Robert Evans stood on the 17th green, leaned on his putter and watched as his Mid-Am Match Play championship hopes hung in the balance late Sunday afternoon at Jimmy Clay Golf Course.
His opponent, Jonathan Alden, last year’s Austin Men’s City champion, was 2 down to Evans and lined up a must-make birdie putt from inside 10 feet that would extend the match to the 18th hole. Evans had already done his job. Holding a 2-up lead with two holes to play, Evans made par on No. 17 after barely missing a 10-foot birdie putt of his own that would’ve won him the championship right there.
Now all Evans could do was watch and wait.
Alden’s birdie try just slid past the hole, then he removed his hat and went to shake hands with Evans. It was over. The 2 and 1 victory over the 11th-seeded Alden made Evans, the No. 4 seed, the Mid-Am Match Play champion.
“There’s only 32 guys in this, but winning always feels good,” Evans said. “It’s huge.”
Evans, a 34-year-old software engineering manager at NSS Labs, was elated following the win, and he continued his red-hot play as of late. He won the Hill Country Amateur Championship last weekend at Crystal Falls Golf Club in Leander.
With back-to-back victories, Evans is feeling confident in his game as the Austin amateur golf schedule begins to ramp up for the summer.
Unlike the rest of this year’s Mid-Am field, Evans’ start in this tournament was Saturday morning instead of Friday afternoon. His scheduled opponent for Friday’s round of 32, the 29th-seeded Michael Millikin, conceded the opening match, giving Evans a much-needed rest day.
Even still, consecutive 36-hole days on Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in the 90s was grueling.
“I was just trying to stay hydrated and trying to muster up some energy because we got full-time jobs,” Evans said. “We’re not used to playing 36 holes a day.”
Evans later cracked a big smile: “I’ve got an 18-month-old and a 6-week-old at home. I’m lucky I’m even out here playing, much less playing 36 damn holes a day.”
Prior to Sunday afternoon’s championship match, Evans knocked off the tournament’s No. 13, No. 21 and No. 24 seeds to advance.
Evans was 2 down through seven holes to Alden in the final match, but then the momentum started to shift. Alden lost the par-4 eighth with a bogey, then a poor tee shot into the water hazard at the par-5 10th left him reeling. That same hole, Evans stuffed his second shot to 10 feet, which Alden conceded to Evans for an eagle. The match was all square.
Alden’s bogey at the par-3 12th and double bogey at the par-4 13th gave Evans a 2-up lead, putting him in control of the match for good.
“This is definitely confidence-building,” Evans said of the win. “I’m hitting the ball really good, and I’m putting well. I’m excited about the rest of the stuff coming up. I’ve got the Firecracker and some other things.”
The final bracket with all results from the 2018 Mid-Am Match Play can be found here: https://golfaustin.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/golfaustin18/event/golfaustin1816/contest/1/leaderboard.htm