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Steve Scott returns to Pumpkin Ridge
Author: Mike Tokito
April 14th 2016 - View a video of Steve Scott here.

Of all of the things that happened during his epic championship match against Tiger Woods in the 1996 U.S. Amateur at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Steve Scott wishes one thing had gone differently: lunch.

As in, he wishes he and Woods had skipped the 90-minute midway break during the 36-hole match and just kept playing. Scott, after all, ended the morning 18 holes with a 5-up lead.

"I wish I could've gone right back out, to be honest," Scott said.

Instead, they stopped for lunch, then Woods staged a mammoth comeback in front of a national TV audience and an estimated 15,000 spectators lining the Witch Hollow course. Woods won on the 38th hole, capping one of the most storied amateur careers in golf history with an unprecedented third consecutive U.S. Amateur title.

The championship match has become a big part of Woods lore, and Scott made a name for himself because of it. On Wednesday, Scott will take a break from his duties as head professional at Paramount Country Club in New City, New York, to start a two-day appearance at Pumpkin Ridge in which he will give a clinic and share his memories of the Amateur.

"It's kind of cool because that match has kind of carried me throughout my career," Scott said. "It's done a lot for me."

The trip, arranged by the facility's new owner, Escalante Golf, will be Scott's first back to the North Plains course since the championship.

"We're honored to host Steve for his first visit to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club since 1996," Escalante president David McDonald said. "His name and Pumpkin Ridge are inextricably linked with a legendary moment in golf history that we're looking forward to revisiting."

Woods, who had finished his sophomore year at Stanford earlier in the year, arrived at Pumpkin Ridge with sky-high hype amid anticipation of a historic win, and chatter that he might turn pro after the Amateur. The speculation escalated when Nike chairman Phil Knight was seen in the gallery.

Casual fans might not have known him, but Scott – who was about to begin his sophomore year at Florida -- was considered one of the golfers to watch. He had reached the semifinals the year before, missing a final matchup against Woods when he lost on the 19th hole to veteran Buddy Marucci, who was then beaten 2-up by Woods. Scott also had played in the U.S. Open two months before, making the cut.

But Scott's week seemed derailed from the start. Starting at the same 10th hole where his week ended, Scott's shot an opening 79 to start the 36 holes of stroke play that determined the 64-player match play field.

"It was crazy, I thought I was done," Scott said.

But he bounced back with a 66 in the second round to reach match play.

Even with all the hype surrounding Woods, Scott said he did not study the match play bracket to see what round he would meet Woods in.

"No, I didn't think that at all," he said. "You just try to go match by match. Until about the semifinals, I didn't really look ahead like that."

Scott rode a hot putter through match play. In the quarterfinals, he avenged his loss to Marucci, winning 1-up. In the semifinals, he had to play his Florida teammate, Robert Floyd, son of Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd, and beat him 3 and 2.

That sent him to the championship match against Woods. Even after building the 5-up halfway lead, Scott knew nothing was assured.

Critics often note that Woods did not win any of his 14 major championships coming from behind, but as an amateur, Woods was a comeback machine. In 1994, he won his first U.S. Amateur after Trip Kuehne built a 6-up lead early, and Kuehne still had a 5-up lead with 12 holes left. Marucci led the 1995 final by three holes at one point.

So it was no surprise when Woods staged his epic comeback, trimming Scott's lead to one after the first nine holes of the afternoon round.

The 10th hole at Witch Hollow has a plaque that was dedicated in 2000 with a ceremony that Woods attended, shortly before his record-breaking U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach. The hole was where Woods clinched the match with a par on the second extra hole, but it could have had a very different significance. Starting the final nine holes, Scott chipped in for birdie there to build his lead back to two.

"I guess you're just trying to play great shots one at a time," Scott said. "It's not much more than that, really."

The match's iconic moment came on the 35th hole, where Woods rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt, then unleashed his signature uppercut fist pump as the crowd roared. Scott, who had missed the green but was closer to the hole, had a chip to halve the hole, but he could not make it, and the match was tied.

"It was something, just to be in that moment," Scott said. "You really can't play defense, so you just kind of tip your hat to the guy. He made a great putt."

Woods went on to win on the second extra hole, becoming the first golfer to win three consecutive U.S. Amateurs. Soon after, he turned pro.

As for Scott, he finds very little negative from the week despite the loss. He had to fly back to Florida the next day for the start of school, and was greeted by a reception at the airport. A few weeks later, he and Floyd were honored during a Gators football game.

"You don't really come down from the high for quite a while," Scott said. "It was such a big match."

While Woods went off to the PGA Tour, Scott completed his four years at Florida, along the way playing on two U.S. Walker Cup teams and winning the Western Amateur, before turning pro in 1999. He was not able to make the PGA Tour, and at 38, has settled into life as a club professional at Paramount, an old-school AW Tillinghast-designed course.

"I teach a lot, I play with the members, I run the golf shop, the merchandise concession here, I run tournaments, I manage all the staff," he said. "I do a lot."

He still competes in about a dozen tournaments each year in the highly-competitive Met section of the PGA of America, and last year, he competed in the PGA Professional National Championship, where news story recounted his match against Woods. The last few weeks, he has done several Portland-area interviews in advance of his return to Pumpkin Ridge.

In addition to Woods and Scott, one other person from the 1996 U.S. Amateur attained celebrity status. Scott's girlfriend, Kristi Hommel, who played golf at Florida Southern, served as his caddie, and the supportive way she helped Scott resonated with fans and TV viewers.

The couple married in 1999, and they live on a house on Paramount. They'll return to Pumpkin Ridge together, bringing son Jeffrey, 7, and daughter Kaylie, 5, with them.

Scott said he's not sure what memories will be triggered when he visits Pumpkin Ridge after 20 years, but he is eager to share the experience with his family.

"I think the neatest thing is being able to go back there with my kids," he said, "and show them where mom and dad had their big match, part of golf history, something that as they get older, they'll appreciate more and more."

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