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At TPC Sawgrass, the island green turns the Jax Match Play final
The island green tipped the balance of the final to Michael Sass
The island green tipped the balance of the final to Michael Sass

Michael Sass and Juan Iturra came to the famed island-green 17th at TPC Sawgrass all square in their Jacksonville Amateur final match. It was there that the host course of the Players Championship showed why it is such a good match play venue.

With water so prominently coming into play on the last three holes, anything can happen, and the list of players hitting heroic shots to win is just as long as the list hitting disastrous shots to lose.

As Garry Smits has reported, Iturra, a recent Flagler College graduate from Argentina, hit first and dunked his ball in the water long. Sass, a rising senior at the College of Charleston, then stuffed his shot within three feet of the hole and, when Iturra put another ball in the water, found himself 1 up on the 18th tee.

But with water all the way down the left, it is never an easy close-out, and sure enough Sass bailed out into the trees on the right. But Iturra hit his third straight shot into the water, and Sass was able to punch out and stagger home with a bogey and a 2 up win.

“Both of us had to have a short memory today,” said Sass, the 2018 Colonial Athletic Conference player of the year. “I knew it was going to be a lot of up and down after the first five or six holes.”

“He played great,” said Iturra, who won his semifinal match in 19 holes against Chris Henderson when he birdied the first extra hole from 12 feet. “I tried my best ... I gave it the best I had but I was really tired, mentally tired and made a few mistakes I shouldn’t have made.”

ABOUT THE Jacksonville Match Play

An 18-hole qualifier prior to the event determines a 30 players who will advance to a round of 32 match play bracket along with the prior year's winner and runner- up. The champion will be decided after three days of match play.

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