Saturday, December 3, 2022

Deutsch prevails with late birdie over Kwak to win the 30th Inland Empire Amateur

[Photo] Steven Deutsch tees off on the eighteenth hole of Monday’s final round in the 2022 Inland Empire Amateur Championship at Murrieta’s Bear Creek Golf Club. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

— MURRIETA – Golf is a funny game. One minute you can be struggling in qualifiers with your college team and the next you can be hoisting a championship trophy. That’s exactly the spot that Stephen Deutsch, a sophomore at Long Beach State, found himself in on Monday afternoon at Murrieta’s Bear Creek Golf Club.

In a third straight day of 100-plus degree heat Deutsch was efficient in making five birdies and one lone bogey to win the Inland Empire Amateur title by three shots over Sunny Hills High School senior Jeffrey Kwak.

The CSULB sophomore remarked, “Playing three different layouts in three days in this heat took a lot of mental fortitude and it was a grind for all 54 holes. Coming into the week I needed a confidence boost because our first couple of qualifying rounds for the Washington tournament have not been going well for me. Hopefully, this performance is something I can carry forward into the season ahead.”

Deutsch made six straight pars and then turned with two birdies in three holes at seven (nearly holing an 80-yard wedge shot) and nine (holing out from the back greenside bunker) to go out in -2 (34). Kwak joined him with an outward 34 after making three birdies (three, eight and nine) to one lone bogey at the first. The high school senior nearly holed a wedge from 60 yards at three, rolled in a birdie at eight from about 15 feet, and then two putted at nine for birdie from 80 feet.

After nine holes, the pair found themselves tied at -8 for the tournament and in a classic match play duel.

Deutsch said about the match play feel, in match play you always assume your opponent is going to hit a great shot and make you earn whatever happens. Both nine and eleven were perfect examples of that philosophy and just how high a level of golf you have to play to win this tournament.”

At 11, Kwak went for the par five green in two and stuck his approach to three feet. He’d convert the subsequent eagle opportunity and take a one-shot lead after Deutsch got up and down from just in front of the green.

A hole laterKwak gave back the lead after failing to get up and down at the par 3 twelfth and the pair again found themselves tied for the lead. He fell one shot back after calmly rolling in a ten-footer at thirteen for par while Deutsch made a short 2.5-foot putt for birdie.

As smoke from the nearby Fairview Fire in Hemet began working its way over the Bear Creek property both Deutsch and Kwak found themselves with short up and down opportunities for birdie at the par five fourteenth. Kwak converted from just short and right of the green to tie the lead.

It was the day’s final tie as a hole later Deutsch rolled in a 25-foot bomb to grab a two-shot lead when Kwak’s par putt did a 360-degree tour of the hole before staying above ground.

Deutsch says, “As we were coming up to the green, I told my mom (who was caddying today) that I hadn’t made much all day. It was straight up the hill, I gave it a good run, and it found the bottom.”

Under the new rules of amateur status, Deutsch collects $1,000 for the win.

Temescal Canyon’s Nixon Lauritzen tees off in Monday’s Final Round of the Inland Empire Amateur at Murrieta’s Bear Creek Golf Club. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

Locally, Murrieta’s Ronny Zheng was the high Valley News area finisher at +2 (72-75-70=217) which was a T13. Great Oak’s Nathan Sampson shot rounds of 74-72-72=218 (+3) and finished T16. Nixon Lauritzen of Temescal Canyon held the overnight lead after day one with a -3 round of 69 at Tukwet Canyon (Champions) but followed it up with rounds of 74 and 76 to finish in a T19 (+4 219).

Derryl Trujillo can be reached via email at

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