May 23, 2014
Longtime friends Mike Staskus and Frank Pieper have been playing golf together for decades, but this was a first.
In what was the first time playing together as a team, the pair shot 4-under 68 Friday at par-72 Saddle Creek Golf Club in Copperopolis to win the annual NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship, defeating runner-ups Ralph Costanzo and Greg O’Malley by two shots.
While Pieper and Staskus, who finished with a three-day total of 19-under 197, have won tournaments in Northern California, it’s the first time that they’ve ever won an NCGA tournament. Pieper’s father, Ernie Jr., is an amateur legend in the Golden State, having won among other events the California State Amateur Championship (both in 1941 and 1944).
The duo’s 54-hole total of 197 was one shy of the tournament record (196) set by Mark Miller and Herb Jensen in 2006.
“This is a big win for me,” said Pieper, a 63-year-old insurance broker who’s a member at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. “I’ve won some NorCal events but never an NCGA event, so this one is special.”
“It’s great to win,” said Staskus, a 55-year-old attorney who plays out of The Olympic Club and Sharon Heights. “It’s great to see Frank break through, too.”
A day after taking the lead with a tournament record score of 10-under 62, Pieper and Staskus cooled off, but it was enough to get past Costanzo and O’Malley, who also carded a 68.
The only time that Pieper and Staskus had reason to be concerned came early.
The duo, who entered the final round holding a two-stroke edge over the field, played their first four holes at 1-over after making a bogey on the par-4 2nd. Meanwhile, Costanzo and O’Malley, who had opened with a then-record tying 63 in the first round, went 2-under through their first four holes thanks to birdies at No.2 and No.3.
The two stroke advantage was suddenly a one stroke deficit, but Pieper and Staskus never wavered. From the 5th tee on to the 18th, Pieper and Staskus went 5 under, thanks in part to back-to-back birdies on holes No.11 and 12, while Costanzo and O’Malley only went 2 under.
The first huge momentum changer for Pieper and Staskus came on the par-3 11th when Pieper chipped in from 30-feet to finally regain the lead.
Just a hole later on the 12th, Pieper and Staskus gained another stroke after Staskus drained a tough downhill 20 foot birdie putt.
They’d seal the deal on the 15th, when from 100 yards out, Staskus stiffed a wedge from 100 yards out to within two feet of the flagstick for an easy birdie.
“We were both just playing really well,” Staskus said. “If someone hit a shot where they were out of the hole, the partner came through with a great shot.”
The biggest key for Staskus and Pieper was their second round 62. Over what was a magical back nine, the duo posted eight birdies for a 29, and that included a bogey on the par-5 13th. Pieper closed out the round with four straight birdies.
“We just got so hot in the second round. We started making birdies and it just didn’t stop,” Pieper said. “We really mished them and mashed them.”
It was during the 62 that Pieper and Staskus at one point looked one another and wondered, too.
“We were like, ‘Hey, we need to play together more,'” Pieper said with a smile.
After briefly taking the lead, Costanzo and O’Malley could only tack on birdies at No.13 and 18.
“The course was playing tougher today in my opinion,” Costanzo said. “But Frank and Mike played really solid. They came back and beat us.”
Finishing in third place at 201 was the defending champion team of Miller and Gary Vanier. Miller and Vanier, who began the day four strokes behind the leaders, also shot a 68. They’d card five birdies, but also wrapped up their round with a bogey on the 18th. Miller has won the event three times with three different partners.
Coming in at 204 to take fourth place was the team of George Erbez and Tony McBroom. Erbez and McBroom had a bogey free 68 with four birdies.
The first round of the championship was held at par-72 Greenhorn Creek GC in Angels Camp. Both the second and third rounds were held at Saddle Creek.
It is expected that the 2015 NCGA Senior Four-Ball will return the tournament’s original venue–Poppy Hills.
May 22, 2014
So much for 63 being the standard at the annual NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship.
A day after Ralph Costanzo and Greg O’Malley took the first round lead with a record-tying 63 at par-72 Greenhorn Creek Golf Club, the team of Frank Pieper and Mike Staskus went even deeper, posting a tournament record 10-under 62 in Thursday’s second round at par-72 Saddle Creek Golf Club.
The 62 pushed Pieper and Staskus to a two-day total of 15-under 129, good enough for a two stroke lead over Costanzo and O’Malley, who came back to earth with a 68.
At the rate this year’s event is going, the winning team may post a 59 on Friday.
With their score on Wednesday, O’Malley and Costanzo appeared to be in great shape. All of the four other teams who have carded a 63 in the event–David Ujihara and Mel Collins (2012), Mark Miller and Gary Vanier (2013), Cliff Davis and Bob Olds (2001) and Herb Jensen and Miller (2006) went on to win the title after carding a 63.
Pieper and Staskus have potentially taken it to a new level.
Starting on the front-nine, the duo carded a 33 that included a birdie and an eagle on the par-5 3rd. It was good, but not spectacular. On the back-nine, Pieper and Staskus lit the fireworks. They’d post eight birdies for a 29 that included a bogey on the par-5 13th.
Like O’Malley and Costanzo in the first round though, the Pieper and Staskus squad wasn’t able to run and hide.
Coming off their record-tying round, O’Malley and Costanzo kept themselves within two shots of the new leaders after posting a steady, bogey-free, 4-under 68 that featured four birdies.
Suddenly right in the mix of things too are defending champions Gary Vanier and Mark Miller. The Vanier/Miller team made their own significant push up the leaderboard, posting a 64 that moved them to 11-under 133, alone in third place.
Vanier and Miller split nine birdies between the nines, penciling in five on the front and four on the back. Like Pieper and Staskus, they too could have gone lower barring a bogey on the par-3 7th.
Miller has won the tournament three times with three different partners, the most recent being Vanier last year.
In at 135, six shots off the lead, is the tandem of Marco Dusi and Ken Webb. Dusi and Webb also charged up the leaderboard, carding a 65. The two also could have gone lower. While they’d card nine birdies, they’d also be stung by bogeys on holes No.2 and No.4.
A stroke behind Dusi and Webb at 136 is the tandem of George Erbez and Tony McBroom. The pair shot a 69 that featured six birdies and three bogeys.
Three teams are tied for sixth at 137. Dennis Dachtler and Craig Gandy fired a 65, while Donel Geisen and Ed Watts had a 66. Jim Williams and Doug Williams shot 68.
Friday’s final round will again be played at Saddle Creek.
May 21, 2014
Teammates Greg O’Malley and Ralph Costanzo have a number of reasons to feel good after Wednesday’s first round of the annual NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship.
The duo not only opened play by posting a record-tying 9-under 63 at par-72 Greenhorn Creek Golf Club in Angels Camp to take a four stroke lead over the field, but put up a score that has proved to be magical.
All of the four other teams who have carded a 63 in the event–David Ujihara and Mel Collins (2012), Mark Miller and Gary Vanier (2013), Cliff Davis and Bob Olds (2001) and Herb Jensen and Miller (2006) went on to win the title after carding a 63.
O’Malley and Costanzo were flawless in the event’s only round at Greenhorn, penciling in nine birdies and nine pars. It was on the front-nine that they did most of their damage, as they carded a 6-under 30 that included back-to-back birdies on holes No.1 and 2 and No.6 and 7. Greenhorn Creek’s five par 5’s also were a part of the feast, as they’d play the holes at 4 under.
Last October, the duo paired up to win the Manteca Senior Four-Ball title.
While O’Malley and Costanzo made their bid to run away, three teams managed to stay within four strokes of the leaders. The tandems of George Erbez and Tony McBroom, Frank Pieper and Mike Staskus and Michael Harding and Jensen all finished the day at 67.
Erbez and McBroom also took advantage of the front-nine, carding a 32 that included back-to-back birdies at holes No.8 and 9.
Pieper and Staskus, meanwhile, had a chance to go lower. The pair shot a front-nine 32 that included a bogey on the par-5 4th. On their back-nine, Pieper and Staskus had two more birdies but bogeyed the par-3 13th.
Harding and Jensen, like Erbez and McBroom, went bogey-free with a front-nine 32 to move up the leaderboard.
Four teams are tied for fifth at 69 including Miller and Vanier, the event’s defending champions, and the tandem of Steve Wilson and Scott Anderson.
Miller and Vanier had five birdies, including back-to-back on holes No.10 and 11, but were slowed by bogeys on holes No.4 and No.15. Wilson and Anderson also carded five birdies but bogeyed the 11th and 17th.
Five squads are seven strokes back after opening with 70.
Both Thursday’s second round and Friday’s final round will be held at par-72 Saddle Creek Golf Club in Copperopolis.
May 15, 2014
No matter who Mark Miller seems to play with, the wins just keep coming.
When Miller and partner Gary Vanier won last year’s NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship, it marked Miller’s third title playing with three different players.
Just a year prior in 2012, Miller won playing alongside Casey Boyns. In 2006, meanwhile, he won playing with Herb Jensen.
“I have been lucky to have some of the best partners out there,” Miller said.
Starting Wednesday at par-72 Greenhorn Creek Golf Club in Angels Camp, Miller will look for his fourth title when the 16th annual NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship gets underway.
This time though, he’s sticking with the same partner. He and Vanier will look to become the first repeat champs since Robert Berg and Rob Thompson in 2007 and 2008.
Last year, Miller and Vanier took the top spot playing at Silverado Resort in Napa.
But it wasn’t easy.
While they’d enter the final round with a comfy four-stroke cushion, that lead vanished when, on the front-nine, Gary Ramsden and Dennis Younglove posted a 4-under 31 to Miller and Vanier’s 1-over 36.
Still, Miller and Vanier would pull out the victory. While Ramsden and Younglove cooled off, playing the back-nine at even par, Miller and Vanier went 2 under thanks to three birdies.
A three-day total of 17-under 199 (63-65-71) gave Miller and Vanier a two stroke win over Ramsden and Younglove.
“It was nice to win, I felt like we won the tournament with our play over the first two days,” Vanier said.
For Vanier, the win was yet another feather in the cap. Earlier, he’d captured the NCGA Senior Championship, San Francisco City Senior and Alameda Commuters Senior titles.
“I’ve never seen anyone hit the ball better than Gary did this week,” said Miller at the conclusion of play.
While they’ll be favorites again this year, the duo will also face its challengers.
Among the other teams slated to tee off include Steve Wilson/Scott Anderson, Michael Harding/Herb Jensen, Greg O’Malley/Ralph Constanzo and Younglove and Ramsden.
Jensen and Harding finished T-4 in last year’s championship, while Wilson is coming off a T-6 finish in the Alameda Commuters Senior. Constanzo and O’Malley won the Manteca Senior Four-Ball.
For the second year in a row, the championship is on the move. A year after being held at Silverado, the event has moved to Greenhorn Creek and par-72 Saddle Creek Golf Club in Copperopolis.
The championship previously had been held exclusively at Poppy Hills Golf Course.
The first round will be held Wednesday afternoon at Greenhorn Creek. On Thursday and Friday, play will shift to Saddle Creek.