Los Angeles - Lee Walker from the United States birdied the 16th and 17th holes at Riviera Country Club to topple Kyle McClatchie 2&1 in the first round of the US Amateur, but South Africa top amateur was upbeat about the experience, especially after the lead changed hands no less than eight times during the tightly contested battle.
"Competing in three rounds of the US Amateur was the most awesome experience and I've had loads of fun with my parents in the United States," said McClatchie.
"Coming away from the event, I know now where I stand against the best and I know I'm not that far away. That's really encouraging for me and I will work harder for the next couple of months to come to build up to the European Q-School."
McClatchie was one of 7 149 hopefuls across the globe who started the hunt for the world's most sough-after amateur title in July.
The GolfRSA National Squad player won his spot in the 312-strong starting line-up in a regional qualifier in North Carolina and headed to Los Angeles alongside compatriots Ian Snyman and Ross Sinclair.
However, at the end of the 36-hole Stroke Play Qualifier, the 19-year-old from Ekurhuleni was the lone South African to reach the match play stage.
McClatchie drew first blood against Walker with a birdie at the par four first and the pair halved the second and third holes in pars.
The American squared the match with a birdie at the short fourth hole, but McClatchie won the fifth to move 1-up again.
Walker squared with a birdie at the par three sixth, the South African won the seventh with a birdie but the American levelled the match again with a birdie at the par four eighth.
After the turn, the Texas golfer edged ahead with a birdie at 11, but this time McClatchie squared the match with a birdie at 12.
The pair halved 13 and 14 in pars before the American wrapped up the victory with the back-to-back birdie finish.
"I played some really solid golf, but I didn't take my chances when I had them, like at nine and 10," said McClatchie.
"I also missed a short putt at 11 to halve, but I hung in there. Walker took the wind out of my sails with the birdie at 16 and I just couldn't respond and then my birdie putt at 17 lipped out. That's match play, though. Some days it happens for you, other days you’re at the losing end."
While obviously disappointed to fall at the first hurdle, reaching the match play stage was just another milestone for the first South African golfer to make an Olympic debut in the Youth Olympics in 2014.
So far this season, McClatchie racked up a Big Easy Tour title, victories in the North West Open and Western Province Amateur Match Play and celebrated his 19th birthday as the English Men's Open Stroke Play champion.
He was only the fifth South African to lift the prestigious Brabazon Trophy after former winners Neville Sundelson (1974), Richard Kaplan (1986), Craig Rivett (1989) and Charl Schwartzel in 2002.
"I've had a really amazing season with a lot of highlights at home and abroad," he said.
"Competing in the United States put a lot of things into perspective and I am close to where I wanted to be at this point of the season.
"We will be heading back to South Africa soon. I'm playing the Mpumalanga Open and representing Ekurhuleni at the SA Interprovincial and then I'm heading to Europe for Q-School."