Southern Nevada’s Craig Erickson, playing out of Spanish Trail, survived four days of quality competition, a weather delay in the 36-hole finale and 100-plus holes of golf in beating former UNLV walk on Alex Jordan 3-and-2 to win the 2019 Nevada State Match Play Championship held July 28-31, 2019, at exclusive Tom Fazio-design The Summit in Las Vegas. –By Bill Bowman, Las Vegas Golf Insider staff.
The four-day event started with 32 of the top golfers in the state playing 18 holes for seeding purposes. Jack Kozlowski earned the top seed while Erickson, showing signs of what was to come, earned the third seed.
That set the stage for the round of 32 on Monday morning with match play whittling it down to 16 for an afternoon session that eliminated eight more golfers. Tuesday saw the top eight players go head-to-head to set up an afternoon session where the four remaining players battled it out to get into Wednesday’s finale….which meant another 36 holes of match play. The top eight golfers were Kenny Ebalo, Edward Fryatt, Erickson, Hazen Newman, Jordan, Tyson Lund, Kozlowski and William White.
The final four were Erickson, Jordan, White and Lund. Jordan took care of Lund in 21 holes while Erickson dispatched White 2 & 1. Erickson took down multiple SNGA player of the year Edward Fryatt 2 & 1 on the round of 8 quarterfinals.
In the end, Erickson was the last man standing using three birdies in a four-hole stretch to pull away for the title. For the three days of match play, Erickson saw the 18th hole only one time in match play and that was closing out the first 18 of the title match. He won matches 5-and-4, 2-and-1, 2-and-1, 2-and-1 and, finally, 3-and-2 in the championship match.
The Summit, which opened in 2017, was a dramatic backdrop and a unique experience for the state’s top players. The course is the crown jewel of the private community, which is owned and operated by Discovery Land. Hall of Fame architect Tom Fazio was the designer and Erickson was able to handle the challenge and play well throughout the event, taking down some of the state’s top players along the way.
“I really played good golf,” said Erickson who works for a mechanical contractor. “I contend in these events but don’t win many. When you beat kids who play college golf or a guy with a resume like Ed Fryatt, it’s phenomenal.”
Winning the championship proved to be quite the challenge.
In the 36-hole finale, the players traded the lead for the first 16 holes before Erickson birdied the final two holes of the morning 18 holes to grab a 2-up lead.
“It was a scrambling day for him,” Erickson said of Jordan’s play. “He’s a top-notch player and his short game is quality. From what I hear, it’s a good thing I played him today instead of yesterday because the guys he bat yesterday said he played so well.”
The lead on the back nine didn’t last long as Jordan won two of the first three holes in the afternoon round to square the match.
“I had a lead after the first 18 but I’ve been losing that first hole left and right,” Erickson said. “Alex beat me on the par-5 both times and I lost the third hole. In fact, I lost those two holes to almost everybody.”
Two more holes were halved before Erickson took control with wins in four straight holes, three of them with birdies, to take a 4-up lead heading to the final nine.
“It really seems to come in spurts,” Erickson said. “If you get the right yardages over three or four holes, you’ve just got to let it go. I hit it close during that stretch because I had perfect numbers.”
Jordan did make one final run, winning the first two holes of the final nine before Erickson again put a birdie on the board on the 31st hole to again stretch the lead to three with five to go. Erickson then closed out the match on the 16th hole.
“On 16 I had a 20-to-25 footer for birdie,” he said. “The funny thing is I had the exact same line earlier and knew it was a right edge putt. It never left the center of the cup and it won the match.”
Erickson added the final day proved to be a challenge because of the wind. “It was blowing a completely different direction today,” he said. “It was 3, 4, 5 clubs different. It was a whole different day.”
Erickson’s last win was the SNGA’s short game event in mid-2018 at Desert Willow. “I don’t get to play as much as I’d like to so to win an event like this is really special,” he said.