Victory snatched from Deacon's grasp

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

Two holes away from the Masters.

Two holes away from the U.S. Open.

Two holes away from having a 50/50 chance to join a club featuring Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

Unionville golfer J.C. Deacon, 22, was on the verge of something spectacular yesterday before American Dillon Dougherty wrecked the Canadian's plans in dramatic fashion at the U.S. amateur championship.

Dougherty chipped in on No. 17 and hit the flagstick on No. 18 to take the final two holes for a 1-up win against the unlucky Deacon in their semi-final match at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

So it's the magical Dougherty -- not Deacon -- and fellow semi-final winner Edoardo Molinari of Italy heading to the Masters and U.S. Open next year and facing off today in the final of an event once won by Woods, Nicklaus and Palmer.

"I wanted to cry for the first 20 minutes (after the loss) and I wanted to scream for the next 20 minutes after that," Deacon said last night after watching a replay of his match on NBC. That was so Tiger-like, it was scary. I had it and he snatched it out of my hands."

Dougherty, down one in the match, chipped in from 30 feet for birdie on the par-3 17th to draw even. Then, on the par-4 18th, he hit the flagstick and Deacon conceded the par. Deacon's birdie chip went 10 feet past the hole and he missed his ensuing par putt to give Dougherty the win in front of about 5,000 boisterous fans.

MISSED PUTT

"As soon as I missed that putt on No. 18, the first thing that went through my mind is I was two holes away from Augusta in April," Deacon said. "It gave me a pit in my stomach and it still gives me a pit in my stomach when I talk about it.

"But like my brother was saying, one billion people play golf and which one of them is ever going to be two holes away from The Masters?"

Deacon should be holding his head high when he returns to Toronto today before beginning the long drive to Las Vegas for his final semester at UNLV as a communications major. The United States Golf Association received 7,320 entries for the U.S. Amateur and and Deacon obtained one of 312 berths by finishing second at a 62-player qualifier in Rochester, where just two spots were available. Then, Deacon advanced to the 64-person match play portion of the event and was two wins away from becoming the first Canadian since 1971 (Gary Cowan) to win the prestigious tourney.

All this for a guy who had an unspectacular playing career at UNLV. He didn't make the school's team for this past season's NCAA championship.

"For one reason or another, my college career didn't go exactly like I wanted," said Deacon, who plans to attend PGA Tour qualifying school in the fall. "But the hard times and the struggles made me the person I am now. I'm not a quitter."


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