself down early, and after struggling most of the day to put himself in position to make birdie putts, he found himself down three with four holes to play. Homa didn’t give up though as he won two of the next three holes, and needed to win the last hole to push the match into sudden death. However, he was only able to manage a draw on the final hole, therefore knocking himself out of contention.
After being eliminated, Homa was understandably disappointed, but he “was still very happy about my experience.”
Looking to keep up his incredible momentum, the Valencia native has high hopes for himself and the rest of the Cal Bears golf team.
“I am very excited for this coming season,” he firmly stated, “and a national championship is a very real possibility.”
One of the most ironic confidence builders for Homa and the rest of the Golden Bears is that their most promising new addition is the man that knocked him out of the championship, Byeong-Hun An. But that wasn’t enough to set his mind at ease about losing his match.
“Knowing that a teammate beat me did create extra confidence heading into the season,” he admitted, “but it didn’t make it any easier to swallow, because to me he was just another competitor I wanted to beat.”
It is that competitive spirit that will keep this local athlete performing alongside with the top players in the world.