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Quinney wins US Amateur on 39th hole

With one dramatic, lightning-quick putt on the only hole of the day, Jeff Quinney won the U.S. Amateur, avoided a lifetime of "what ifs'' and got a bonus -- a golfing date next year with Tiger Woods.

Quinney, who blew a three-hole lead with three holes to play in regulation, won the weather-suspended 100th U.S. Amateur today by sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the 39th hole to defeat James Driscoll.

Along with the title, Quinney of Arizona State earned exemptions for the U.S. Open and British Open and an invitation to The Masters next year.

The U.S. Open is the big one. The reigning U.S. Amateur champion plays the first two rounds with the reigning U.S. Open champion - Woods.

"Hopefully, I can hit the ball,'' Quinney said.

Quinney, of Eugene, Ore., went to bed Sunday night thinking that exact thought after Driscoll, of Brookline, Mass., won the final three regulation holes to wipe out a 3-down deficit and force a sudden-death playoff.

The two halved the first two extra holes before the threat of lightning forced a suspension in play until 9 a.m. today.

"What a long night it was,'' the 21-year-old Quinney said. "I was really tired and fatigued. I was sitting in bed and just couldn't fall asleep. I was so frustrated on the mistakes I made yesterday, thinking this thing should have been over.''

Once play resumed on an overcast, muggy morning, all it took to decide the championship was one hole, the par-3, 204-yard third on the Upper Course at Baltusrol Golf Club.

Driscoll, a recent Virginia graduate, hit first, and his 5-iron went right and landed in the deep rough at the back of the green built on the side of a hill.

"I never thought I could have hit it back over that green in a million years with that, at that time of day and with that weather,'' Driscoll said.

Quinney debated a few seconds and hit an easy 4-iron to the center of the green.

After Driscoll's soft downhill flop shot scooted 15-20 feet past the hole and almost off the green, Quinney held a big advantage. All he would have to do was get his left-to-right putt with a break of about 15 inches in close, and Driscoll would have to make a long one to extend the match.

It never got that far.

As the putt neared the hole on line, Quinney started walking after it with his arms out, ready to celebrate like Woods did on his birdie on the first playoff hole with Bob May in the recent PGA Championship.

When the ball rolled in, Quinney extended his arms up and quickly hugged his caddie, Tyler Pendergast.

"Usually you can tell by watching the guy if he thinks he's made it or not,'' Driscoll said. "And it seemed his eyes were getting a little bigger when it was going near the hole. I was like: 'Oh man, this is going in.' It was a great putt.''

It capped a great comeback week for Quinney. He started stroke play last Monday by shooting 6-over par for his first seven holes but still managed to be among the 64 players from the field of 312 to reach match play.

He rallied from 4-down to beat Ben Curtis, a semifinalist a year ago, in the third round, then came back from 3-down with six to play to beat 18-year-old Hunter Mahan 2-up in the quarterfinals. After beating 48-year-old David Eger in the semifinals, he shook off his collapse on Sunday to finish off Driscoll today.

"I would have been real disappointed if I would have lost,'' Quinney said. "I don't know what I would have done. Gone back to school. I would not have been able to show my face the way things went yesterday when I gave it back to him. I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself.''

When he thinks back, Driscoll may wonder what would have happened if play had not been stopped because of the threat of bad weather on Sunday night. He had the momentum and seemingly the crowd, including about 100 relatives, on his side.

"It definitely was a different atmosphere this morning,'' Driscoll said. "Last night, you know, you're in a groove, you're sweating, you're into match play. There's a certain rhythm you're in.''

Driscoll didn't have that today. Quinney did.

By winning, Quinney also earned the last spot on the United States team that will play in the World Amateur in Germany, starting later this week.

The 39 holes tied the U.S. Amateur record for the longest title match. Sam Urzetta beat Frank Stranahan in 39 holes in 1950.

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