July 12, 2015
After a three-year drought, Robby Salomon is back in the winner’s circle.
Salomon, a 26-year-old senior at CSU-Monterey Bay, avoided disaster for a third straight day, carding a final round 3-under 68 Sunday at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course to win the annual NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship by five shots over runner-up Patrick Soli of San Carlos.
For Salomon, it was a testament to patience and determination. Having gone through swing changes, the last time he’d tasted victory was at the 2012 Marin County Amateur.
“It’s a relief,” said Salomon, who finished the three-day, 54-hole event at 4-under 209. “It’s a lot of frustration overcome. It feels really good.”
Having entered the finale one shot behind Jason Anthony, Salomon made his big move on the 8th and 9th holes. It was on the par-4 8th that Anthony finally slipped as well.
Trailing Anthony by two through the first seven holes, on the pivotal 8th Salomon got back to even-par by sinking a 40-footer for birdie.
Anthony, meanwhile, literally got stuck in the greenside bunker. After three attempts, the Fairfield resident got out, but it would lead to a triple-bogey. In less than 15 minutes, the leaderboard flipped, with Salomon suddenly holding a two-stroke lead over Anthony and a one shot lead over Pleasanton’s Ryan Knop, who began the day two behind Anthony.
“I didn’t expect my putt to fall in,” Salomon said “When it did, I sensed momentum changing.”
On the ensuing par-5 9th, Salomon upped the ante by hitting a perfect 3-wood that hit the mound on the right and funneled his ball to within 10 feet of the flagstick. He’s make the putt for eagle, while both Anthony and Knop had to settle for pars.
Just like that, Salomon’s lead had grown to three over Knop and four over Anthony.
“That eagle putt fell in on the last roll,” Salomon said. “I thought it was going to be short.”
At the start of the round, it didn’t look like Salomon’s putter was ever going to cooperate. He had three lip-outs on the first three holes, leading to a quick 2-over start.
“All three of those lip-outs were good putts. They just didn’t go in,” Salomon said. “It wasn’t the start I wanted, but I knew I still had the par-5 4th, which I play well, and three other par-5’s to go. I told myself not to panic.”
Prior to his charge on the 8th and 9th, Salomon got some hints that the tide was turning. On No.4 he’d make a great up-and-down from the bunker after sinking a 25-footer for par. Later on the 6th, he had a horrible lie in the tough greenside bunker on the right but somehow salvaged a bogey.
“Both of those holes could’ve been a lot worse,” Salomon said.
After making the turn, Salomon’s lead only grew when Knop made a big mistake, hitting his second shot into the pond for an eventual double-bogey.
With both Knop, who’s headed to UC Davis in the fall, and Anthony struggling to a 77 and 76, respectively, Salomon’s biggest pursuers became Soli and St. Mary’s senior Jonathan De Los Reyes.
Soli crept into the picture after playing his final seven holes at 4-under for a 70 to come in at 214. The UC Davis senior had a chance to make Salomon sweat late but had to settle for a par on the par-5 18th.
Earlier in the round, Soli had his own miscue, carding a double-bogey on the 9th after he chunked his wedge shot from 95 yards out.
“I thought that something in the 60’s would have a chance,” said Soli, who came up just short of his goal. “It was still a good week.”
De Los Reyes, who began the day nine shots behind Salomon, charged up the leaderboard to a third place finish at 215 after carding a course record 6-under 65 with the course playing at 6,716 yards.
Salomon, who only began playing competitive golf four years ago after switching over from baseball, would squash both Soli and De Los Reyes’ attempts at a comeback by making back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th holes. On the 18th, he’d seal the deal with a final great up-and-down, banking his third shot from the waste area off the edge of the green to within 7 feet of the pin for another birdie.
Over his 54 holes, Salomon never made anything worse than bogey. He’d card just nine bogeys.
“That’s the key on this course. You know you’re going to make bogeys out here. When you do have a bad hole, you have to limit the damage,” Salomon said.
Helping Salomon navigate the course was 2015 NCGA Public Links Championship winner Nick Moore. The two met in 2012 when they paired up in the annual Hanna-Wehrman Cup.
Following Salomon’s early struggles, Moore reminded him to hang in there.
“On No.6, I told him to just keep hitting greens and let the other guys mess up,” Moore said.
Over his three rounds, Anthony, who led after both the first and second round, had only six bogeys. The blow up hole on the 8th, however, changed everything.
“I chose the wrong club for my approach and just could not get out of that bunker,” Anthony said. “Realistically, I could’ve played well and Robby still might have won it. He earned it. It was a pleasure to watch him.”
Once recruited to play baseball at University of San Francisco, Salomon got burned out on that sport and transitioned to golf because he felt he had a “natural ability.”
The Preserve GC member has had help along the way from Palo Alto GC Director of Instruction Kevin Lozares.
“Kevin has helped me a ton the last four years,” Salomon. “He’s been there for me for the physical and mental aspects of the game.”
Poppy Hills played to a 76.955 stroke average for the final round. Overall, the new course played to a stroke average of 78.900.
Salomon’s 209 total was 10 shots lower than 2014 champion Bobby Bucey’s winning total of 219.
July 11, 2015
Jason Anthony fell back, but he’s still the guy to catch.
Anthony, who hails from Fairfield, continued to hold the lead at this weekend’s annual NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship, posting a second round 73 on a brilliant Saturday morning at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course. The 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up, who has a two-day total of 2-under 140, will enter Sunday’s final round holding a one stroke lead over CSU-Monterey Bay senior Robby Salomon.
A day after posting a sensational, bogey-free 67, Anthony finally got bit by Poppy Hills. The Green Valley Country Club began where he left off, carding a bogey-free 36 on the tougher Poppy Hills front-nine that included a lip-out birdie try on the par-5 9th.
On the back-nine, however, he’d card his first bogey of the championship on the par-3 11th. Anthony later got back to even-par for the day with a birdie on the 14th, but he’d close out his round with two more bogeys on the 16th and 17th.
Salomon, who was part of the afternoon wave, also had things going for a second straight day. The Preserve GC member, who began the day only three off the lead, followed Anthony with a bogey-free front-nine 36. He’d get to a total of 2-under with a birdie on par-5 10th, but proceeded to card to back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th. A final birdie on the closing 18th got him back to 1-under for the championship.
Also in the immediate mix is Pleasanton’s Ryan Knop, who is just two back after his second straight 71. For Knop, who’s headed to UC Davis this fall, it was another roller coaster round, as the former Foothill High star penciled in five birdies but also three bogeys and a double-bogey on the 13th.
In the final round of last year’s Junior Tour of Northern California Tour Championship at Poppy Hills, Knop tossed up an eight-birdie, bogey-free 63. Through the first two rounds this weekend, he’s racked up 10 birdies. Anthony and Salomon, who’ve been able to avoid any double-bogeys, have 11 birdies combined.
At 144, just four behind, are both Patrick Soli and Ryan Gronlund, who shot 75 and 72, respectively. Soli, a senior at UC Davis, went birdie-less with four bogeys. Gronlund, a sophomore at Southern Methodist University who played at Foothill High, shot his second straight 72.
Record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag, a member of the Olympic Club, followed up an opening 71 with a 77, falling into a tie for 13th. St. Mary’s men’s golf head coach Scott Hardy, who was right in the thick of things after an opening 71, dropped back with an 81. Defending champion Bobby Bucey, playing out of Oakhurst CC, is T-30 following another 76.
The cutline (low 40 and ties) came at 11-over 153. Among those missing the cut were 2014 NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship winner Matthew Seramin (154) and Nick Moore (156), who won this year’s NCGA Public Links Championship.
Jonny Baxter and Youth on Course Salinas Valley member Sunny Yan are both five off the lead after rounds of 70 and 74, respectively. Baxter had the low round of the day.
Poppy Hills played 45 yards longer in the second round, going to 6,778 yards. The stroke average was 79.725, compared to 78.707 in Friday’s first round.
The toughest hole on Saturday was the par-4 5th, which played to a 4.855 stroke average. Only four players birdied the hole.
Sunday’s final round will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the leaders going out at 10:04 a.m.
July 10, 2015
Fairfield resident Jason Anthony discovered the secret to going low on the new par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course. Just don’t make any mistakes.
Anthony, the 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up, grabbed the early lead in this weekend’s annual NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship, posting a stellar 4-under 67 in Friday’s first round. But there’s still a long ways to go, and there’s a number of big names in hot pursuit.
Playing out of Green Valley County Club, Anthony was simply flawless. He’d card four birdies—all on the back-nine, where he started—with zero bogeys. After making the turn with a 4-under 31, Anthony made all pars on the tougher Poppy Hills front-nine.
As good as Anthony was, he barely has any breathing space.
Patrick Soli, a senior at UC Davis, is only two strokes behind after carding a 69. Three shots behind after an opening 70, meanwhile, is CSU-Monterey Bay standout Robby Salomon.
Soli also carded four birdies on the day, but slipped with a pair of bogeys on holes No.2 and No.14. The par-3 2nd played as the second toughest hole, tallying a stroke average of 3.735.
Salomon, who competed in the recent California Amateur Championship at Lake Merced GC, also posted four birdies but was stung by three bogeys.
A pack of six players–including two who know a thing or two about winning NCGA titles–are four off the pace after opening with matching 71’s.
Record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag, who’s fresh off an appearance at the recent U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso CC, had two birdies, two bogeys and 14 pars. St. Mary’s men’s golf head coach Scott Hardy, whose NCGA resume includes three NCGA Public Links Championship titles, also posted a 71 after carding three birdies and three bogeys.
The 71 group also includes Pleasanton’s Ryan Knop, who has mastered the course before. In the final round of last year’s Junior Tour of Northern California Tour Championship at Poppy Hills, Knop tossed up an eight-birdie, zero-bogeys 63.
The three others at 71 are Salinas Valley Youth on Course member Sunny Yan, Neil Summers of TPC Stonebrae and El Macero CC member Ben Corfee. Corfee, who’s Soli’s teammate at UC Davis, won this year’s NCGA Four-Ball title with longtime friend Scott Raber.
Defending champion Bobby Bucey, playing out of Oakhurst CC, opened with a 76 (T-41). Gurman Kaur, a senior at Franklin High in Elk Grove and the lone female in the field, shot 81 and is T-93. Kaur’s score came with Poppy Hills playing at 6,733 yards. In the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open, the course played at 6,289 yards.
Following Saturday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 40 and ties advancing to Sunday’s final round.
Anthony, who just missed qualifying (losing in a playoff) for this year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship playing with Haag, entered the championship at No.4 in this year’s NCGA Player of the Year standings. He’d finish T-3 at both the Alameda Commuters and Fresno City Championship.
Saturday’s second round will tee off at 7:30 a.m.
July 8, 2015
After 54 grueling holes, a perfect 7-iron from former Chico State standout Bobby Bucey ended up being the big difference.
Last year’s NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship was the first men’s scratch tournament to be held on the new Poppy Hills Golf Course. Over the three rounds, the new course played to a stroke average of 79.703.
In a playoff that went two holes, Bucey hit a draw into the middle of the green on the second hole that rolled within two feet of the flagstick, leading to a birdie and win over Brandon Wu.
The then 25-year-old Bucey finished the three-day, 54-hole event with a score of 6-over 219.
“It’s feels amazing. It’s surreal,” Bucey said. “With the course playing so tough, it felt like a mini major, like a British Open.”
While the firm and fast conditions of the new Poppy Hills were already a factor, in the final round things got even more intense due to a crowded leaderboard.
After some late lead exchanges, Bucey arrived at the 18th tee at 6-over, with Jeremy Sanchez already in the clubhouse at 7-over and Wu, who was in the final threesome with Bucey, at 7-over. On the 18th, Bucey missed his birdie putt to win the title outright and had to settle for par. Wu, meanwhile, also had an opportunity to win the title when he reached the green in two. Wu missed his eagle try, but made birdie to force extra holes.
In regulation, Bucey had played the same shot on No.2 but got a different bounce, leading to a bogey.
“I wanted to play it off the right slope. The first time it didn’t work out, When I saw it hit that second time, I knew it was going to end up close,” Bucey said.
Wu’s tee shot had landed towards the top ridge of the green. His difficult downhill birdie try ran 10 feet past the cup. He’d miss his par putt as well.
Starting Friday, Bucey will be back at it, this time as defending champion and looking to become just the fifth player to win back-to-back titles.
He’ll again be taking on a tough field.
Among those slated to tee off include former CSU-Monterey Bay standout Robby Salomon, record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag and 2014 NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship winner Matthew Seramin.
Salomon and Seramin both played in the recent California Amateur Championship at Lake Merced GC. Haag competed in the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso CC.
There will also be a strong St. Mary’s flavor, with Hunter Rappleye, Jonathan De Los Reyes and head coach Scott Hardy all slated to play. On Monday, De Los Reyes put on a clinic at a U.S. Amateur qualifier at Diablo CC, shooting 8-under 132 over 36 holes. He’d beat the field by 10 strokes.
Hardy is a three-time winner of the NCGA Public Links Championship.
There will also be Poppy Hills to contend with. While the course has softened up, it can still bite.
The 54-hole event runs through Sunday. Following Saturday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 40 and ties advancing to Sunday’s final round.