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Texas A&M's Cameron Champ wins Patriot All-America in playoff

Three months after winning his first college event, Cameron Champ has added on a significant amateur title.

Champ made two late birdies Saturday at The Wigwam’s Gold Course in Litchfield Park, Ariz., to make it into a playoff at the Patriot All-America Invitational. He would close things out on the second extra hole.

It would take a simple par for Champ to finish off Zachary Olsen, but only after a long day.

Champ began the third and final round two shots back and moved into serious contention with four birdies (against one bogey) in his first 12 holes. His momentum stalled with a bogey at No. 13, but birdies at 16 and 17 allowed Champ to finish with 4-under 66 and match Olsen’s 7-under total.

Olsen made five early birdies and posted the day’s lowest round with a 5-under 65.

Yet the Oklahoma State senior made a costly mistake on the second playoff hole. Facing a 20-foot birdie putt, Olsen knocked it to 3 feet, a putt he would have to make to keep his hopes alive after Champ lagged his birdie effort to a foot.

Then, the shocker: Olsen lipped out the short putt, setting up Champ for the tap-in to win.

“When I marked my ball, I didn’t think he was going to miss his putt,” Champ said. “He ended up missing and I just tapped-in and that was it. It means a lot to me to win this event.”

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Champ got his first college win in September at the Olympia Fields Country Club/Fighting Illini Invitational, but he only had one other top-10 finish in the fall. Champ currently sits at No. 78 in the Golfweek/Sagarin college rankings.

Sahith Theegala, the 36-hole leader this week, bogeyed two of his first three holes Saturday but made three birdies from there and came to the par-4 18th just needing a par to make it a three-way playoff. Instead, he bogeyed to finish one back in a tie for third with Illinois’s Nick Hardy.

Defending champion Braden Thornberry, of Ole Miss, saw his chances to repeat evaporate with a final-round 75 that pushed him back to even par and a tie for 14th.

With the win, Champ earns an exemption into the Tour’s Air Capital Classic, set to take place June 23-26, 2017 at Crestview Country Club in Wichita, Kan.

“That’s big, it’s really exciting. I’ve never played in the I’ve tried to qualify a few times, but was never able to make it so this is really exciting to be able to play in my first one,” Champ said. “And, also my gramps who’s going to be able to caddie for me. He’s getting up there in age, I’m going to let him caddie for me. You never know when his time is up, so you know, I just wanted to give him a chance to caddie for me and have a good week.”


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