June 25, 2016
In its 105-year existence, the prestigious California Amateur Championship had never seen a pair of brothers both hoist the Edward B. Tufts Trophy, let alone in back to back years. But Shintaro Ban of San Jose made that happen Saturday, surviving a grueling week of golf at Valencia CC to win the tournament just one year after his older brother Shotaro did.
“It’s absolutely a dream come true,” said Ban. “To forever have my name under his on that trophy, I can’t believe this really happened.”
With his mom and coach by his side, Ban sealed the deal on a 5&4 finals victory on Valencia’s 14th green, collecting a par on a three-foot putt and visibly relaxing for the first time in 32 holes. With a smile across his face, he hugged his caddie, UNLV teammate Justin Chong, as well as his mother and coach, who drove from Northern California late last night, arriving at 1 a.m. this morning, to be there for the finals. Ban’s mother walked off the green with tears in her eyes.
Ban beat out UCLA-bound Hidetoshi Yoshihara, who battled hard all day but eventually succumbed to Ban’s incredible play, which included birdies on three of the last five holes of the championship.
“I just kept telling myself to stay focused, and to stay aggressive,” said Ban, who pumped two of his longest drives of the day on the 30th and 31st holes of the match.
Despite never trailing, Ban was never in dominant control of the match, as each time it looked like he was pulling away Yoshihara would make a critically clutch shot. In Round 1, Ban’s lead grew to as much as 5up, but as soon as it did, Yoshihara won back-to-back holes, bringing the advantage back down to 3. But like most champions, Ban refused to get rattled. Despite looking upset about the two-straight blemishes on the scorecard, he walked up to the 18th green and sunk a birdie putt to head into the break with his lead back up to a comfortable 4.
But Yoshihara, who recently won the CIF State High School Golf Championship, earning himself an exemption into this event, never quit. After a brief rest from the 95 degree heat, which had plagued the tournament all week long, the two men returned to action, but it was Yoshihara who looked steadier, trimming Ban’s 4up lead to just 2 within a five-hole stretch that included two birdies by the eventual runner-up. But Ban could not be stopped, and avoided trouble the rest of the way, slamming his foot down on the gas and playing the final nine holes of the match in an unbelievable 4-under par. That stretch included birdies on two-straight par-4 holes, playing at 387 and 386 yards on Saturday, where Ban striped his drives down the middle of the fairways to leave himself just 60 yards into the hole both times. Despite Yoshihara matching Ban’s birdie the first time, the eventual champion proved to be too much, bringing his advantage to 5up through 31 holes before claiming victory after 32. It wrapped a week of play that included eight rounds of golf in six days.
“I came into this event having played two tournaments in the past two weeks, so I just came in thinking ‘try and do your best,’” said Ban. “It’s definitely hard on your endurance, especially out here in this heat, but I can’t believe this is really happening.”
For Ban, it was a dominant week of golf from start to finish, as the rising UNLV junior finished T4 during the stroke play portion of the event, which hosted 156 golfers on Monday and Tuesday. But he saved his best golf for match play, cruising through the bracket with wins of 6&5, 4&3, 5&3, 3&2 and eventually 5&4, beating out golfers from UC Berkeley, Fresno State, BYU and UCLA along the way. It is the biggest win of Ban’s career, which also boasts a victory at the 2014 San Francisco City Championship.