Barnes Beats Mahan in U.S. Amateur

Sunday, August 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (AP) _ Ricky Barnes of Stockton, Calif., used a dazzling combination of power and finesse to beat Hunter Mahan 2 and 1 on Sunday in the 102nd U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Barnes, 21, who will be a senior at Arizona, won the final three holes in the morning round of the scheduled 36-hole final, building a 2-up lead he never relinquished. He increased his lead to 4-up after 26 holes.

Mahan, of McKinney, Texas, a 20-year-old junior at Oklahoma State, made a late charge, narrowing the gap to 2-up with a fist-pumping 50-foot eagle putt at No. 12, the 30th hole.

Barnes, the son of former New England Patriots kicker Bruce Barnes, got it back to 3-up with a 10-foot birdie on the 31st hole, but Mahan responded with a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 15, the 33rd hole to cut the gap to 2-up again.

After halving No. 16, the 34th hole, Mahan knew he had to win the par-3 17th to keep the match alive. It looked like he had a chance, too.

Mahan's tee shot on the par 3 was on the green, about 45 feet from the pin, while Barnes left his tee shot in the rough on a slope behind the green. But Mahan's putt for a possible birdie came up 7 feet short.

That was all the opening Barnes needed. He hit a nice little flop shot out of the thick rough and joyously tossed his wedge back to his brother Andy, his caddy, almost before the ball landed on the putting surface. He knew the shot was that good.

Clapping his hands above his head, Barnes danced down to toward the cup and was still celebrating when the ball finally stopped about 6 inches from the cup.

The players hugged as USGA officials rolled out a red carpet on the green for the award presentation.

Barnes, whose booming drives frequently soared over 300 yards _ and often as much as 40 yards past Mahan's _ will have his name engraved on the Havemeyer Trophy alongside such notables as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Bobby Jones. If he remains an amateur, the winner will receive an automatic berth in the next U.S. Open and traditionally has been invited to play in the Masters.

Mahan, who defeated Barnes 3 and 2 in a second-round match in the 2000 U.S. Amateur at Baltusrol, had 1-up leads three times during the morning round but couldn't hold them.

Mahan's trouble started on No. 16, the signature hole at storied Oakland Hills, where the 2004 Ryder Cup matches will be played. Mahan's drive on the 406-yard, par 4, landed in the right rough and he put his next two shots from the ankle-deep grass into the pond that protects the green.

Barnes who hit several of his booming drives into the rough, left the driver in the bag at the 16th, splitting the fairway with an iron off the tee. He hit his second shot to 7 feet of the cup.

As a result, Mahan _ rather than hit his fifth shot, still from across the pond _ conceded the birdie to Barnes and the match was even.

It was at No. 16 at Oakland Hills in 1972 where Gary Player hit his approach within 4 feet for the birdie that clinched the PGA Championship. That major championship in 2008 to this course, dubbed ``The Monster'' by Ben Hogan after winning the 1951 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills.

Mahan, the 1999 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, saw his 5-foot putt for birdie lip out at No. 17, then Barnes tapped in a 2-foot birdie to go 1-up.

Both players reached the 462-yard 18th, playing as a par 4 for the Amateur, in regulation. Both were well left of the pin, with wide U-shaped tracks to the cup from about 35 feet away. But Mahan three-putted while Barnes got down in two to par the hole and go 2-up.