June 20-21, 2011
Poppy Hills/Spyglass Hill
June 21, 2011
PEBBLE BEACH – Darin Lake epitomizes golf’s mid-amateur.
The 42-year-old Sunnyside member is a father of three and owner of a construction company in Fresno and finds it difficult to play more than once a week. But that hardly stopped Lake from capturing the 30th NCGA Master Division Championship at Spyglass Hill.
The event, for competitors aged 40 and older, was contested in weather conditions more suitable for a late November football game: blustery and highly variable winds and cold temperatures. The weather made its impact known on the field – only four players were at par or better during the tournament’s first round at Poppy Hills and only two during the final round at Spyglass (highlighted by Del Rio’s David Halvorson’s 86-69 total, a 17-shot swing between rounds). Steven Fochs of Peach Tree, who tied for 15th after being only three back of the lead after the opening round, exemplified the wild results the weather can foster in his opening even-par round – three bogeys, two double bogeys, three birdies and two eagles – punctuating the fact that there’s no prize for how a golfer gets to the final score, just the score itself.
But it was Lake’s consistent and methodical 74-73 that proved the difference, the five-over-par 147 total good for a two-stroke win over Steve Wilson of Roddy Ranch. Mike Stieler of Riverbend and defending champion Daniel Sullivan tied for third, three back of the champion. First-round leader Dave Swanson of Del Paso was unable to sustain momentum after his opening 69, posting a 10-over 82 for a 151 total, and a tie for fifth place. The players who produced the two low rounds of the tournament – Swanson’s 69 at Poppy and Havorson’s 69 at Spyglass, paired those rounds with scores in the 80s, further evidence of the weather’s impact.
Lake’s consistency is best observed by a look at his stats: 17 greens hit in the first round and no bogies and only one double-bogey in the final round. “I had trouble with my putter yesterday (at Poppy Hills) but I made a lot of par putts today,” the champion said. “I have the kind of game where I’ll shoot a lot of rounds around 74 that could easily be a 69.” That ability to post steady scores proved the difference at courses that averaged 80-81 over the two days of play. Lake entered the Master Division having just won Sunnyside’s club championship Sunday, in the 100th year of club’s existence. The Master Division marks the first NCGA major title for the Fresno native and the second championship in three days. Note to Sunnyside members – you want Mr. Lake as your four-ball partner this weekend.
“I play golf for fun,” Lake said, echoing the song of the mid-amateur. “I play once a week and I don’t like to practice. I’d rather be playing.” With results like this, driving ranges might start emptying soon around Fresno.