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2015-2016 NCGA Players of the Year

Nov. 1, 2016

2015-2016 NCGA Players of the Year

2016 NCGA Players of the Year

Shintaro Ban

2015-2016 NCGA Player of the Year

Back in 1981, Nathaniel Crosby won NCGA Player of the Year honors by playing in and winning just one event—the U.S. Amateur.

San Jose native Shintaro Ban nearly matched that feat. A junior at UNLV, Ban won 2015-2016 NCGA Player of the Year honors by playing in only three events–one being a qualifier.

“It means a lot. I think Player of the Year is one of the bigger things for a golf association,” Ban said. “It gets marked down in history. There are a lot of great names who’ve won it. I’m glad to be one of them.”

The 20-year-old became only the 11th player to capture both the California Amateur Championship and the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship. The list of players who’ve bagged both titles in one year includes Jack Neville (1913), Charles Seaver (1933), Michael Brannan (1976) and, most recently, PGA Tour member Spencer Levin (2004).

With each win, Ban collected 700 points. He’d finish with 1,475 after also earning 75 points by advancing through a U.S. Amateur qualifier. Bayonet/Black Horse GC member Nick Moore, the defending 2014-2015 NCGA Player of the Year, was second with 1,457 points. Moore, who made a late surge with his record third win at the NCGA Valley Amateur, had a chance at passing Ban but finished as runner-up at the Las Positas Open. Third place went to E-Club San Francisco member and 2016 NCGA Public Links champion Matt Cohn at 1,286 points.

“I didn’t think I hold it down. I thought someone would catch me,” Ban said.

In its 105-year history, the California Amateur Championship had never seen a pair of brothers hoist the Edward B. Tufts Trophy, let alone in back-to-back years. Ban changed all that, defeating Hidetoshi Yoshihara, 5 and 4, in the finals at Valencia CC to win the title just a year after his older brother Shotaro did.

At the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, Ban was a buzzsaw, defeating 17-year-old runner-up Eddy Lai, 10 and 9. Through the first 13 holes of the 36-hole final, Ban went 6-under. He’d never trail at any point in his final three matches. Over his five matches, he only trailed a span of three holes total.

2016 NCGA Players of the Year

Sabrina Iqbal

2015-2016 NCGA Women’s Player of the Year

San Jose resident Sabrina Iqbal had already established herself within the junior ranks. That’ll happen when you win a record three straight Junior Tour of Northern California Girls’ Player of the Year titles.

Turns out, Iqbal is a force at the higher levels as well.

Still only 15, the Pioneer High junior captured the inaugural NCGA Women’s Player of the Year award after finishing the season with 1,323 points. Taking second place was E-Club Fresno member Camille Orito at 815. Third place went to Poppy Hills Club member Monica Matsubara with 690 points.

“Winning Player of the Year means a lot to me and is a huge accomplishment,” Iqbal said. “Being the first one is exciting knowing that my name will always be first in the record books.”

If there was a big tourney in Northern California, Iqbal left her stamp on it. Already verbally committed to Texas Christian University, she’d get going with a win in her debut at the San Francisco City Women’s Championship.

Later, in an amazing July run, she’d capture the NCGA Junior Championship, the Sacramento County Women’s Championship and the California Women’s Amateur Championship. Her CWAC win, which came at Pebble Beach Golf Links, was also in her championship debut. It marked the first time that Iqbal had played Pebble Beach. Through a stretch of seven holes (No.9-No.15), she’d go 3-under.

“July was a huge month for me,” Iqbal said. “Overall, I’m very happy how last season turned out and I’m really looking forward to the new season.”

Iqbal didn’t play in the NCGA Women’s Amateur due to school. Orito won that event.

According to Iqbal’s father Shaheen, a PGA teaching professional at Los Lagos GC, one of Sabrina’s biggest assets is her temperament.

“She never complains. She doesn’t bring her game home,” Shaheen said. “What she did yesterday is gone tomorrow. She has a great ability to move on.”

While Iqbal picked up the game from her father, she’d hone her skills as a Santa Teresa Youth on Course member.

“I feel like whenever I’m having a good round, that I want to be at that level every time,” she said. “When I do play bad, I want to work on fixing things. There’s nothing else you can do.”

2016 NCGA Players of the Year

Dale Bouguennec

2015-2016 NCGA Senior Player of the Year

When he picked up his first NCGA title at the 2015 Senior Valley Amateur, there was a sense that Dale Bouguennec was serving notice for the future.

The 58-year-old Contra Costa CC member was indeed just warming up.

Bouguennec, backed in part by wins at the Santa Clara County Senior and Contra Costa County Senior and a quarterfinals run at the NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play Championship, went on to win 2015-2016 NCGA Senior Player of the Year honors. He’d finish the season with 2,411 points, edging out runner-up and record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag (2,360 points). Steve Wilson of Roddy Ranch GC was third at 1,640.

Along with the two victories, Bouguennec racked up a whopping 25 Top 5 finishes. Included in those finishes was a critical T-4 at the NCGA Senior Valley Amateur, second at the Monterey City Senior Amateur, T-3 at the Sonoma Valley Senior Amateur and a fourth place finish at the NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship (with partner Jamie Looper).

“It means a lot. My primary goal for 2016 was to win Senior Player of the Year,” Bouguennec said. “First, I made sure my wife (Irma) understood the commitment and sacrifices we would have to make. I also set objectives to continually improve my performance and mental approach. ”

Throughout the final few months of the season, Bouguennec had to hold off a hard-charging Haag. While Bouguennec held a big lead, it began to shrink when Haag won the NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play title.

Bouguennec’s own late push came at the California State Fair Senior Championship. At the time still being furiously chased by Haag, Bouguennec would go on to finish second at the event. Haag came in fourth place.

Later at the NCGA Senior Valley Amateur, Bouguennec needed at least a Top 10 finish. The clutch T-4 finish clinched the title.

“I sweated and grinded over every shot coming down the stretch at the Senior Valley Am, but was able to calm my nerves,” Bouguennec said. “What’s great is that the seniors and super seniors are very competitive, but they also support and encourage one another.”

2016 NCGA Players of the Year

 Lynne Cowan

2015-2016 NCGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year

It didn’t look good for Rocklin resident Lynne Cowan.

On just the first day of the 2015-2016 season, Auburn Valley GC member Karen Garcia was awarded 700 points for her victory at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship.

It was only the start of a long race.

Slowly but surely, the 54-year-old Cowan kept chipping at Garcia’s lead. By the end, the Sierra View CC member passed Garcia to earn the inaugural NCGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year title.

“I didn’t think I had a chance after Karen won the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur last year,” Cowan said.

Backed by a 500-point win at the NCGA Senior Women’s Amateur, Cowan finished the season with a total of 1,785 points. Garcia finished second at 1,563, with Fountaingrove GC member Stacey Camara taking third at 725.

Along with her win at the NCGA Senior Women’s Am, Cowan reached the Round of 16 at both the 2015 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur and the 2016 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. She’d also finish third at the California Women’s Championship and reached the Round of 16 at the California Women’s Amateur Championship.

Garcia again reached the semi-finals of the 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur, but she’d finish second at the NCGA Senior Women’s Amateur behind Cowan. That event alone was a difference of 175 points, enabling Cowan to continue her surge.

“I’m honored to be the recipient of the first NCGA Senior Women’s Player of the Year award,” Cowan said. “I’m pleased that Northern California women and senior women are now being recognized for their efforts on the golf course. Thank you to everyone at NCGA who had a hand in implementing this program.”

2016 NCGA Players of the Year

Gary Vanier

2015-2016 NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year

Gary Vanier may have moved on to the Super Senior level, but it certainly hasn’t slowed him down.

The now 66-year-old Olympic Club member wasted no time in introducing himself to his fellow Super Senior competitors, winning the NCGA Super Senior Championship in his debut.

From there, the 2006 NCGA Senior Player of the Year never looked back. Vanier won his first NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year award, finishing the season with 1,271 points to edge runner-up and defending NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year Herb Jensen (1,230) by 41 points. Third place went to inaugural NCGA Super Senior Match Play champion Frank Pieper at 1,145.

Along with his victory at the Super Senior, Vanier picked up a win at the Alameda Commuters Senior Championship. Other highlights included a semifinals run at the San Francisco City Senior, a T-4 finish at the California Senior Amateur and a sixth place finish at the NCGA Senior Championship.

“I was sort of lucky to win it, because I didn’t play all that much,” said Vanier, who’s the first player in NCGA history to earn both Senior Player of the Year and Super Senior Player of the Year honors. “It’s another notch in the belt.”

-Jerry Stewart

Author: Jerry Stewart

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