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By Patrick Nothaft | [email protected]
KALAMAZOO, MI – Coming off a 20-hole marathon match in the semifinals, there wasn’t much time for Ben Smith and Braden Falk to regroup heading into the final round of Sunday’s 2019 Kalamazoo Country Club Invitational.
To make things even more difficult for the young team, their championship opponents — Barrett Kelpin and Isaac Hinkle — were one of just five duos to claim multiple titles in the 66-year history of the match-play event.
But the 19-year-old Smith and the 15-year-old Falk started hot and kept their foot on the gas to claim a runaway 6-and-5 win, tying a tournament record for largest margin of victory, said tournament chairperson A.J. Todd.
“It was awesome,” said Falk, who will be going into his junior year at Portage Northern. “Yesterday, we were close, and we just kind of felt a little off, but today, we just kept it rolling.”
Falk sealed the win with a birdie putt on No. 13 to give his team an insurmountable six-hole lead.
As improbable as their runaway win seemed on paper, Falk said he saw the potential in himself and teammate Smith, a sophomore at Georgia Tech who captured the 2019 Michigan Amateur championship in June.
“I saw it in us,” he said. “We had the potential to fire on some people, but we just had to get it going at the right time, and today we had it all clicking.”
Falk and Smith won the first two holes and increased their lead to four through six holes, before going up five through 11.
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