July 7, 2015
Eddy Lai went wire-to wire, while fellow San Jose resident Sabrina Iqbal came back to take the victory.
Lai shot a final round 74 and Iqbal posted a 72 on a perfect Tuesday at par-72 Spyglass Hill Golf Course as the duo won the Boys’ and Girls’ titles, respectively, at the 86th annual NCGA Junior Championship.
Lai, a 16-year-old junior at Bellarmine High, continued his recent streak of hot play. In May, he’d capture the NCGA/CIF NorCal Boys’ Championship at Corral de Tierra Country Club. Last week, he was medalist at a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier held at Stanford GC.
“I’m happy to be a part of the history,” said Lai, who joins Ken Venturi and Johnny Miller among the list of champions. “There are a lot of great names on that trophy.”
Lai, who began the day with a comfy five shot cushion, slipped a bit in the finale, carding five bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-5 7th. But he came up big when he had to.
With a birdie on the 10th, Clovis North High senior Blake Hathcoast was able to creep within four strokes of Lai. Following a par on the 11th, it looked like Hathcoat would gain another stroke, but Lai responded by sinking a 10-foot putt par.
On the 12th and 13th holes, Hathcoat made par and birdie, respectively. Lai answered that by chipping in for birdie on both holes.
“The putt on No.11 got me going,” said Lai, who finished the 54-hole event at 2-under 214. “From there I thought, just grind this out. I knew the harder holes were still coming.”
Another birdie on the 15th sealed the deal for Lai, who went on to defeat Hathcoat by three despite closing with three straight bogeys.
“I just kept focusing on my own game,” said Lai, who was watched throughout the day by University of Oregon head coach Casey Martin. “I made some mistakes down the stretch but it was a great learning experience. Hopefully it helps me when I’m in that position again.”
Lai put himself in great position in Monday’s first round, carding a sensational 67 that featured seven birdies and two bogeys. It was his first round at Spyglass Hill since the 2012 NCGA Junior. Prior to this year’s championship, he only walked certain parts of the course for a look.
“That 67 was huge. I was really fortunate because I really didn’t hit the ball well,” Lai said. “I just made putts at the right time.”
And, as Hathcoat will tell you, some perfectly timed chips as well.
“Every time Eddy let the door open, he’d shut it,” said Hathcoat, who shot 72 to come in at 217. “He played well. After that 67 he was too hard to catch.”
Finishing third in the Boys’ Championship at 219 following a 73 was Redwood City’s Shrish Dwivedi. Mikey Slesinki of Fremont took fourth at 220 after a 71.
While Lai held on, Iqbal, a sophomore at Pioneer High, came from two back to defeat first round leader Sydney Babiak of Martinez by one.
The 2014 Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year, Iqbal was good enough to survive a four-putt double-bogey on the 18th hole. Prior to the last hole, she’d gone 2-under with four birdies and two bogeys.
“I knew I had to play well to catch Sydney,” said Iqbal, whose father is the head pro at The Villages G&CC in San Jose. “Overall I played pretty good except for that final hole.”
On each of her four birdies, Iqbal knocked her approach shots to within six feet of the flagstick.
She’d tie Babiak, who’s headed to Yale this fall, on the 15th after making a 3-footer for birdie. A par and Babiak bogey later on No.16, and Iqbal was in the lead. Another birdie and Babiak bogey on the 17th gave Iqbal enough wiggle room to absorb the final double-bogey.
At last year’s championship, Iqbal shot 79-82 at Spyglass Hill. In 2013, she shot 164 over both rounds.
“The course was in my head,” said Iqbal, who recently qualified for the U.S. Junior Girls’ Amateur. “It won’t be anymore.”
For Babiak, it was a matter of being unable to get started. A day after carding four birdies, she’d have zero.
“On Monday I had three tap-in birdies. Today, I hit nothing within six feet,” Babiak said. “I just didn’t make it happen as much.”
Finishing third in the Girls’ Championship at 149 was 2013 champion and 2014 runner-up Samantha Hutchison of San Jose. Hutchison, who’s headed to UC Davis this fall, had two birdies but also four bogeys in shooting a 74.
In the Boys’ 14-15 division, Aaron Chen of Fremont fired a 73 to finish at 218 and defeat co-runner-ups Charles Osborne of Reno and Cameron Henry of Los Gatos by eight strokes. Chen was good enough to finish third in the overall championship, just four behind Lai.
Over in the Boys’ 10-13 division, Scout McNealy, the younger brother of Stanford star Maverick McNealy, took the title at 151 after a final round 81. McNealy defeated runner-up Ethan Chung of Cupertino by two strokes.
July 6, 2015
San Jose’s Eddy Lai and Sydney Babiak of Martinez are the ones to chase after opening day of the 86th annual NCGA Junior Championship at par-72 Spyglass Hill Golf Course.
Lai shot 4-under 140 over 36 holes, and Babiak posted a 1-over 73 as the duo took the lead in the Boys’ and Girls’ championships, respectively, on Monday.
The winner of this year’s NCGA/CIF NorCal Championship, Lai took control thanks to a sensational first round 5-under 67 that included seven birdies and just two bogeys. Having started on the back-nine, the Bellarmine High junior went 3-under over his last five holes, carding back-to-back birdies on holes 14 and 15 and also 17 and 18 with a bogey on the 16th squeezed in the middle. After making the turn, Lai went 2-under with three birdies and a bogey.
In the afternoon round, he’d cool off with a 73, but his total score was good enough for a five shot lead over Blake Hathcoat and Aaron Chen. Hathcoat, who hails from Fresno, finished his 36 holes at 145, posting rounds of 74-71. Chen, who’s competing in the 14-15 division and hails from Fremont, shot 71-74.
Alone in fourth place at 146 in the Boys’ Championship is Redwood City’s Shrish Dwivedi. Dwivedi, who’s headed to Duke in the fall and finished tied for second at the CIF State Championship at Poppy Hills, went 72-74. Christian Banke of Danville is in fifth place at 147 (75-72).
Babiak, who’s headed to Yale this fall, got going with a front-nine 35 that featured two birdies and a bogey. She’d card another birdie on the 11th to get to 2-under but slipped with a bogey on No.12 and a double-bogey on the 13th. The former Bentley-Lafayette High standout played her last five holes at even par.
While Babiak holds the lead, she has some tough competition right behind her. Tied for second place in the Girls’ Championship at 75 are 2013 champion Samantha Hutchison and 2014 Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year Sabrina Iqbal.
Headed to UC Davis in the fall, Hutchison was at 1-under through nine before a double-bogey. Iqbal, a sophomore at Pioneer High, opened with a 40 on her front-nine but recovered with a bogey-free, 1-under 35 after making the turn.
Three players–University of Washington freshman Chloe Corriveau, Jackie Caniete of Antioch and Samantha Gong of San Francisco–are T-4 at 76.
In second place in the Boys’ 14-15 division is Mill Valley’s Nikolai Friedman at 148 (76-72).
Over in the Boys’ 10-13 division, Scout McNealy of Portola Valley holds a six shot lead after posting a solid 2-under 70. McNealy, whose older brother is Stanford star Maverick McNealy, had an eagle on the par-5 11th to go with three birdies and three bogeys.
The final round in each division will be held Tuesday at Spyglass Hill.
June 30, 2015
It’s some of the best junior players taking on one of the best courses in Northern California.
On Monday, the annual NCGA Junior Championship returns to par-72 Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach. As usual, the field is loaded with a slew of accomplished players.
On the Boys’ 16-18 front, the names include Eddy Lai, Evan Peterson, Shrish Dwivedi and Dakota McNealy, while in the Boys’ 14-15 division there’s Joey Burlison and Thomas Hutchison. Over on the Girls’ side, the field will include Samantha Hutchison, Sabrina Iqbal and Chloe Corriveau.
Lai, who’s from San Jose, will enter the championship on somewhat of a roll. Back in May, he’d card a 2-under 70 at the NCGA/CIF NorCal Championships at Corral de Tierra Country Club, capturing not only the individual title but also helping Bellarmine High win its first NorCal title since 2005. Last week, meanwhile, Lai was medalist at a U.S. Junior Amateur Championship qualifier held at Stanford University GC.
Peterson, of Fresno, comes into the event at No.21 in the Junior Tour of Northern California points standings for Player of the Year honors. Back in the winter, he’d win the Holiday I Championship at Del Monte GC in Monterey.
Redwood City’s Dwivedi has had a strong spring. Headed to Duke in the fall, Dwivedi finished tied for second at the CIF State Championship after carding a 2-under 79 at Poppy Hills GC. McNealy, the younger brother of Stanford star Maverick McNealy, recently played in the California Amateur Championship at Lake Merced GC in Daly City.
On the Girls’ front, Hutchison, who hails from San Jose, will be looking for her second NCGA Junior title in three years. The winner in 2013, Hutchison nearly made it a double-double last year, finishing second to winner Jessica Fore. She’d shoot 148, which was four shots better than her win in 2014, but still lost to Fore by four.
““I can’t complain. I played better than last year,” said Hutchison, who’ll start playing for UC Davis in the fall. “Jessica played really, really well.”
Iqbal, who also hails from San Jose, is always a threat. A sophomore at Pioneer High, Iqbal was last year’s JTNC Girls’ Player of the Year, and she’s on her way to winning that award again. Coming into the NCGA Junior, she led the JTNC points standings by over 1,000 points. Recently, Iqbal ran off three straight wins on the JTNC circuit. Having set the record last year with four straight wins, Iqbal came close to matching her own feat but finished 12th at the Summer Series II Championship at Poppy Ridge GC.
Also keep an eye on Corriveau. The Pebble Beach resident, who’ll begin playing at University of Washington this fall, finished T-5 at the recent NCGA Women’s Amateur Championship after shooting rounds of 76-77.
Along with the Boys’ 16-18 and Girls’ divisions, there’ll also be competition in the Boys’ 14-15 division and Boys’ 13-under division.
In the Boys’ 14-15 division, some of those to keep an eye on include Salinas’ Joey Burlison, Carmel’s George McNeely and San Jose’s Thomas Hutchison. Hutchison, the younger brother of Samantha, was the runner-up at this year’s San Francisco City Championship.
Neither Fore nor Boys’ defending champion Justin Suh will be in this year’s field.
Former winners of the Boys’ championship include Ken Venturi, Bobby Clampett, Matt Bettencourt and Joel Kribel. Former winners of the Girls’ Championship include Kim Cathrein and Dorothy Delasin.
On Monday, play will be held in each of the divisions, with the Boys’ 16-18 and Boys’ 14-15 divisions playing 36-holes. Tuesday’s play will consist of each division playing 18 holes.