The duo was even when they reached the 36th hole at the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club and Dennis, who drove first, hit his tee ball in a lateral water hazard. Eaton found the short grass with his drive, then knocked a 4-iron from 205 yards out to 25 feet.
Dennis took his drop, and missed the green short with his third shot. He chipped to 10 feet, then Eaton lagged his birdie try to 2 feet. Dennis missed his bogey putt and conceded the hole and match to Eaton.
'It's pretty amazing,' said Eaton, who earned his first USGA championship. 'When I knelt out there next to the trophy on the 18th green, it kind of hit me then that it's my trophy this year. It's pretty cool. And I've got a lot of amazing golf tournaments to play in.'
Eaton is now exempt from qualifying for the next 10 U.S. Mid-Amateurs, the next two U.S. Amateurs and will likely receive an invitation to play in the 2005 Masters.
Dennis also gets some consideration for coming in second in only his first USGA championship. He is exempt from qualifying for the next three U.S. Mid-Amateurs and next year's U.S. Amateur.
'I probably came further than I ever thought I could,' said Dennis. 'I'll be very excited tonight when I get home. After I settle down and forget about that last shot, I'll be very happy.'
Eaton was in control during the first 18 holes of the 36-hole final. He built a 4-up lead before he missed a 4-footer at the 18th hole. Dennis won two of the first four holes in the afternoon session to cut the deficit to 1-down. Dennis knotted the match at the 26th hole and took his first lead when Eaton lipped out a 2-foot par save at the 29th hole.
Eaton squared the match at the 30th hole, then went 1-up with a par at the 31st hole. He squandered an opportunity to extend his lead at the 32nd hole when he missed a 6-footer short.
Dennis tied the contest when he drained a 15-foot birdie putt at the 34th hole. The pair halved the 35th when Eaton sank a clutch 4-footer, but wrapped up the title at the closing hole.
'He had the look in the eyes and all afternoon he looked confident,' said Eaton. 'He putted it very confidently. I thought he was going to take it away from me if I didn't step up and he nearly did.'
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.