It was a knock-down-drag-out finale in the 2020 Nevada State Match Play tournament held at Genoa Lakes Golf Resort on Aug. 22-25, 2020. In the end, Tyson Lund beat Kenny Ebalo in 38 holes to win the championship. It was Lund’s first state title. Both players represent the Southern Nevada Golf Association. –-by Bill Bowman, Las Vegas Golf Insider staff.
“I have never been so mentally and emotionally drained (on a course),” Lund said.
Both Ebalo and Lund had also qualified for the 2019 state match play event but came up short. Both were knocked out of last year’s tournament by the same player–Alex Jordan. Jordan beat Ebalo in the quarterfinals and then eliminated Lund in the semifinals.
The 2020 tournament opened with an 18-hole seeding round. Both finalists had a first-round bye (Ebalo as the No. 4 seed and Lund as the No. 5 seed) before teeing it up Sunday afternoon in the Round of 16. Both won to advance to Monday morning’s Round of 8. Victories in that session moved them into the semifinals on Monday afternoon where both won their third straight head-to-head matchup to move into the finale.
That set the stage for a back-and-forth match.
Ebalo took a 1-up lead after a fourth-hole birdie but Lund birdied the next hole to square the match. Lund then grabbed a 3-up lead with birdies on the seventh, eighth and ninth holes.
Ebalo battled back and got the match even on the 17th hole before Lund again put a birdie up on the 18th hole to earn a 1-up lead heading into the second 18 holes.
“We both played flawless golf over the first 18 holes,” Lund said. “I shot 65 and was very happy with the way I played but Kenny was right there with a 66. It was just back and forth.”
Lund got it to 2-up before Ebalo again fought back to be all-square after 25 holes and after two halved holes, the two headed to the final nine holes even.
As the match wound down, the low-scoring barrage stopped. After putting up 13 birdies over the first 22 holes (nine by Lund) and two eagles (both by Ebalo), the players went the next 11 holes without a score under par.
“The last 18 I couldn’t pull it together,” Lund said. “But we both just kept battling.”
Lund thought he had a huge boost on the fourth hole of the second 18.
“I drove the green to about 15 feet,” Lund said. “I was two up at the time and that drive gave me a big boost. But then Kenny hits his drive to about five feet. I miss my eagle putt and he makes his so instead of going 3-up now I’m only 1-up. It was that kind of match.”
After Ebalo got the match back to even the two then sat in neutral until the 34th hole when Ebalo put a five-foot birdie on the board to take a 1-up lead.
Lund wasn’t through and added his own birdie on the 35th hole to again square the match heading to the final hole. Well, at least the final scheduled hole.
“I only trailed twice the entire golf tournament and one of those times was after that 34th hole,” Lund said. “I pulled myself aside and said you’ve got to get it back. I hit a six-iron for my second shot onto the green and two-putted for par and we were back to all-square.”
After both lipped out putts on the 36th hole, the match went to overtime and Lund went on to birdie the 38th hole for the win.
“I’ve never been that emotional after a win but I got a little teary eyed,” he said. “This was just a great match and a great win.”
Despite the loss, Ebalo was happy with his play.
“I played probably my best match of the week for the first 30 holes,” said Ebalo, president of the SNGA. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”
He said he only had one regret.
“I’d love to have that putt back on the 36th hole to win it,” he said. “I had about 10 feet but missed it on the high side. Not all putts go in and this one didn’t.”
2020 Nevada State Match Play
Craig Erickson def. Sean Goshert, 2-and-1
Kenny Ebalo def. Kevin Stratton, 1-up
Connor Motherway def. Marc Smith, 5-and-4
Tyson Lund def. Andrew Hawk, 2-and-1
Ebalo def. Erickson, 3-and-2
Lund def. Motherway, 2-and-1
Lund def. Ebalo, 38 holes