Tyler Hitchner, who is an incoming freshman at the University of Alabama, won the 14th State Match Play Championship at Cherokee Ridge Country Club in Union Grove after topping Mobile’s Sheldon Statkewicz on the first extra hole of Saturday afternoon’s final.
Tuscaloosa’s Hitchner faced five matches over three days on his way to his triumph. In Saturday morning’s semifinal he beat former University of North Alabama golfer and Decatur resident Matthew Gourgeot by a score of 2&1, while Statkewicz, who will be a sophomore at Spring Hill College, had a remarkable comeback from 5 down at the turn in his semifinal against former State Mid-Amateur champion Matt Johnson of Dothan to win 2 up.
Hitchner certainly claimed some scalps on his way to the state title defeating reigning State Amateur champion Will Cannon of Hoover and UAB in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinals. He had also beaten his soon-to-be Alabama teammate Tom Lovelady in Friday morning’s round of 16.
“I wish I could say I was feeling euphoric, but what I’m feeling is closer to relief,” said an exhausted Hitchner.
“Every match was a brutal test. I certainly squeaked through some matches. I knew I had to play well as there would be no gimme (matches).”
The final was something of an anti-climax with Hitchner’s lone birdie coming on the most important hole…his last hole: the first playoff hole.
“We were both nervous in the final and it showed in our play. My muscles felt hot and shaky all round and it affected my finesse shots.”
After they both parred No. 18 to head to extra holes, Hitchner played a perfect playoff hole, No. 1. His two-iron split the fairway, followed by a gap wedge to 10 feet and he rolled in the putt for the win with Statkewicz unable to answer.
He now heads off to university in a couple of weeks full of confidence.
“I can’t wait to get started. I committed (to play for Alabama) 19 months ago and I’ve been counting down the months ever since.”
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