Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Curtis Luck was in a fairway bunker about 135 yards from the hole, needing to get up and down from there to keep his U.S. Amateur run going.
"I was kind of lucky I had a perfect distance and a perfect lie in the trap," he said. "Managed to pick it cleanly and use the backstop."
Luck's wedge shot from the bunker reached the green and rolled down to about 3 feet of the pin, enabling him to match Nick Carlson's birdie and extend their semifinal to a 21st hole Saturday. Luck then made another birdie to win the match and advance to Sunday's 36-hole final against Brad Dalke.
Dalke defeated Jonah Texeira 3 and 2 in the other semifinal on the South Course at Oakland Hills.
Luck was 1 down after 16 holes and bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18 — but he was still able to square the match when Carlson double bogeyed No. 18. The playoff began on No. 10. Both players parred that hole, and Carlson appeared to be in great shape when he hit his approach to within a couple feet on No. 11.
Luck answered with a terrific shot of his own from out of the bunker, and both players made their short birdie putts.
"I saw he obviously hit it real close in there for his second from the fairway, and it really didn't give me any option other than to go for it and hit it close myself," Luck said.
On the par-5 No. 12, Luck was able to reach the green in two. Carlson missed a putt for birdie from about 20 feet, ending the match.
Carlson, a local favorite who is entering his sophomore year at Michigan, fell onto his back in despair after missing the last putt, then quickly got up to congratulate Luck. He thanked the crowd and yelled "Go Blue!" — there were plenty of people in Michigan gear following Carlson and Luck around the course.
"I was able to stand on that 12th green after Curtis won and just think to myself how amazing it was that they were all there," said Carlson, who became choked up after the match. "Someone told me yesterday that their ticket sales were up because of me, and that's pretty incredible to me."
Carlson missed a 7-foot putt for par on No. 17 that would have won the match, and his tee shot on 18 ended up under a tree. He had to flip his club around and chip left-handed from there, and the ball went only a few feet. His third shot missed the green from out of the rough.
Luck didn't fare much better, hitting his approach into a bunker, but his bogey was good enough to win the hole.
"I stood on 18 tee telling my caddie we're going to aim at that blue spruce right there, then we're going to try to cut off of it, and it went dead straight," Carlson said. "I had to chip left-handed and didn't hit it far enough, but that wasn't the issue. I drew a good lie, and the club caught a little of the rough, and it went right, unfortunately. Curtis had to make five basically, and he kind of knew it."
On the first playoff hole, Luck sank a par putt from about 15 feet to extend the match, and the Australian pulled off another impressive escape on No. 11 before finally winning.
Luck and Dalke secured exemptions to next year's U.S. Open and likely invitations to the Masters.
Dalke, who plays for the Oklahoma Sooners, won five of the final seven holes in his match. Texeira was 2 up after nine, then bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11 and three-putted the 12th, leaving the match all square.
"He was making putts early on," Dalke said. "I knew I just needed to keep grinding. You just never know what happens in match play, and obviously this is kind of a big hump in the U.S. Amateur, making it to the finals, just because of all the stuff that you get along with it."
Dalke birdied Nos. 13 and 15 and closed out the match with a par on 16.
"He beat me fair and square, and it was a great day to remember," said Texeira, who is entering his junior year at Southern California. "Congratulations to Brad."
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister