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Hahn wins Western Amateur
By Joe Aguilar | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/9/200 12:23 AM

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As he stood outside the Conway Farms clubhouse, waiting to be introduced and handed the Western Amateur's coveted silver trophy that will be engraved with his name on it, John Hahn did a quick change.

For photograph purposes, he slipped off his black golf shirt, which had stitched on it a brand name that wasn't the title sponsor of the tournament, and put on a fresh-from-the-pro-shop blue shirt.

OK, so it wasn't a green jacket. Hahn seemed just as ecstatic to be the champion of a tournament that Tiger Woods once called "The Masters of amateur golf."

Saying it's the greatest championship he has ever won, the 20-year-old from Ohio won the 107th edition of the Western Am by outlasting Zach Barlow of downstate Percy 3-and-two in the match-play final on a sweltering Saturday.

The heat was made slightly bearable thanks to 25-mph winds gusting through the private golf course in Lake Forest.

"I won the MAC championship and a tournament in Maryland that no one knows about, and then this," Hahn, an incoming junior at Kent State University, said with a laugh. "I'm very proud to win this championship."

While Hahn moved to Las Vegas this summer after his father took a job there, he grew up in Ohio, a state that also boasts past Western Amateur champs Jack Nicklaus (1961) and Tom Weiskopf (1963).

Hahn has gotten to know another Ohioan with a successful golf background in 2003 British Open champ Ben Curtis, who also attended Kent State.

"He's a great role model for me," Hahn said.

Hahn beat 19-year-old Bud Cauley of Florida 2-and-one in the morning and then teed off against Barlow, the 22-year-old who's entering his senior year at the University of Illinois.

Barlow bested 19-year-old Patrick Reed of Georgia 3-and-2 in their morning match.

Barlow went 1-up after Hahn missed a 3-foot bogey putt on the par-3 second. But Hahn pulled even on No. 3 when Barlow bogeyed and went ahead for good when he rolled in a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 4.

When Barlow lipped out a 10-footer for par on No. 5, Hahn was 2-up. Barlow's bogey-4 on the par-3 sixth put Hahn ahead by three and the deficit proved too great, especially after Barlow 3-putted from short range on No. 9.

"I definitely could have played better," Barlow said. "I didn't play well in the afternoon, but credit to John. He had me on the ropes early."

Down 4 with 5 holes to go, Barlow birdied the par-5 14th, but Hahn prevailed when he sank a 21/2 footer for par on No. 16, after Barlow missed his birdie putt.

"Playing with Zach is tough because he's such a good competitor," Hahn said. "Obviously he didn't have his best day, but it's tough to have a good day in 25 mile-an-hour winds. I have a lot of respect for him.

"It's funny - and this is with the utmost respect to both Southern and West-Coast boys - but I think there's something about a Midwest player.

"It's more of a grind-it-out player, because we're not used to playing in conditions that allow 20-, 30-under par like the Southern boys play in, When a guy like (Barlow) gets down, you never count him out because he's always going to hang in there. And he did."

Barlow had no regrets about his week.

"This is a big steppingstone," Barlow said. "It's almost a career-changer."