Drenched in sweat, Sam Stevens wiped his forehead before comparing his play during the final round of the Kansas Amateur to a shattered 100-foot tree split directly in half that sat on the course at Kansas City Country Club.
“Sometimes there’s a guy that’s going to play good and he’s just going to beat you,” Stevens said. “There’s nothing you can really do about it.”
Gage Ihrig was that guy Sunday, defeating Stevens in the 107th Kansas Amateur Match Play Championship. Ihrig won 4 and 2 in the 36-hole final, which had a delayed start in order to clean up from an ugly Saturday evening storm that left dead branches and debris all over the course.
Ihrig, a Goodland, Kan. native and senior at Wichita State, led the entire final. His back-to-back birdies on the 30th and 31st holes were part of four birdies on the back 18.
“I tried not to think about the lead too much. I just tried to keep hitting shots like I had all week, just one shot at a time,” Ihrig said. “I stayed in the moment and felt the flow … I was making confident swings.”
A couple of Ihrig’s Wichita State teammates, including assistant coach Judd Easterling, witnessed his second victory of the summer. He previously won the Kansas Stroke Play in June at Sand Creek Station.
“Gage was phenomenal. KCCC is such a good test,” Easterling said. “He exceeded all expectations today. Knowing both players so well, I knew he had to come in confident. He showed signs of excellent golf and was consistent off the tee.”
Stevens, who won the event in 2015, has finished as the Kansas Amateur runner-up three times in the last five years. The Wichita native and Oklahoma State senior had no regrets about his performance.
“It’s a long week and it’s hard to get to the final. I’m proud I was able to do that again,” Stevens said.
This weekend was the fourth time KCCC played host to the Kansas Amateur, with the last being in 2009. Next year’s event will be July 16-22 at Firekeeper Golf Course in Mayetta, Kan.