NCGA Four-Ball Championship
Spyglass Hill GC
May 10-12, 2013
May 12, 2013
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – Danny Paniccia and Mike Stieler came away victorious on Sunday, winning the 47th Annual NCGA Four-Ball Championship with a 54-hole score of 200, 16-under par. The 36-hole leaders followed rounds of 68 and 65, with a 67 on Sunday to edge out Randy Haag and Jim Knoll at 201, 15-under par.
On Friday and Saturday it was Paniccia, who did most of the heavy lifting, accounting for all but two of the better-ball scores over the first 36 holes. However, on Sunday, it was Stieler who came through in a big way. Teeing off No. 1 at 9:00 a.m. Stieler got hot right out of the gate making birdies on Nos. 1, 2 and 4 to quickly expand their lead and give them the separation they would eventually need.
“I came out feeling really good and really confident,” said Stieler. “After two days of banging it around out here, I finally felt like I had a good feel and rhythm.”
Paniccia would then add birdies on the next two par-5s, Nos. 7 and 11, while Stieler would add another birdie on the final par-5 No. 14, getting them to six-under on the day. A bogey on the par-4 16th, their first and only team bogey over the entire 54-hole event would prove not to matter as Stieler knocked in a two-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a one-stroke victory.
“That was the only hole I was nervous on all day, was No. 18,” said Stieler, who knew they had a one-stroke lead with one to play.
The Riverbend GC employees’ 54-hole score of 200 marks a tie for fourth lowest score in tournament history, and the first time a team has reached that total since Taylor Travis and Ryan Sloane in 2008. Both players are thrilled to be in such elite company and to have won this event in the fashion that they did.
“That’s teamwork,” said Paniccia, referring to the rotating good play between one another. “That’s the only way you can win out here.”
Leapfrogging into second place, Haag and Knoll, the six-time NCGA Player of the Year and two-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year, fired a final round score of six-under par 66, Sunday. Beginning the day in a tie for fourth place at 135, nine-under par, the formidable duo had their second straight bogey-free day consisting of four birdies and an eagle. After making a pair of birdies on Nos. 3 and 6, the tandem would roll off seven straight pars until an eagle on the par-5 14th. Then to close out their round and put some pressure on the leaders, Haag and Knoll birdied the 17th and 18th.
In a tie for third place at 203, 13-under par were Jon Peterson and Eddie Davis, and John Sawin and Robert Grube.
Peterson and Davis had a mistake-free day as far as not making any bogeys, but only were able to capitalize on three holes, Nos. 4, 7 and 17, making birdies on each of them. Sawin and Grube, who began the day in a tie for second with Peterson and Davis were able to convert more birdies, but yielded strokes with bogeys on Nos. 6 and 8. Playing in the final group, Sawin and Grube scored their birdies on Nos. 1, 4, 7, 14 and 15.
Tied for fifth at 204, 11-under par were the teams of Mark Sear and Steve Sear, and Cameron Champ and Gary Dunn. The Sears carded a third straight round of 68, while Champ and Dunn got progressively worse each day, going 67-68-69.
The round of the day was by Matt Cohn and Neil Summers, who fired an eight-under par 64 to finish tied for seventh at 206, 10-under par with Sebastian Crampton and Michael Decker.
Defending champions Russell Humphrey and James Watt finished tied for 22nd at four-under par 212.
May 11, 2013
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – Danny Paniccia and Mike Stieler lead after the second round of the 47th Annual NCGA Four-Ball Championship at Spyglass Hill GC. The duo followed an opening round 68 on Friday, with a 65 Saturday to get to 133, 11-under par.
The two mid-amateurs from the San Joaquin Valley, who started off No. 10, got going with Paniccia making a birdie on No. 11 and Stieler making another on No. 15. The key to their 65 though would occur over a four-hole stretch starting on No. 17 and ending on No. 2, where they went five-under par. Starting on the 17th, Paniccia made an eagle from the fairway and then followed that with three straight birdies on Nos. 18, 1 and 2.
“We thought about going for it on [No.] 17 because the tees were up and it was only playing 312 [yards] to a back flag. But instead we decided to lay it back with a utility wood, play the percentages to the right yardage, and it worked out for once,” said Paniccia, who holed his second shot from 91 yards away.
Over their final seven holes, Paniccia would add one more birdie on No. 4 and six pars as he finished with a bogey-free 66 on his own ball. The Riverbend GC employees have been in contention several times before in this event, finishing tied for third in 2010 and tied for fourth in 2011. Last year, the duo had another great chance going into the final day tied for third before faltering with a final round 77 and tying for 11th place. Despite never coming away as winners in this event, Paniccia and Stieler don’t have much anxiety going into tomorrow.
“There’s not much pressure on us, we’re just having fun,” said Stieler.
Tied for second place at a 36-hole score of 134, 10-under par are the teams of John Sawin and Robert Grube, and Eddie Davis and Jon Peterson.
Sawin and Grube, who opened with a three-under par 69 Friday, also posted a seven-under par 65 in Saturday morning’s wave. The San Francisco residents, similar to Paniccia and Stieler, also fired a 65 in bogey-free fashion making seven birdies to go along with 11 pars. Starting off the back-nine, the two mid-amateurs who are competing in their first ever NCGA Four-Ball, took advantage of the par-5s making birdies on Nos. 11 and 14. Then things really heated up for the duo as they made three straight birdies on Nos. 16, 17 and 18 for an opening-nine of 31. Sawin and Grube would then make their fourth straight birdie on the par-5 first and add one more birdie on the par-5 seventh, for a second-nine 34. On the day, Sawin and Grube went four-under on the par-5s, birdieing all four of them.
“We just kept it in play and hit a lot of quality iron shots, which gave us a lot of looks at birdie,” said Grube.
Davis and Peterson, who started the day alone in second place after a first round 66, didn’t play as sharp on Saturday putting together a 68. The duo started off hot making four birdies on their first seven holes (Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 7) to make the turn at 32. After making a birdie on No. 11 to get to five-under for the day, the rest of the back nine didn’t go too well for the pair as they made a bogey on No. 13 and were shutout of making any additional birdies.
“We just couldn’t convert on any birdie opportunities down the stretch,” said Peterson.
Davis and Peterson, who played in the final group in 2011, will play in the penultimate group on Sunday and hope to capitalize on their opportunity this time around.
“It’s always fun when you’re in the hunt, we’ll just try not to double bogey [No.] 16 [tomorrow],” said Davis, referring to the double-bogey 6 they took in 2011 to lose by a single stroke.
Tied for fourth place at 135, nine-under par are the teams of Randy Haag and Jim Knoll, and Cameron Champ and Gary Dunn.
Haag and Knoll, who have eight NCGA Player/Senior Player of Year awards between them, matched the low score of the morning wave with a seven-under par 65. After opening with a 70 on Friday, the formidable duo played much better Saturday making seven birdies and zero bogeys. Haag and Knoll scored four birdies on the front (Nos. 1, 4, 7 and 9) for an opening nine of 32 and three birdies on the back (Nos. 10, 14 and 18) to close with a 33.
Champ and Dunn, who began the day in a tie for third after opening with a 67, played one stroke worse on Saturday posting a 68. The duo made six birdies on the day, but also relinquished strokes by taking two bogeys.
Alone in sixth place at 136 are SCGA members Steve Sear and Mark Sear. The Sears matched their first round 68 on Saturday, making 10 pars, six birdies and two bogeys compared to Friday’s 68, which included four birdies, two bogeys and an eagle.
First-round leaders Eric Ash and Kyle Listar feature two other teams—Matt Hansen and Tyler Raber, and Josh Stone and Tyler Leeworthy—tied for seventh at 138, six-under par. Ash and Listar, who opened up with a first round 64, followed that with a 74 on Saturday. With less than 13 hours between the end of their first round and the beginning of their second round, it would seem the 20- and 19-year-old were affected by the quick turnaround, but not so according to Listar.
“We just weren’t making as many putts,” he said. “We weren’t hitting it as close and no putts fell.”
Saturday’s cutline—the low 40 scores plus ties—came at even-par 144 with 42 teams advancing. That group is highlighted by defending champions Russell Humphrey and James Watt, who equaled a second consecutive day of 72.
Sunday’s final round will begin at 7:30 a.m. off double tees.
May 10, 2013
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – Eric Ash and Kyle Listar lead after the first round of the NCGA Four-Ball Championship, posting a stellar eight-under par 64 Friday afternoon to lead by two shots.
Ash and Listar, who began their round on No. 10, got off to an impressive start going par-birdie over their first nine holes, making birdies on the odd holes (Nos. 11, 13, 15 and 17) and pars on the even-numbered ones. Making the turn with a 32, the duo glanced at the leaderboard and saw the best score from the morning wave to be a 66, with that in mind the tandem set forth a goal to make a birdie every three holes over the final nine holes.
They soon easily surpassed that.
Ash, who was responsible for three of the birdies on their front-nine, birdied Spyglass Hill’s opening four seaside holes, quickly getting them to eight-under par. Playing out of this world, the duo finally slipped up on the par-3 fifth taking their only team bogey of the day, but they’d make up for it when Ash buried his eighth birdie of the day on the uphill par-4 eighth.
“[Our] putters were rolling that was the main thing,” said Ash, who shot a four-under 68 on his own ball.
Added Listar “[our strategy was] whoever was hitting first needed to make sure to put it on the green—knowing we had par—so the second person could attack the flag.”
The strategy seemed to work incredibly well, with Ash converting eight of nine birdies and Listar bailing out Ash when he bogeyed on Nos. 12, 13 and 18.
The two will have little time to celebrate or enjoy this, finishing shortly after 6:00 p.m. Friday evening, Ash and Listar will be the first to tee off No. 1 Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m.
Alone in second place and owning the lead for a few hours after the morning wave is the team of Eddie Davis and Jon Peterson at six-under par 66. Davis and Peterson, who started off No. 10, didn’t begin their round the way they wanted to opening up with bogey on the downhill par-4. What made things worse was both of them had putts within 15-feet for birdie. After Peterson hit his 15-foot birdie putt to two feet, Davis hit his 12-foot putt to 18 inches, and somehow they subsequently both missed their tap-in pars. Instead of getting flustered and making additional errors, Davis and Peterson rebounded nicely.
“I think we bounced back the next hole when we birdied and just started to relax,” said Peterson.
Besides a birdie on the 11th the tandem would go on to convert birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 18 for an opening-nine of 33. On the front-nine, birdies on Nos. 4, 6 and 7 allowed them to match that number and finish with a 66.
“Both of us were pretty solid,” said Davis. “There were very few holes where we left one person out there, which I think was the key for us.”
Davis, from Burlingame, and Peterson from Granite Bay, have been contenders the past couple years now in this championship, finishing tied for fifth last year and tied for second in 2011. They know how quickly things can turn and hope they can continue playing consistently.
“Same thing [tomorrow],” said Davis. “We’d love to hit just as many greens as we did today.”
Tied for third at five-under par 67 are the teams of Brian Sardelich and Chris Williams, and Cameron Champ and Gary Dunn. Sardelich and Williams, who were the first group out this morning at 7:00 a.m. set a rather high bar with a five-under 67, until Davis and Peterson outdid them. The Oakhurst CC members were bogey-free on the day, making five birdies and 13 pars. After opening with a birdie on the par-5 first, the duo would make their second one on the uphill par-4 sixth for a front-nine 34. Their final three birdies would come on the back nine on Nos. 13, 14 and 16 to come in with a 33.
Champ and Dunn competed in the afternoon wave and had an eagle, four birdies and a bogey in their round. Beginning on No. 10, the duo had a spectacular start making birdies on Nos. 11, 14 and 16, and eagling 17 to turn at 31. On their back nine things cooled off, but they still played steady, trading a birdie on No. 4 for a bogey on No. 5 to come in with a 36.
Defending champions Russell Humphrey and James Watt struggled in their opening round finishing with an even-par 72 and are currently in a tie for 30th place. The Lodi residents struggled by only making two birdies (Nos. 8 and 11), which were countered by two bogeys (Nos. 12 and 13).
“I’d say we each had four or five reasonable birdie putts today, and he made two and I made none,” said Watt.
Tomorrow’s round will begin at 7:00 a.m. with today’s afternoon wave going out first. Participants from Friday’s morning wave will go out in the Saturday afternoon wave starting at 12:00 p.m. The top 40 and ties will qualify for Sunday’s final round. Currently, 43 teams are at even-par 72 or better.
May 9, 2013
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – For Russell Humphrey and James Watt, Mother’s Day weekend is one of their favorite times of the year, and not because they have some unusual penchant for honoring the important women of their lives. Moreover, it’s due to the fact that the NCGA Four-Ball Championship—which is traditionally held during the second weekend of May—takes place at Spyglass Hill for three days.
“This is the biggest tournament for us all year,” said Humphrey. “This is our Masters.”
If you think that Humphrey is expressing a bit of hyperbole and disingenuousness—after all he did win the 2012 Four-Ball Championship—you’d be dead wrong, just ask his four-ball partner.
“Without question this is by far my favorite tournament of year,” said Watt in a separate interview. “And it was before we had success.”
Last year it didn’t get much better for the Lodi residents as they put together a 54-hole score of 205, 11-under par to get their names engraved on the Roger D. Val Perpetual Trophy. After opening with a six-under par 66 to take a lead, Humphrey and Watt backed those rounds up with a two-under par 70 and three-under par 69 to capture victory. Still, at the conclusion of 54 holes, the tandem needed two holes of a sudden-death playoff to claim triumph over Casey Boyns and William Moore.
“That’s our goal this year, no playoff,” said a laughing Watt as the duo has played in playoffs the last two times they entered—in 2010 Humphrey and Watt lost to Darryl Donovan and Randy Haag.
While the Lodi residents have had recent success in this event the odds are against them in garnering a second consecutive title. The feat for a back-to-back title is tough to come by as only one team has done it in the tournament’s near half-century history. In 2008-2009 Ryan Sloane and Taylor Travis claimed consecutive titles before splitting up their dynamic team. It’s something both Humphrey and Watt are aware of and know that it will be tough to accomplish.
“It would be extraordinary to win back-to-back titles,” said Humphrey. “It would surpass our expectations, not because we don’t think we can win, but because we know how difficult it is to win this event.”
Added Watt, “it would be great, just because you know the skill set of some of the players there,” as he rattled off names including past champions like Boyns and Haag.
That formidable competition begins right off the bat at 7:00 a.m. on Friday morning with the team of Matt Hansen and Tyler Raber, top players on the UC-Davis golf team. Also in that morning wave are Jon Peterson and Eddie Davis (8:00 a.m. No. 10), who finished tied for fifth in 2012 and tied for second in 2011. Humphrey and Watt will tee off shortly after at 8:20 a.m. off No. 1, while perennial top five finishers Boyns and Moore tee off on No. 10 shortly after at 8:40 a.m.
The afternoon wave kicks off with a bang at high noon as the never before seen team of Randy Haag (six-time NCGA Player of the Year) and Jim Knoll (two-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year) will tee it up on No. 10. They’ll be followed by 2005 champions Scott Hardy and Rick Reinsberg at 12:10 p.m., who always contend, having finished tied for fifth in 2012 and tied for second in 2011.
As usual a double-wave of morning and afternoon tee times will take place Friday and Saturday with 92 teams competing over 36 holes. At the conclusion of Saturday’s round the field will be cut to the low 40 teams and ties for Sunday’s final round.
Humphrey summed up a sentiment that many of the players must feel getting to play in this event.
“I believe of all the NCGA Tournaments, the NCGA Four-Ball is the most fun because the venue and format are perfect,” he said, pointing out that there aren’t many tournaments played at a course like Spyglass Hill for 54 holes on a weekend. “It doesn’t get much better in amateur golf.”