9th Annual NCGA Valley & Senior Amateur Championship
September 17-18, 2012
September 18, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
MADERA – Spending the majority of his days at Riverbend GC over the past five years, Danny Paniccia found it refreshing to be holding the NCGA Valley Amateur Championship crystal trophy at his place of work Tuesday. After two solid days of play, Paniccia won the 9th Annual NCGA Valley Amateur Championship by a four-stroke margin, posting a two-day total of 141.
Paniccia, a golf shop attendant at Riverbend GC, followed his three-under par 69 on Monday with an even-par 72 on Tuesday, a day where fellow co-leaders Ryan Forst and Mike Stieler faded.
“It’s nice to win [an NCGA major], I have been close and had some chances, but it’s nice to finally come through,” said Paniccia, who finished third at this year’s NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship and lost in the semifinals of the NCGA Amateur Match Play.
The 35 year-old got off to a solid start with a birdie on the opening hole and from there he would make nine straight pars before bogeying the par-5 11th hole. The Clovis resident continued to play steady with six pars over the final eight holes, the only exceptions being a birdie on the par-4 13th and bogey on the par-4 16th.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I was yesterday, but I was just trying to stay focused one shot at time,” he said.
With the victory, Paniccia finds himself in the middle of a competitive NCGA Player of the Year race with collegiate golfers Ben Geyer and Michael Weaver. The 500 points that will soon come his way will put him only 27 points behind first place leader Geyer, meaning he’ll be in striking distance to overtake the lead with a solid performance at one of the few non-NCGA point events that remain.
“It wasn’t in the cards to start the year, but I’ll take a look at it and see if something fits my schedule,” said Paniccia on whether or not he’ll play in an event over the final two weeks of the points’ season.
Finishing in a three-way tie for second were Daniel Butcher, Steve Wilson and Forst at 145, one-over par. Wilson, who earned the second place medal due to a scorecard playoff, shot the low score of the day in the championship division with a two-under par 70. Butcher followed his one-over par 73 on Monday with a 72 on Tuesday, while Forst struggled to a 76 after an opening round 69.
Fellow first round co-leader Stieler finished tied for fifth at 146 with Josh Stone and Matt Cohn. Wes Sandroni finished alone in eighth at 147, while defending champion Logan Goulding finished tied for ninth at 148 with Craig Kilcoyne.
Jeff Burda came away champion of the senior division, after starting the day four strokes off the lead. The Modesto resident followed his first round 73 with a two-under par 70 on Tuesday, which included three birdies and one bogey, for a 36-hole total of one-under par 143.
“I was surprised to win, I figured I would need to shoot about a 68,” said Burda. “But you never know, pars can go a long way out here.”
The key stretch for Burda was as he was making the turn, converting birdies on the eighth, 10th and 11th holes. On the par-5 eighth the 59 year-old hit a wedge to four feet for birdie. Then on No. 10, he made a 20-foot birdie putt and followed that with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 11th from 70 feet. His only blemish would come two holes later on the par-4 13th hole where he three-putted for bogey.
Burda, a two-time NCGA Senior champion and a three-time CGA State Senior champion had yet to win a Senior Valley Championship, although he’d come close before losing in a playoff in 2010 at Morgan Creek GCC to Paul Balatti.
“That was in the back of my mind coming into this tournament, so it’s nice to finally check this one off my list,” he said of his first Senior Valley Championship title.
Finishing in a three-way tie for second were Casey Boyns, Mel Collins and Gary Vanier at 145, one-over par. Boyns, who was honored with the runner-up medal via a scorecard playoff, posted an even-par 72, which included three birdies and three bogeys. Collins started the day well back after a first round 76, but he fired the best score among the seniors Tuesday with a three-under par 69. Collins, amazingly made seven birdies on the day, including five over his first eight holes, but he would give some shots back over his final nine taking two bogeys and a double-bogey. Vanier, who had started the day in second place, followed his opening round 71 with a two-over par 74, which included an excruciating double-bogey on the par-4 18th, keeping him out of a potential playoff.
First round leader Doug Johnson struggled in his final round, following his three-under 69 with a seven-over par 79 to finish at 152, tied for 16th place. Defending Senior Valley Champion, Jim Knoll completed 36 holes tied for sixth at 146 two-over par.
September 17, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
MADERA – Course knowledge at Riverbend GC proved to be key, Monday, at the 9th Annual NCGA Valley Amateur Championship as two of the three 18-hole leaders of the championship flight happen to be Riverbend GC employees and the leader of the senior division was the first men’s club’s president. Danny Paniccia and Mike Stieler, who both fired rounds of three-under par 69, along with Ryan Forst, lead the championship division, and Doug Johnson leads the senior division, also having posted a three-under 69.
Paniccia, who works in the golf shop and has for the past five years, and Stieler who is the course’s superintendent and has been at Riverbend for 13 years, each play golf at the Madera course at least once week. They figure the between the two of them probably more than 1,000 rounds have been played, which would be hard to dispute after the excellent rounds they put together.
Getting off to a quick start and the first to post a 69 was Paniccia, birdieing three of the first six holes (Nos. 1, 5 and 6). From there he then played the final 12 holes at even-par making two bogeys, two birdies and eight pars.
“I hit it pretty well today and kept my ball in play,” said the Clovis resident, who hit 17 out of 18 greens in regulation.
The 35 year-old, who currently stands fourth on the Player of the Year points list, has already had a stellar year in NCGA championships, with a third place finish at the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play and a semifinal appearance in the NCGA Amateur Match Play. Having been in contention before and playing a course he’s played hundreds of times, Paniccia feels good about going into tomorrow’s round.
“I pretty much just need to do what I did today [to win],” he said. “Nothing is automatic, but I just need to hit greens and stay out of my own way.”
Stieler, who is Paniccia’s regular partner in the NCGA Four-Ball Championship, finished about 15 minutes later, matching his score. Starting off the 10th tee, the Coaresgold resident also made three birdies early in his round converting them on the 11th, 16th and 17th to go along with a bogey on the 14th. On the front nine, the 45 year-old would make bogeys on Nos. 3 and 4 to fall to even-par, before rallying with three straight birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8.
“I putted well today, but hit it just okay,” he said of his opening round.
Having finished runner-up in this event last year after losing in a sudden-death playoff to Logan Goulding, and having lost twice to Paniccia in the Outlaw Cup and Riverbend Club Championship, Stieler feels he may be due to win, but he doesn’t feel any extra pressure in his situation as some golfers likely would.
“It will be a relaxed group tomorrow,” said Stieler. “I’d love to win, but I’d love to see Danny win, so no matter what it’s a win-win situation.”
Forst, who played in the final group off the first tee, put together a near flawless round of 69 as he converted four birdies and one bogey on the day. After birdieing the par-4 second hole and par-4 fifth hole, the 36 year-old made his lone bogey on the par-4 sixth hole to go out with a one-under 35. On the back nine, the Sacramento resident would make his birdies on the par-3 14th and par-5 15th to come in with a two-under 34.
Sitting three shots back in a tie for fourth place at even-par 72 are three players including defending champion Goulding. The other two are Joshua Stone of Stockton and San Mateo’s Neil Summers.
In the senior division, Johnson’s 69 included plenty of red numbers, converting four birdies and an eagle on the day to go along with three bogeys. Starting the day off the 10th, the Fresno resident would make an eagle on the 11th and birdie on the 13th, before taking bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18. However, the 60 year-old would get hot again making birdies on the second, fourth and fifth hole, but take a bogey on a ninth.
“It’s a home course advantage for me because I have been out here since they opened it,” he said.
Johnson has recently been battling an injury that has caused him to make adjustments to his stance and kept him away from the golf course over the past month although it didn’t prove to affect his score.
“I’m going to come out swinging tomorrow, just hoping it doesn’t hurt,” explained Johnson of his game plan for tomorrow’s round.
Johnson is closely followed by two-time Senior Valley Champion Gary Vanier, who’s alone in second place at one-under par 71. Alone in third is Gregory Saiki of Sanger at even-par 72. Seven players are tied for fourth at one-over par 73, including defending Senior Valley Amateur Champion Jim Knoll, and other perennial contenders Casey Boyns and Jeff Burda.
The final round Tuesday will begin at 7:30 a.m. off of double tees with the seniors going off first and the championship flight following.
NCGA Valley Amateur Championship Preview
September 14, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
The 9th Annual Valley Amateur Championship will take place this coming Monday and Tuesday at Riverbend GC in Madera for the second year in and a row, and if it’s anything like last year’s event, it should be captivating theatre. Last year Logan Goulding beat Mike Stieler in a sudden-death playoff, but under the most unusual of circumstances. Stieler accidentally kicked his ball on the second playoff hole, adding a penalty stroke to the score of his hole, which would ultimately be the difference.
That incidence is without mentioning other dramatic storylines:
- Going into the final round there were eight players had at least a one-stroke advantage on Goulding going into the final round.
- The three first round co-leaders (Nick Moore, Grant Rappleye and Scott Roak), who played spectacularly in the first round for scores of two-under par 70, fizzled in the final round with both Moore and Rappleye shooting north of 80. Moreover, Roak, unknowingly at the time of playing the 18th hole, only needed a bogey to win the championship, a double-bogey to get in a playoff, but instead took a triple-bogey to lose by one.
- In the senior division Jim Knoll came from five shots back to overtake Gary Vanier for the senior title.
Yes, the Valley Amateur returns, and while it might not live up to last year’s billing, there are some interesting storylines still to consider, even before the first ball is teed up.
- Double-wave on Monday: Traditionally, the championship has taken place with all the golfers out on the course at once, going off double tees. However, there was such a high demand this year that the championship was changed to a double wave with the championship and senior flights each going out one day in the morning and the other day in the afternoon. However, with the field size having been reduced to withdrawals, the championship will keep the double wave on Monday and have a two-tee start Tuesday.
- Goulding and Knoll both will defend: Both of last year’s champions will look to defend their titles. Goulding will tee off at 9:00 a.m. off the first tee on Monday, while Knoll will tee off a little more than four hours later at 1:21 p.m.
- Randy Haag going for title and Player of the Year: In order to win his unprecedented seventh NCGA Player of the Year—not to mention fourth straight—Haag will need to win to overtake the top of the points list and at very least finish in the top-three to get close. The 53-year-old is currently third place on the points list and 393 points behind leader Ben Geyer. Danny Paniccia, who is fourth on the points list is 527 points behind Geyer, and would need a win and extra points elsewhere to grab the top spot. Haag tees off No. 10 at 8:33 a.m. Monday, while Paniccia also tees off at 8:33 a.m. except off of No. 1 tee.