ALTON, Ill. (AP) _ Hunter Haas beat Michael Kirk 4 and 3 in the 36-hole final Saturday to capture the men’s 74th U.S. Amateur Public Links championship.
Haas, a senior-to-be at Oklahoma, earned a berth in next year’s Masters with the victory.
``It’s the best thing I’ve ever accomplished in golf,″ said Haas, the 1998 Big 12 Conference champion. ``And, it’s up there with the best thing I’ve ever done.″
Haas jumped in front early in the final at Spencer T. Olin Community Golf Course, and led by one hole after the first 18. He extended it to two with seven holes remaining.
Kirk, a South African who will be a senior at UNLV, faltered on No. 13, when he hit a shot into the water to drop him three back. He conceded on No. 16 after hitting two shots out of bounds.
``Of course, I’m disappointed, but that’s the way it goes,″ Kirk said. ``Match play is a grind, and he never did give me an opportunity to get ahead of him. He got out in front and stayed there.
``Every time I thought I could get back, he’d make a putt or do something spectacular,″ Kirk said.
Kirk was trying to become the third straight South African to win the Publinx. Tim Clark won it 1997 and Trevor Immelman was the winner last year.
Haas punched in 11 birdies for the day to give him 53 for the tournament. Haas went 6-0 in match play after shooting 137 and finishing 17th in stroke-play qualifying.
``Any time I tee it up, I expect to compete to win,″ Haas said. ``I’ve always been confident about my abilities.
``If you aren’t confident, how can you be successful? You should take up caddying or something,″ Haas said.