Like most golf-course conversation, it was coordinated via whisper.
As Chase Hanna’s victory Sunday became increasingly certain, word of this plan spread at Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills.
Finally, when Hanna shook the hand of opponent Sam Stevens on the 15th green Sunday, it was launched; the once-quiet gallery became a chorus, serenading the Shawnee Mission East graduate with an abbreviated version of “Happy Birthday.”
On his 19th birthday, Hanna won the 103rd Kansas Amateur Match Play Championship, capping six days and 156 holes on the par-70 course with a gift he’s unlikely to forget — good thing, because the University of Kansas-bound golfer said he didn’t have a birthday back-up plan if he didn’t reach the final.
“I always thought I had a great chance (to get this far),” said Hanna, who needed just 33 of the scheduled 36 holes to defeat Stevens 5 and 3 in front of dozens of singing family member, friends, teammates and former classmates 10 minutes from his Leawood home and a few blocks from his alma mater.
Hanna, who last week was named the Star’s All-Metro boys golfer of the year, already won the 54-hole Kansas Junior Amateur by 8 strokes last month and the 36-hole Missouri Junior Amateur by 3 strokes earlier this month.
“I definitely had high expectations, but I wouldn’t say I expected to win,” he said.
After qualifying seventh for this week’s 64-player match-play field, four of Hanna’s five matches before Sunday’s final went 18 holes or longer. His quarterfinal Saturday went 20.
“I caught some pretty good breaks,” said Hanna after becoming the second player to win Kansas junior amateur and amateur titles in the same year. “You have to have some breaks to win this tournament.”
Against Stevens, a 17-year-old Kapaun Mount Carmel senior with two 5A state championships who is verbally committed to Oklahoma State, Hanna consistently hit solid recovery shots when his long drives went into the rough, and used an accurate short game to keep the pressure on.
Stevens’ only lead came after Hanna’s bogey on No. 4. Hanna then won three of the next four holes with birdies to go 2-up. Stevens twice closed to all square on the back nine, including with an eagle on the par-5 18th heading into the hour-long lunch break.
During the afternoon round, Hanna opened with a pair of 12-foot putts to win the 19th and 20th holes and chipped in from 40-feet on No. 5 (the 23rd hole of the final) to again go 2-up. He took the 26th hole (No. 8) when Stevens couldn’t match Hanna’s birdie with a shot from the bunker, then was awarded the 27th (No. 9) when Stevens was penalized for taking a practice shot out of the bunker after conceding the 26th.
“He had the momentum right off the bat (in the second 18),” said Stevens, whose grandfather (Johnny, 1960 and 61), uncle (Jack, 1974), and father (Charlie, 2010) each won the Kansas Amateur. “In match play there are a lot of momentum changes. One shot can change the whole mood of the match.”
Those two holes did, putting Hanna 4-up heading into the back nine while comforting a partisan gallery that swelled from about a dozen before 8 a.m. to more than 60 by mid-afternoon to prepare their song.