Tyler Strafaci, Charles Osborne advance to US Amateur final

Published 7:26 am Sunday, August 16, 2020

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Tyler Strafaci and Charles Osborne advanced to the U.S. Amateur final Saturday at Bandon Dunes to earn spots next year in the Masters and U.S. Open.

Strafaci, the rising Georgia Tech senior from Davie, Florida, beat Oklahoma State’s Aman Gupta 1-up after losing a four-hole lead on the back nine. Osborne, the rising SMU junior from Reno, Nevada, topped UNC-Charlotte’s Matthew Sharpstene 4 and 2.

Playing in light wind after days of afternoon gusts on the seaside course, Starfaci won the par-5 18th when Gupta ran a bogey putt well past and conceded.

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“That was an insane finish,” Strafaci said. “Aman made some great shots down the stretch. But at the same time, you’re still thinking, ‘Why did I just give up a 4-up lead?’ When you’re in complete control. It’s tough.”

Strafaci, 22, is ranked 56th in the world. Osborne, 20, is 460th.

“I’ve always considered myself a good player. I know my ranking doesn’t show it, but it’s just a number at the end of the day,” Osborne said. “I know the game I have and know what I can do, so I try to just do me and kind of let everybody else think what they think.”

Starfaci went the distance for the third straight round. On Thursday afternoon in the round of 16, he won the 18th and his match against Segundo Oliva Pinto when Oliva Pinto’s caddie, Bandon local Brant Brewer, cost the Argentine a hole penalty for touching the surface of a greenside bunker. On Friday in the quarterfinals, Starfaci halved the 18th with Stewart Hagestad after taking the lead on 17.

The winner Sunday will get a spot in the 2021 British Open.

Strafaci, the North & South winner last month at Pinehurst, is trying to become the second straight Georgia Tech player to win the Havemeyer Trophy, following Andy Ogletree. Strafaci’s grandfather, Frank Strafaci, won the 1935 U.S. Amateur Public Links.

“I actually talked to Andy Ogletree this morning, and I said, ‘Bro, I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty nervous. I’ve never been in this spot before.’ He told me, ‘You just have to understand, the other guy is as nervous if not more nervous than you are.'” Strafaci said. “And that kind of got me in a better mindset.”

With father Frank Jr. at his side as a caddie, Strafaci raced to a 3-up lead, winning the par-4 first with a par, the par-4 fourth with a birdie and the par-4 fifth with a par. Gupta won the par-4 eighth with a par, and Strafaci took the par-5 ninth and par-4 10th with birdies to open the 4-up lead.

Gupta won the par-5 13th with his first birdie of the day, took the par-3 15th with a double bogey after Strafaci made a triple bogey, and cut the deficit to one with a birdie win on the par-4 16th. He pulled even with a par win on the par-4 17th after Strafaci drove into a pot bunker.

“It’s still a very weird feeling,” Strafaci said. “I would say it’s almost weirder than the Segundo match, because the whole time in the Segundo match, I was positive and ready to go and played 18 really good. And this time, I was playing great and then had (seven) holes where I played 5 over. And just the way I snapped out of it on 18, I think that’s why I’m pretty tired right now because it took everything I had to just snap out of it and flip my mindset, because I was going south, quick.”

Gupta, from Concord, North Carolina, got into the field as an alternate last week when second-ranked No. 2 Ricky Castillo withdrew.

Osborne and Sharpstene started slowly with three straight holes won with pars, with Osborne taking the fifth, and Sharpstene the par-3 sixth and par-4 seventh for a 1-up lead. Osborne took Nos. 8 and 9 with birdies and opened a 2-up lead with a par win on the par-4 11th.

Sharpstene, who recently transferred from West Virginia to Charlotte, won the par-3 12th with a birdie. Osborne took the par-5 13th and par-4 14th with birdies and ended the match with a par win on the 16th.

“It’s kind of unbelievable. I can’t believe that I’m here,” Osborne said. “It’s just really cool how this week has gone for me, and I’m excited.”