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Allred bags U.S. golf title

Ashland's Jason Allred had played the 18th hole one time in five matchesleading up to Saturday's finals of the 50th U.S. Junior Amateur Championshipat Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa.

Allred had been so efficient defeating five other golfers on his wayto the title match in the most prestigious junior tournament in the nationthat only in his opening match did he have to tee it up on the par-4, 424-yardclosing hole.

But Allred's lack of exposure to the hole didn't hurt the 17-year-oldAshland High senior-to-be in the finals against South Africa's Trevor Immelman.

The two players went to the 18th tee all square, but Allred two-puttedto par the hole, while Immelman finished with a bogey after hitting his6-iron approach into a bunker.

I never thought I'd get nervous, said Allred, but Idid walking up the 18th hole. Winning in front of that many people was suchan unexplainable feeling.

Allred jumped out to a three-hole lead after the first five holes, butran into some trouble. Immelman won the sixth, eighth and 10th holes tosquare the match.

I played the first four holes really well, said Allred. Afterthat I lost the feel for my swing. I was all over the place. I guess myshort game kept me in it.

That was best exhibited on the 470-yard, par-4, 15th hole. That's whenAllred made the shot of his career in front of the largest gallery he'sever played for and an ESPN national television audience.

After hooking his drive on the 15th, Allred didn't have an opportunityto reach the putting surface. So he knocked a 5-iron into the short roughnear the green on his second shot. Then he electrified the crowd by chippingin from 40 feet away for a birdie.

The timing of that was unbelievable, said Allred. Thefeeling I got from the gallery was just incredible.

I was just trying to get up and down. I hit a good chip but itwas lucky it went in. When I saw it go in, I didn't know what to do.

Then Immelman rallied from two holes down with three to go. On No. 16,Allred came close on a 15-foot birdie putt, but Immelman made a 5-foot birdieto cut the deficit to one.

I really wanted to make that putt because I would have felt prettysafe, said Allred.

Immelman kept the pressure on with a birdie on the par-3, 17th to eventhe match.

I had to regroup a little, said Allred. I didn't lookat it as anyone having an advantage. That's what I have dreamed about, havinga chance to win on the last hole.

Both players were in good shape after their drives on No. 18; Allredhit a 1-iron and Immelman a 3-wood.

Allred knocked a 7-iron from 175 yards to within 20 feet of the cup.Immelman bunkered his second shot, then left himself about a 25-foot putt.Immelman missed his par putt, which barely caught part of the hole. Allredrolled his putt to within inches of the cup and Immelman conceded the championship.

I thought I had the momentum, but hats off to Jason, saidImmelman, considered by some to be the player to beat coming in. Hehit it in the fairway and hit it on the green on the 18th hole, and that'swhat it takes. That's a credit to him.

Allred advanced to the championship match with a 5 and 4 victory overChris Zeller, of Boca Raton, Fla. Immelman won his morning match by thesame margin against Sean O'Hair of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Allred will play in a tournament in Dallas, Texas, next week. Then heplans to take a couple of weeks off for a family rafting trip in Idaho beforethe U.S. Amateur Championship at Coghill Golf and Country Club in Lemont,Ill., Aug. 18-24.

Allred received an exemption into the U.S. Amateur with his victory Saturday.

For Allred, defeating Immelman for the U.S. Junior Amateur title wasa once in a lifetime experience.

I never had so much fun playing a round of golf, he said.I just enjoyed every minute.