May 25, 2016

MAMARONECK, N.Y. (AP) SMU teammates Ben Baxter and Andrew Buchanan won the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship on Wednesday, beating Brandon Cigna and Ben Warnquist 3 and 2 at Winged Foot.

The 20-year-old Baxter, from Flower Mound, Texas, and 21-year-old Buchanan, from Los Altos, California, entered the tournament with SMU was barred from postseason play for one year because of violations.

''This is kind of a replacement for NCAAs and it turned out to be a much better replacement than we could have imagined,'' Buchanan said. ''If you offered us an NCAA championship at the beginning of the week or a USGA championship, I think that the USGA is the mecca of golf, and so to be able to win one of their championships is unbelievable.''

Baxter and Buchanan halved the par-4 16th to end the match. They took the lead with Baxter's 16-foot birdie putt on the par-5 12th and won the par-4 14th with a par and the par-4 15th with a birdie to take a three-hole advantage. On the front nine, Baxter and Buchanan won the sixth and eighth, and Cigna and Warnquist took the second and seventh.

''Seeing (former teammate) Bryson DeChambeau, Kelly Kraft, Colt Knost, all the SMU guys, they might have won U.S. Amateurs and Pub Links, but for Andrew and I to share that name on the trophy, that's pretty special,'' Baxter said.

DeChambeau turned pro the week after the Masters. He swept the NCAA and U.S. Amateur last year.

''He honestly just told us keep your pedal down the whole time, no matter if you're 4-up or 5-up, so pretty much basic advice,'' Baxter said. ''But coming from him, it means a little bit more since he's had such success in the USGA championships like the U.S. Amateur.''

In five matches on the East Course, Baxter and Buchanan played 40 holes on the back nine in 14 under, given match-play concessions.

''I'd say sometimes on the front nine, we almost got a little too complacent with our play,'' Baxter said. ''We almost got a little too comfortable getting down early in the match. On eight through 18, we felt really comfortable with our clubs off the tee and our clubs into the green. I'd say it's just keeping a positive attitude and kind of switching your mindset to a fresh start for the back nine.''

The 30-year-old Cigna is a financial adviser in Arlington, Virginia, and the 23-year-old Warnquist is a sales representative in Olney, Maryland. Cigna played at Michigan State, and Warnquist at Maryland.

''This, for me, has been one of the great highlights of my golf career,'' Cigna said. ''Working for a living, we're more of just weekend golfers, but our games jelled really well together and we knew had a chance to compete with anyone.''

In the morning semifinals, Baxter and Buchanan rallied to beat Patrick Christovich of New Orleans and hockey referee Garrett Rank of Canada 2 and 1, and Cigna and Warnquist edged Otto Black of Pinckney, Michigan, and Colin Joseph of Loveland, Ohio, 2 up. Four down after eight holes, Baxter and Buchanan birdied seven of the next nine holes, including hole victories on 15, 16 and 17.

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