Cody Upham says he’s in no hurry to grow up and get a real job. Likewise, the 23-year-old isn’t in a rush as he considers giving up his amateur golf status.
That calculated approached served Upham well during the 54-hole Rosauers Open Invitational at Indian Canyon as he became the first amateur to win the tournament in its 20-year history. He birdied the last two holes – one coming after a kind bounce off a tree on No. 17 – to post a one-shot victory over Birk Nelson, who equaled the course record with a sizzling 10-under-par 61 on Sunday, and 2001 champ Casey McCoy, who closed with a 63.
Upham, who shot 62 on Friday, finished with a somewhat uneventful 2-under 69, but he kept his cool and his patience after temporarily falling out of the lead on No. 11. Upham birdied the next hole while The Creek at Qualchan pro Mark Gardner, who had birdied No. 11 to move to the top of the leaderboard, made a costly bogey.
“That was the first time I trailed, but I didn’t change anything I did,” said Upham, a member at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland. “I stepped up on 12 and hit a great drive and was able to get a birdie and get the lead back. To shoot 62 Friday and be able to come back with two rounds in the 60s was a testament to how patient I was.”
As an amateur, Upham wasn’t eligible for the $11,000 first-place check. Instead, he earned $650 in merchandise and said he’s still undecided about turning pro.
“I showed up knowing that; winning the tournament is more important than the $11,000,” shrugged Upham, who was 17-under for 54 holes. As for his future plans, Upham said, “I’ve thought about it but I just haven’t felt comfortable with my game enough to make that jump.”
Nelson and McCoy, who sometimes team up for two-man tournaments, split first- and second-place prize money, each earning $9,175. Defending champion Jeff Coston and 2005 champ Ryan Benzel tied for fourth at 15-under. Gardner, Don Waller and amateur Russell Grove, a Coeur d’Alene High grad currently playing for the University of Idaho, shared sixth place at 14-under.
The leaderboard was crowded most of the day as eight players had a legitimate shot at the title. Nelson posted his 16-under total long before many of the leaders reached the closing holes. Nelson’s 61 equaled the course record set by high schooler Joel Dahmen in May 2006.
“I didn’t see it coming, but I wasn’t healthy my first two rounds,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what I did, but I wasn’t able to swing completely on my shots until (Sunday). I hurt my back warming up for the first round, doing yoga in my motel room. That’s been a routine of mine for a long time, but I guess I kind of pushed it.”
McCoy joined Nelson at 16-under with a clutch 8-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
“I missed one green each day so I hit it tee-to-green really well,” McCoy said. “I had a lot of putts that did fall, but I had a few that didn’t.”
Gardner made a nice par save from the right rough on 10 and then birdied 11 to get to 16-under. He lost his momentum with a messy bogey on the par-5 12th, the first of three straight bogeys.
“On 13 I thought I hit a pretty good shot but it was a little right and (the ball) buried in the bunker,” Gardner said. “After that, my putter kind of went south.”
Benzel made a back-nine charge with birdies at 10, 12, 13 and 14, but his tee shot on 16 strayed into the trees where he had an unplayable lie. He took a one-shot penalty, but scrambled to make bogey. He figured – correctly – that he would need two birdies to have a chance, but 17 would prove to be his nemesis again. He settled for par and played the hole in 1-over for the tourney.
Upham was 15-under as he waited to hit on the enticing 267-yard par-4 17th, knowing he probably needed a pair of birdies to win. The left-hander hooked his tee shot well right of the green into the trees, but the ball ricocheted back into the fairway, about 25 yards from the green.
“In the final round last year I actually hit the same tree and it kicked out, too,” he said. “When it popped back into the fairway I knew I needed to take advantage.”
He did, chipping within 3 feet and burying the putt. He was on the par-5 18th in two and two-putted from 25 feet for birdie.
“He gets it done,” Gardner said of Upham. “He has a great short game and everything he missed was just on the edges of holes.”
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