AZ Am final: Anderson vs. Aduddell

A veteran F-16 fighter pilot will square off against a 19-year-old college kid in Saturday’s finale of the 88th Arizona Amateur Championship, and while one will have maturity and mental toughness on his side the other will counter with raw talent and a red-hot game.

U.S. Air Force Captain Andy Aduddell is 37 years old and has only played in two competitive tournaments in the past 10 years, one of those being this major championship sponsored by the Arizona Golf Association. His opponent, Washington State sophomore Michael Anderson of Phoenix, has played in eight tournaments in the past two months.

On paper, it looks like Anderson should be the favorite over Aduddell. But remember: this is match play on the demanding North Course of the Gallery Golf Club in Marana, and, well, anything can — and often does – happen in mano y mano.

Anderson, who is coming off a playoff loss a week ago in the prestigious Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, certainly seems to be on a tear. He punished both of his opponents with lights-out putting in Friday’s quarterfinals and semifinals, disposing of LSU-bound Zachary Wright and then Arizona State sophomore Austin Quick by identical 5-and-4 scores.

Aduddell took a little more time getting to the title match, posting a pair of 2-and-1 victories over Hamilton High School sensation Peter Koo of Chandler and then No. 1 seed Matt Record of Scottsdale, a junior college All-American from South Mountain Community College who is headed to Nebraska in the fall.

“Coming in here, I hadn’t played 36 holes of golf in one day in the past 15 years, and I’ve done it twice now in the past two days,’’ said Aduddell, a former University of Texas player who turned pro and competed on the minitours (1997-2000) before he joined the Air Force in 2002, shortly after September 11th.

“So pardon me if I have trouble with (a hole-by-hole recap). Seriously, they’re all starting to run together at this point.’’

It’s easy to give Aduddell a break, as he was supposed to be deployed to Afghanistan this week before a serious illness in his family led to a  leave of absence that allowed for him to play in this tournament. Both his matches on Friday were nip-and-tuck, although he never trailed in either once both got under way.

“I suppose I was a couple under (par) in both of them,’’ said Aduddell, who not only flies F-16s but instructs other pilots at Luke Air Force Base in Litchfield Park.

“It’s kind of funny, but when I play against these talented kids like I did today, I see a lot of myself in them when I was younger. I notice, at times, they get a little frustrated and out of character, so I just try to stay focused and keep the pressure on them by hitting fairways and greens.’’

It’s what got Aduddell to the final, as he and Record were all square through 14 holes before Record missed a 5-foot birdie at the par-3 15th and Aduddell connected on his bird from 4 feet. The final margin came on the 17th hole, where Record tried to drive the green and made bogey while Aduddell laid up and made par.

Whether that strategy can hold up against the torrid Anderson remains to be seen. The former Phoenix Mountain Pointe High star was a birdie machine in his match against Wright, holing six straight from the fourth hole through the ninth hole, and seven total over 13 holes. He slowed down slightly against Quick, although he still made four birdies overall after jump-starting his round with a 3-up lead through four holes that he never relinquished.

“Things are just clicking and I’m gaining confidence with every round,’’ said Anderson, who lost a five-way playoff at the Pac-Am after tying the course record at Bandon Trails in Oregon with a 66 in the third round.

“I guess I’m just going to keep going with the flow. Really, I don’t do anything real fancy, I just try to keep hitting greens and fairways and not make any mistakes. I strive for consistency, and that’s something you really need on a course like this, because you hit it off in the desert  — you’re done!’’

Asked how he’ll handle yet another young gun during Saturday’s showdown, Aduddell just chuckled to himself.

“To be honest I really don’t know my game — how good it is — because I haven’t been playing any tournament golf,’’ the good-natured captain confessed. “I know that my maturity is night and day what it used to be, and my short game might be better.

“So, I guess, I’ll just keep doing what I’ve done all week.’’

It should add up to an interesting conclusion between two great players, one who is almost twice the age of the other. Anderson has this going for him: seven of the last eight AZ Amateur champs were either in high school or college. But Aduddell counters with this tidbit: the last guy to win it — Bowen Osborn, who didn’t play this week — was 31.
It all starts at the Gallery at 7:30 a.m.