Nathan Hughes drained putts when it mattered most to win the Oklahoma Golf Association amateur title Wednesday afternoon at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
Hughes, from Bartlesville, defeated Oklahoma State senior Talor Gooch 3 and 2 in the title match of the 101st state amateur. The event began in 1910 but wasn't played three years in the mid-1940s during World War II.
“It's really an honor to have my name on that trophy with all the great champions from the past 100 years,” Hughes said. “I hit the ball pretty solid all week. I hit a lot of greens to give myself a lot of birdie putts. Today a couple of them fell.”
In Wednesday's title match, Hughes shot 3-under. Hughes had birdies on Nos. 1, 12, 15 and 16. His only bogey was on the par-5 No. 5.
Hughes knocked it to within three feet on the first hole for a birdie. Gooch, a former Carl Albert star, tied it with a birdie on No. 5, but Hughes' par on No. 7 gave him the lead at the turn.
Hughes seized control by draining a downhill 20-foot birdie on No. 12 for a two-hole lead. Hughes went 3-up with a six-foot birdie on the No. 15 par-3 and clinched the match with a birdie on No. 16.
“Talor probably didn't play as well as he wanted to,” Hughes said. “The score will make it look like I was in control because I birdied the first hole, but it was a good head-to-head match all day. I just made a couple of putts there towards the end.”
Gooch, the favorite to win the event, dominated the first two days, winning every match in 16 holes or less.
“The first two days I was 3- or 4-under every round, but I didn't give him much of a match,” Gooch said. “But I lost to a guy who shot 3-under. I had only one bogey all day. Nathan played really well. My hat's off to him.”
In the semifinals Wednesday morning, Hughes defeated Chandler Rusk, 2 and 1. Gooch drained a 10-foot birdie on the final hole to defeat Taylor Moore, who missed a 15-footer on No. 18.
Moore, a two-time 6A state champion from Edmond Memorial who was named the SEC Freshman of the Year at Arkansas, led the match with a birdie on No. 12, but Gooch drew even with a par on No. 13. Both players posted four consecutive pars to be all square heading into No. 18.
“I might have been a little tired today,” Gooch said. “But I felt I played well all week. I gained a lot of confidence in this tournament.”
Gooch will attempt to qualify for the U.S. national amateur Monday in Maumelle, Ark., a Little Rock suburb. He will remain in the Little Rock area the remainder of the week for the Western Amateur, often referred to as the Masters of amateur golf.
“This was a good tournament to sharpen my game, build some match-play confidence,” Gooch said. “I feel good about my game right now. It's going to be crammed packed with golf the next month before school starts again.”
Hughes won six matches in three days. He won 3 and 2 and 6 and 5 on Monday. He recorded back-to-back 2-and-1 wins on Tuesday and completed his title run with wins over Rusk and Gooch on Wednesday.
After winning Class 6A medalist honors in 2009 as a senior, Hughes signed with Oklahoma. Two years later, he transferred to the University of Missouri/Kansas City where he will be a senior.
“Things didn't go as planned coming out of high school with the whole college situation, so it's kind of nice for me to play well and have something go my way,” Hughes said. “This is something I'll always remember, probably the biggest highlight of my career.”