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Matt Crenshaw takes satisfaction in amateur success

by TG_Admin01

By BOB SUTTON

Matt Crenshaw has no visions of turning his breakthrough 2012 season on the amateur circuit into something more lucrative.

The Burlington golfer said the run of Carolinas Golf Association championships suits him just fine.

Crenshaw is a four-time winner this year, including pulling off a double of individual majors by following June’s North Carolina Amateur title with the North Carolina Amateur Match Play Championship in August.

“I’m trying to keep it in the back of my head,” Crenshaw said of putting the rush of success into perspective.

Crenshaw is the first golfer to win four CGA titles in the same year. Paul Simson, who’s a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, Dale Morey and Mike Goodes, currently a member of the Champions Tour, won three in the same year.

In the spring, Crenshaw won the Carolinas Club Championship (with Adam McLaughlin) and the Carolinas Four-Ball Championship (with Blair Bowland).

Crenshaw, a former University of North Carolina golfer out of the tradition-rich Burlington Williams program, has dabbled on the pro mini-circuits in the past. He said he has no desire of returning.

“I’ll stay amateur no matter what happens,” he said. “It’s so much more fun to play golf and have a life instead of having golf BE your life.”

Crenshaw played in the U.S. Amateur in mid-August in Colorado, though he missed the cut after two rounds of stroke play. Two days after winning the North Carolina match-play event, he opted to withdraw from sectional qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Amateur when he felt ill overnight and might have been battling fatigue. That round was scheduled for two days before he left for Colorado.

“It was a lot of golf,” he said. “It was a week after being stressed out some.”

Yet it’s a different type of pressure from when Crenshaw was playing to make a living. His last pro quest came in 2009 PGA Q-school.

The amateur circuit has been rewarding for Crenshaw, who plays out of Alamance Country Club.

“The field is full of guys who can win. When you’re hot in golf, you have to take advantage of it.”

Crenshaw’s latest conquest came in the match-play tournament at Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro. Through two rounds of stroke play, he was seeded second. Then with three days of match play, he emerged the champion with a 1-up victory against Greensboro’s Scott Harvey, who’s the No. 1-ranked amateur player in the Carolinas.

It was a dramatic stretch of finishing holes between the golfers on a pleasant Sunday morning.

“Scott is such a great player,” Crenshaw said. “All my buddies back home, when I’m going to a tournament, ask, ‘Is Harvey in the tournament?’ Scott is the man.”

Harvey, who led most of the first dozen holes, never fell more than one hole behind in the final.

Crenshaw, a 30-year-old car salesman, took the lead for good on the par-3 17th hole after Harvey’s tee shot went over the green and into high rough. Harvey ended up with bogey.

“Right before he hit the wind shifted,” Crenshaw said.

That put Crenshaw in control as they headed to the par-5 18th hole.

“The heart was racing fast,” Crenshaw said, pointing out that he switched balls to slow down.

Harvey’s second shot on the par-5 final hole stopped on the front fringe and Crenshaw’s ball off a 5-iron ended up in a similar spot. After Harvey’s chip resulted in a conceded birdie, Crenshaw put his eagle chip about 1 foot from the cup, and the putt was conceded to end the match.

Several holes earlier, there were drastic changes in momentum.

Harvey, who plays out of Sedgefield Country Club, led 1-up through nine holes, with Crenshaw’s birdie on the third hole forging a brief tie and both players posting birdies on No. 7.

“About the last six holes, it got exciting,” Crenshaw said. “The back nine, you get caught in the moment a little bit.”

Crenshaw caught a couple of breaks, beginning with Harvey missing an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 11.

Harvey’s tee shot went right on the par-4 12th hole, resulting in a lost ball in the fescue grass and a return to hit a second tee shot. Crenshaw’s second shot headed for trouble to the right, but the ball struck a tree and bounced to the fairway in front of the green and he won the hole.

“That was definitely the break of the week,” Crenshaw said. “That’s a golf tournament — you have to get the breaks.”

Crenshaw went ahead on the par-3 13th when Harvey took three putts. That advantage lasted seven minutes because Harvey’s approach shot with a sand wedge on No. 14 was conceded as a birdie for what would have been a tap-in.

Both golfers missed birdie putts from a similar line on the 15th green, with Harvey’s attempt staying to the right of the hole and Crenshaw’s putt slipping to the left.

“I moved in to watch his putt,” Crenshaw said of gaining a read. “If we combined our putts, we would have both made birdie.”

Crenshaw stayed even on the par-4 16th even though Harvey reached the green off the tee. Crenshaw’s first shot was in the rough about 15 yards to the right of the green in an awkward spot.

He got his second shot to check up about a dozen feet beyond the hole. “I could have taken a bucket of balls and not hit that close,” Crenshaw said.

He sank the putt, keeping the match squared when Harvey needed two putts.

With Harvey regularly hitting longer drives, Crenshaw said it allowed him to avoid comparing shots. “So I just played my game,” he said.

Until the final, Crenshaw didn’t have to play the 18th hole during match play.

“I really thought it was going to be tight all day,” said Harvey, a former High Point University golfer who bemoaned his putting misfortune.

It’s the second year in a row that the N.C. Amateur champion has repeated in the match-play event. Last year, Harold Varner of Gastonia pulled it off.

Varner, a 2012 East Carolina graduate, has since turned professional. It’s safe to say Crenshaw won’t be joining

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