Brad Hastings's calm, steady play helped him persevere in the Maryland State Golf Association's 78th annual men's amateur championship. Hastings of Hog Neck Golf Course defeated Clark Topping of Columbia Country Club, 6 and 5, to win the 36-hole championship match yesterday at the 6,998-yard North course at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville.

Hastings, a 22-year-old from Easton playing in just his second Maryland Amateur, is the first men's amateur champion from the Eastern Shore. Last year, he reached the semifinals.

"I didn't feel like I hit the ball well off the tee," Hastings said. "I really struggled on the fairway. But I was hitting my irons pretty solid and I was rolling the ball really well. That was a key factor in this match."

On a warm, muggy day, the fatigue of four days of golf weighed heavily on the competitors. Their tee shots lacked their customary distance. Their short game was erratic. Yet Hastings managed to keep his emotions in check and not let frustration affect him.

A strong finish on the back nine put Hastings up four after the first 18 holes. However, Topping had a strong start to the final round when he birdied two of the first three holes to cut Hastings's lead to two.

But just as he was beginning to mount a challenge, Topping, a 1995 All-Met from DeMatha and recent Seton Hall graduate, hit his tee shot on No. 4 into a small grove of trees. It took him two shots to get back onto the fairway.

"I figured if I did get it within two I had an opportunity to get it back to even," Topping said. "Then when I hit it into the trees, I just lost everything there."

Hastings almost allowed Topping to get back into contention on No. 9. After hitting his tee shot into the rough, Hastings made a poor club choice and ended up sending his second shot into the bunker to the right of the green. His shot out of the bunker left the ball 18 feet from the pin. Topping, who was also in the bunker, made a good pitch to within six feet of the pin. Hastings made his putt; Topping two-putted.

Instead of falling to 3-up as he expected, Hastings made the turn at 5-up.

"I was figuring he was going to make his [putt]," Hastings said. "I had to give it a run. I wasn't expecting to make it, but I thought I was putting the ball real well today. Fortunately, it found the hole."

For Topping, this tournament marked the end of his amateur career. He plans to compete in the Nike Tour qualifier in Pennsylvania on June 21.

Hastings, who will be a fifth-year senior at Coastal Carolina next fall, plans to stay an amateur for at least another year to gain more tournament experience. He won the Big South Conference tournament championship last season, which earned him conference player of the year honors.