November 12, 2014
Santa Barbara resident John Pate can finally call himself a State champion.
In what was his championship debut, Pate carded a final round 2-over 73 and held off a throng of challengers Wednesday, including three-time champion Jeff Burda, to win the annual California State Senior Amateur Championship at the new par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course by two strokes.
At the 1995 California State Amateur Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pate, who just recently turned 55, lost the title 1-up when opponent Jeff Sanday sank a 20-foot putt on the 36th hole.
“It’s a relief. It was kind of a struggle today,” said Pate, who finished the three-day, 54-hole event with a total score of 1-over 214. “I had plenty of chances to win the State Am at Pebble.”
With the victory, Pate becomes only the second Southern California player in the last eight years to win the State Senior Amateur crown, joining 2011 winner Mark Nickeas.
Having entered the final round with a comfy four stroke lead, Pate got off to a solid start by playing his first six holes at 1-under thanks in part to back-to-back birdies on holes No.5 and No.6.
It was on the par-4 8th, however, that things got slippery. While still on top of the leaderboard, Pate’s drive shot into a bunker, his ball burying under the lip. A resulting double-bogey whittled his lead over Burda down to two strokes.
“It was such a bad break. I couldn’t get it close to the green,” said Pate, the brother of professional Steve Pate. “I made a mess of that hole. But I still thought I could shoot under par.”
Pate, who was coming off a win at the recent Santa Barbara City Senior Championship, did get back to a total of 1-under and re-established his four stroke lead with a clutch birdie on the par-5 10th. But things weren’t yet settled.
Following a bogey on the 13th, his lead dropped back to three over Burda. Burda, however, couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity, bogeying both the 14th and 15th to drop five shots behind. On the 14th, Burda hit the wrong club, while on the 15th he three-putted.
Earlier in his round, Burda had missed out on other chances. The 2014 SCGA Senior Championship winner was at 1-under through his first eight holes. Yet he wouldn’t be able to capitalize on either the par-5 9th or 10th, having to settle for pars on both holes.
“After No.8 I felt that with the 9th and 10th coming up, I could birdie one or maybe both. Then anything can happen, especially on this course,” said Burda, who had a 71 to come in at 216. “On the 14th and 15th, those were two or three shots that I threw away. I played okay. I just really struggled with the pace of the greens.”
Burda did try to make one final charge, carding back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th. Pate shut the door, however, thanks in part to a clutch par on the 17th after sticking his 7-iron tee shot to within 12 feet of the flagstick.
“I never thought I had it until I hit that iron on No.17,” Pate said.
Along with Burda, Pate also began the day having to fend off four-time NCGA Player of the Year Casey Boyns and four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year and defending champion Jim Knoll.
Both Boyns and Knoll tried to make runs but had to settle for matching 72’s, leaving them in a tie for third. Boyns, who won the event in 2012, got to a total of 3-over three times in his round, the last coming on the 10th. Each time, however, the California Golf Hall of Fame member and longtime Pebble Beach caddie went on to bogey either the following hole or ensuing hole.
“I was shaky today,” Boyns said. “I knew my putter was off. I made a few putts but I missed some too. But I’m happy.”
Finishing alone in fifth place at 224 following a 73 was Howie Knodt of Chula Vista. Record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag of San Francisco, who was also making his State Senior Am debut, came in T-6 after a 76.
November 11, 2014
After going 4-over through his first four holes, the last thing Santa Barbara resident John Pate thought about was winning. Instead, he turned his attention to simply making the cut.
“As we walked to my fifth hole, I told my caddie that if we just made bogeys the rest of the way, we’d maybe break 90,” Pate said.
As it turned out, the recently turned 55-year-old will head into Wednesday’s final round of this week’s annual CGA Senior State Amateur Championship at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course as the leader.
Despite the rough start, Pate, the brother of professional Steve Pate, went on to card a 2-under 69 on Tuesday, giving him a four stroke lead over Modesto’s Jeff Burda with a two-day total of 1-under 141.
Starting on the back-nine, Pate opened with a double-bogey on No.10 and back-to-back bogeys on holes No.12 and No.13. From there, however, he’d play the recently renovated Poppy Hills layout at 6-under.
It wasn’t until his sixth hole of the day, the par-3 15th, that Pate sensed that his fortunes would turn. And that was after missing an 8-foot birdie attempt. A hole earlier on the 14th, he’d finally stopped the slide with a birdie.
“I missed the putt on No.15 but suddenly felt a lot better,” said Pate, who was runner-up at the 1995 California State Amateur. “I told myself to just be patient.”
Suddenly back in somewhat of a groove, Pate went on a tear. He’d birdie the 17th to finish with a front-nine 37. On the tougher Poppy Hills front-nine, he’d go 4-under starting with birdies on No.2 and No.4. On No.2, he sank a 20-footer, while on the 4th he almost holed out his wedge shot from 60 yards out.
The assault continued later, as he tack on a birdie on No.7 after hitting his 9-iron to within 7 feet of the flagstick. On the 8th, he’d stiff an 8-iron to within 3 feet for another birdie.
Pate had a chance to go even lower, but he had to settle for a par on the par-5 9th.
“It turned out to be a pretty nice round,” Pate said. “I really didn’t expect it after that start. I just kept trying to make good swings.”
Before Pate’s huge turnaround, it appeared that Burda would be the leader. One of only two players to win the championship three times (Jim McMurtrey is the other) and the only player to win the California State Senior Amateur three times in a row (2008-2010), Burda followed up an opening 73 with a 72 to get to 145.
Like Pate, Burda got off to a somewhat sluggish start after carding a 2-over 38 on the front-nine. After making the turn, he’d go 1-under thanks to birdies on holes No.10 and No.14.
“I hit a few good shots and I didn’t get rewarded for them,” said Burda, who is looking to become the first four-time winner of the championship. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I feel good about my game.”
First round leader and defending champion Jim Knoll, who took the lead Monday with a 71, slipped back into a tie for third at 146 following a 75. A day after penciling in four birdies, the record four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year could only muster one, that coming on the par-4 5th.
“I just didn’t putt as well,” said Knoll, who is aiming to join McMurtrey and Burda as the only players to win back-to-back titles. “It was perfect scoring conditions out there. It was just a struggle.”
Also at 146 is four-time NCGA Player of the Year and 2012 champion Casey Boyns of Monterey. The California Golf Hall of Fame member was even through his first 14 holes after carding birdies on the 11th and 14th wasn’t able to carry the momentum all the way in, finishing with a 74. The longtime Pebble Beach caddie closed with a bogey on the 16th and a double-bogey on the 17th after hitting his tee shot into the hazard.
“I was hitting some really good irons. It’s been a long time since I’ve hit my irons that well,” Boyns said. “After that double at 17 though, I was just trying to get home.”
At eight shots behind Pate is record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag of San Francisco. Haag, who is making his California State Senior debut, had a 74 to land at 149,
Others still in the hunt include Ron Johnson and Texas resident John McClure who are both at 150 following identical rounds of 74.
In the North/South Challenge Senior Cup, the NCGA retained the title, defeating the SCGA, 436-456. The NCGA squad was comprised of Boyns, Burda, Knoll and Dan Bieber, while the SCGA team was made up of David Delich, Kemp Richardson, Iain McDonald and Michael Turner.
The cut (low 33 and ties) came at 14-over 156. Wednesday’s final round is slated to tee off at 7:30 a.m.
November 10, 2014
Sunnyvale resident Jim Knoll started off right where he ended.
The defending champion, Knoll sits perched atop the leaderboard following Monday’s first round of this week’s annual CGA Senior State Amateur Championship, courtesy of an even-par 71 at what was a chilly Poppy Hills Golf Course.
While still less than a year old, the new Poppy Hills is becoming familiar turf to the 62-year-old. Less than two weeks ago, Knoll won the NCGA Merlot Flight title while competing with his wife Terry. The duo got the win thanks to a final round 8-under 63 in rainy conditions.
“I’m getting comfortable on this golf course,” said Knoll, who took the first round lead last year and never looked back, winning wire-to-wire. “I know now where I need to hit it. It’s just a matter of hitting it there.”
The reigning NCGA Senior Player of the Year a record four years running, Knoll was simply steady. Starting on the back-nine, he’d open with a birdie on the 10th. He’d quickly bogey both the par-3 11th and scenic 12th, but rebounded by making par on each of his final six holes for a front-nine 36. On his back-nine, Knoll opened with a birdie on the tough opening 1st. Again, the 2014 NCGA Senior Amateur Championship winner instantly slipped with bogeys on No.2 and No.3, but he’d finish with a birdie on No.6 and a closing birdie on the par-5 9th.
As for those now pursuing Knoll, there’s a number of players who have been there and done that themselves.
Just a stroke behind the leader following matching 72’s are Santa Barbara’s John Pate and Monterey resident Casey Boyns. Pate, a runner-up at the 1995 California State Amateur, made his charge by playing holes No.8 and No.9 at 3-under after making eagle on No.9. Boyns, who won the event in 2012 and has earned four NCGA Player of the Year crowns, got to 1-under through his first nine with three birdies. The California Golf Hall of Fame member later slipped with a double-bogey on the 1st after pushing his drive right and a bogey on the 4th, but came right back with a birdie on the par-4 8th.
Among those also in hot pursuit are Michael Turner of Sherman Oaks and Modesto’s Jeff Burda, who each came in at 73.
Turner penciled in two birdies and four bogeys. Burda, meanwhile, was a bit more all over. One of only two players (along with Jim McMurtrey) to win three CGA State Senior titles and the only player to ever win three in a row (2008-2010), Burda started on the back-nine with a ho-hum 37 that featured two bogeys. On the front, he’d play holes No.1 through No.4 at 2-under with three birdies and a bogey. He’d later bogey No.7 and double-bogey the 8th, but righted the ship with a birdie on the 9th.
Alone in sixth place is Howie Knodt of Chula Vista, who shot an opening 74. Record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag of San Francisco, who is making his CGA State Senior debut, opened with a 75 and is tied for seventh with three other players.
In recent years, the Northern California contingent has ruled supreme. A Northern California player has won six of the last seven championships. The only Southern California winner during the stretch has been 2011 champion Mark Nickeas, who won at Saticoy Country Club.
In the CGA Senior Cup, a team event (best three scores out of four) held within the first two rounds of the championship, the NCGA took an eight shot lead, 216-224. The NCGA is being represented by Knoll, Boyns, Burda and defending NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play champion Dan Bieber. The SCGA four are Turner, David Delich (77), Iain Mcdonald (75) and Kemp Richardson (76).
Tuesday’s second round is slated to tee off at 8 a.m. Following the second round, a cut will be made with the low 33 and ties advancing to Wednesday’s final round.
November 4, 2014
It’s the biggest senior amateur prize in the Golden State.
Starting Monday, a field of over 100 players will look to hoist the trophy when the 23rd California Senior Amateur Championship gets underway at the new par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course.
If the current trend continues, the winner will hail from Northern California too.
In what’s been almost a streak of domination, a Northern California player has won six of the last seven championships. The only Southern California winner during the stretch has been 2011 champion Mark Nickeas, who won at Saticoy Country Club.
Last year, it was record four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll’s turn at the top.
Knoll came out on fire, posting first and second rounds of 70 and 66, respectively. He’d close with a 76 to finish at 1-under 212.
“This one really does mean a lot,” said Knoll after the win. “A lot of my very, very good friends have won this, and to have my name put on that trophy with theirs is really special.”
In yet another sign of Northern California prowess, 2006 NCGA Senior Player of the Year Gary Vanier finished second at 214. Third place went to four-time NCGA Player of the Year Casey Boyns, and Jeff Burda finished T-4 with Iain Macdonald of Fullerton.
Keeping with the theme of how much Northern California has dominated the event recently, Burda won the title three years in a row from 2008-2010. The Modesto resident and Jim McMurtrey (1994, 1995, 1998) are the only players to win the event three times.
Looking ahead, the Northern California contingent will again be strong.
Knoll returns, Boyns is back, and so too are Vanier and Burda. There’s also defending NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play winner Dan Bieber, 2012 NCGA Senior Match Play Am winner Terry Foreman and a host of other players who could grab the title including record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag and Herb Jensen, who is coming off a strong showing at the Staedler-Jetter Cup matches and a win at the recent NCGA Super Senior Championship.
The Southern California contingent of the field will also bring its share of contenders.
Among the names to keep an eye on there are Kemp Richardson, who won the 2001 U.S. Senior Amateur, defending SCGA Senior Amateur Match Play champion David Delich and Michael Turner, who reached the quarterfinals at this year’s U.S. Senior Amateur.
The championship will be contested over 54 holes, running from Monday through Wednesday. Following Tuesday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 33 and ties advancing to Wednesday’s final round.
During the championship, a variety of tees will be used, but in general the field will play from the Four Poppy tees, stretching the course to as long as 6,672 yards.
The championship also includes a team event between the NCGA and SCGA (four players each team) that is held over the first two rounds. The NCGA four are Bieber, Boyns, Knoll and Burda. The SCGA four are Delich, Mcdonald, Turner and Richardson.