Eckstein works overtime to advance past Gaddy
The student mastered the teacher — barely — Friday, Todd Eckstein nipping John Gaddy 1-up in 20 holes in a championship flight quarterfinal showdown at the Herald-Sun Golf Classic.
Eckstein, a Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill alumnus who plays collegiately at Davidson, nestled a 135-yard approach to within a foot of the flag for a conceded birdie 3 on the second playoff hole at Hillandale Golf Course.
“Very, very nice, podnuh,” Gaddy said.
Eckstein then watched as Gaddy’s 50-yard approach on the 395-yard, par-4 No. 11 slide past the flag and trickle off the green.
With one final chance to keep the match alive, Gaddy finessed a long chip for birdie from the side right fringe about 18 inches past the hole, smiled and said: “Todd, great match, my friend. That was fun.”
Eckstein will face Jay Robinson in one Championship Flight semifinal today at 8:48 a.m., while Tim Garrett will meet Jeff Robinson in the other at 8:40 a.m.
A relieved Eckstein, who had watched Gaddy halve their first extra hole with a tricky chip that hit the flag stick from well off the green and stopped tight for a conceded par, was bracing himself for another miracle.
“I figured he’d hit the flag stick on that one, too, and send it to the 21st hole,” Eckstein said. “That’s the way you’ve got to think in match play — be ready for anything.”
Gaddy, a former UNC Wilmington golfer who teaches physical education at Hillsborough’s Central Elementary School, came back from a deficit for the second straight day to force sudden death.
On Thursday, former Northern and UNC Pembroke golfer Meghan Moore’s balky putter cost her the lead on the last hole and eventually the match on the first sudden death hole when she three-putted.
On Friday, Eckstein took the teacher to school early, grabbing a four-hole lead at the turn despite the fact that Gaddy was playing well.
“I’m four down at the turn and I was only 1 over (par),” Gaddy said of his opening 37. “That shows how well he was playing. He shot 33 on the front.”
The pair started their match at the 10th hole, and Eckstein didn’t win a hole on their second nine, giving up the lead with losses at Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 7.
“John capitalized on a lot of my mistakes on the back,” Eckstein said. “I hit the hazard on No. 2, and he made par. He birdied No. 3 to win that. I hit the ditch on No. 6 and he won that, and he had a great up-and-down on No. 7 to win that.”
The match-tying shot at No. 7 was a 60-foot chip to within 2 feet for a conceded par while Eckstein missed an 8-foot par try.
“Todd gave me a couple chances on the back to come back and I took advantage of it,” 2012 Durham Amateur champion Gaddy said.
Once the match was even, neither golfer gave ground.
Both players had routine pars at No. 8, the same hole where playing partners Abe Lewis and Andrew Hanna saw their Presidents Flight match end on a 15-foot putt by Lewis.
Gaddy stopped his 165-yard approach 8 feet from the hole at No. 9.
Eckstein, in the rough 85 yards away from the hole, planted his second shot about 30 feet from the cup, and Gaddy conceded a 1-footer for par after Eckstein’s birdie try missed.
Putting for the win, Gaddy left a potential birdie putt 6 inches short to force sudden death.
“I had a putt to win it; what more could I ask?” Gaddy said.
Gaddy teed off at No. 10, but his drive went down the right side, found the tree line and was batted down by leaves well short in the right rough.
Eckstein mashed his tee shot on the par 4 to within 135 yards of the green.
Playing a hybrid club out of the tree line, Gaddy’s line drive went well left of the green and appeared certain to leave the course for a match-ending out-of-bounds finish on the pavement of a nearby street.
“Cut, cut,” he yelled at the ball in flight, begging it to bend back to the right toward the green and away from Indian Trail.
Stephen Lavenets, a former Northern and current East Carolina golfer who was eliminated from the Classic field earlier, had a bird’s-eye view of the shot from the opposite side of the fairway.
“It’s rolling down the cart path,” Lavenets yelled to Gaddy.
“Is it in bounds? That’s all I need to hear,” Gaddy said.
“Yeah, it’s all right,” came the answer.
The ball hit a mound 25 yards from the green and bounced back to the right and into the rough within about 75 feet of the hole, Lavenets said.
Eckstein came up short of the green on his approach but chipped it close, and Gaddy conceded the par.
Then it was Gaddy’s turn. After getting relief from a short split rail fence between the green and the street that parallels No. 10, Gaddy chipped the ball stiff to halve the hole and send the match to the deciding 20th hole.