Fighter pilot among Elite 8 at AZ Am

With the match-play field down to the Elite Eight, there are only two “older guys’’ left who can stand in the way of a college or high school kid winning the 88th Arizona Amateur Championship at the Gallery Golf Club in Marana.

One of those "elders” is Captain Andy Aduddell, a 37-year-old F-16 fighter pilot/instructor with the 56th Training Squadron at Luke Air Force Base in Litchfield Park. In fact, Aduddell was originally to be deployed to Afghanistan on Thursday, but got a leave of absence when a member of his family became ill, allowing him to play in this major championship sponsored by the Arizona Golf Association.

Adding to this unbelievable storyline, Aduddell is playing in only his second tournament as an amateur since 2002. And he’s doing quite well after he won two matches convincingly on Thursday to move into Friday’s quarterfinals.

“It’s nice to be able to play golf, although these kids at this tournament are tough competitors,’’ Aduddell observed after posting a 4-and-3 victory over Nebraska-bound Aaron Wong in the morning and a hard-fought, 2-and-1 win over another Chandler resident in Bryan Hoops in the afternoon.

“I remember what that’s like. I used to be in high school and college, too.”

Actually, Aduddell had quite a prep career in Corpus Christi, Texas, one that was so good it earned him a scholarship at the University of Texas. Once ranked as high as the No. 8 amateur in the country as a collegian, Aduddell played four years professionally on various minitours before he gave it up shortly after September 11th and joined the Air Force.
“(September 11th) pretty much had everything to do with it,’’ said Aduddell when asked how that event impacted his golf and military careers.

So how does it feel to be one of the “older guys’’ that have survived through three rounds of match play? Aduddell laughed.
“I’m older? Well, maybe I’ll do all the old guys proud,’’ he said.

That list of kids waiting in the wings for Aduddell starts with Peter Koo, the 17-year-old Hamilton High School standout who last year became the youngest player ever to win an AGA major championship when he captured the State Stroke Play title. Koo avoided an upset in the afternoon at the hands of Chandler’s Tom Meissner, escaping in 19 holes. Now it’s Aduddell vs. Koo in the quarters.

The other guy with a little age on his golf game is Scottsdale’s Kevin Cannon, a steady veteran of the AGA circuit who also can still play. Cannon took out one of the tournament’s heavyweights in Queen Creek’s Camron Howell, 2 and 1. Howell was the AGA’s player of the year in 2011.
It doesn’t get any easier for Cannon, who now must tangle with No. 1 seed Matt Record, who sidelined Arizona State senior Jin Song, 4 and 3. Record, who also is bound for Nebraska this fall, is a junior college All-American who helped South Mountain Community College capture the national juco title last month.
The third of the four quarterfinal matches will feature Michael Anderson, a sophomore at Washington State, against Phoenix’s Zachary Wright, arguably the best high school player in Arizona who is on his way to LSU. Wright, who won the state high school championship in record fashion last fall and has been a top player on the highly touted American Junior Golf Association tour, held on to beat AGA veteran Trey Martin, 2 and 1. And that was the first of Wright’s three matches that have not gone to extra holes.

One thing is certain: Wright will have his hands full with Anderson, who recently lost a playoff for the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, where he tied the course record at Bandon Trails  with a 66. Anderson has been a machine in his first three matches, with his 2-and-1 win over No. 2 seed Ricky Lee being his closest match after two blowouts. Lee is a sophomore from Tucson on the Arizona golf team.

The last match pits ASU sophomore Austin Quick of Scottsdale against Mesa’s Anthony Maccioli, who will play for Chico State this fall. Quick edged UA junior Benson Liu of Taiwan, 1-up, while Maccioli overpowered Scottsdale’s Adam Walicki, 5 and 3.
Chances are the winner will follow a trend in recent years, as seven of the last eight AZ Amateurs have been won by either a college or high school player. That streak, however, was snapped last year when Bowen Osborn won the tournament at age 31. Then again, should Aduddell or Cannon prevail, perhaps it would continue a new trend for the “older guys.’’

The quarterfinals start bright and early Friday at 7:00 a.m. with the semifinals to follow around noon. The championship is scheduled to take place Saturday morning beginning at 7:30.