Knoll Captures First NCGA Senior Match Play After 19-Hole Duel with Boyns
Aug. 13, 2015
PEBBLE BEACH — Jim Knoll stood over his ball on the 18th hole at Spyglass Hill, arms crossed, examining his lie that was precariously close to the lip of the fairway bunker.
“I actually thought I had it when he was in the lip of the bunker,” admitted Knoll’s opponent Casey Boyns.
With the final match of the NCGA Senior Match Play at all square, and Boyns sitting pretty 30 yards ahead, Knoll went for an all-or-nothing shot and took a rip at the green. Knoll flushed his 7-iron, and admitted to hearing his ball skim the edge of the rough before soaring unscathed and thumping down on the front of the green.
“I hit it really good,” Knoll said. “That was probably the shot of the day.”
Knoll salvaged his par, and Boyns’ birdie putt from the front of the green peeled off just in front of the cup, sending the match to a 19th hole. Knoll took advantage of the extra life, striping his drive and an approach that covered the flag, before winning his first NCGA Senior Match Play Championship with a conceded birdie.
“I kid myself. I’m 63 now. I don’t think I’m playing as good as I have the past two or three years, and I think that has to do with age,” said Knoll, the four-time defending NCGA Senior Player of the Year who all but wrapped up his fifth straight title with this win. “I didn’t know if I was going to have an opportunity to snag this one. I was so happy that Casey and I were playing today, because there’s not a better person to be playing against than Casey. You are testing yourself against the best, all the time.”
Knoll played the first three holes of the match in 3 over to promptly drop to 2 down, but did not record another bogey his final 16 holes to chase down Boyns, who was gunning for a record third NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play title.
“I was tired, but the adrenaline of playing with Casey kept me going,” Knoll said. “When we were walking down the 19th hole, we were just talking about how great this was, how special it was to be able to do this, and compete evenly.”
On that 19th hole — Spyglass Hill’s No. 10 — Boyns stymied his drive behind the tree that protects the left edge of the fairway, and overcooked the slice he was forced to play. His approach found the downslope of the right greenside bunker, and he splashed out into the rough. His chip shot for par cruelly burned the edge of the hole, and Boyns conceded Knoll’s 10-footer for the win.
“I really wanted to win a third one,” Boyns said. “We were having a good battle.”
Boyns led from the second through 12th holes, but a bogey on No. 13 brought the match back to all square. Boyns continued to fight, scrambling for a par from 100 yards on No. 14 after plunking his second shot in the water, to pull out a halve. Knoll finally took his first lead on No. 15 when he wedged it to 10 feet, while Boyns again found the water.
Boyns still trailed 1 down on No. 17 when he wedged his approach 10 feet above the hole, and Knoll left himself a 6-footer for birdie, straight up the hill. But Boyns deftly curled in his quicker-than-quick putt, and Knoll’s try caught the left edge, bringing the match to all square heading into the final hole.
“I expected him to make it, even though he hadn’t made any all day,” Knoll said. “And I had the easiest putt, and missed.”
While Knoll fell victim to the wild swings of match play momentum on No. 17, he promptly flipped the table on Boyns. But even after his heroic shot on No. 18, Knoll still had to get down in two from nearly 50 feet. Knoll sunk a knee-knocking 5-footer to extent the match.
“I had to make a really difficult putt to keep the match going,” Knoll said. “It was much harder than the one I missed on No. 17.”
It was a match where nothing came easy.
Photo Gallery – Finals
Aug. 13, 2015
PEBBLE BEACH – It’s the final match we’ve been waiting for.
Top seed Jim Knoll will face No. 2 seed Casey Boyns in tomorrow’s championship match of the NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play at Spyglass Hill.
Knoll defeated Kimble Cater of Corral de Tierra 4 and 3 in the first semifinal this morning, quickly establishing a 2-up lead after three holes. “I got up and then tried to hit the middle of the green,” the Rooster Run member said. The four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year would go on to lose only one hole, the 13th, before closing out the match on the 15th hole.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing,” Knoll said. “I’m playing a little bit better. I’m hitting fairways and greens.”
Casey Boyns showed no effects from the demanding schedule he’s been on the last few weeks in dispatching Ralph Constanzo of Mariners Point Linksters 5 and 3.
The 2011 and 2013 champion of this event just got back from playing in the British Senior Amateur at Royal County Down, where he played 14 rounds in 12 days. He made the cut in that event, and tied for 50th place. But entering the week, he was, “Totally burned out and tired.”
“I was really playing bad,” the four-time NCGA Player of the Year said. “But on Tuesday (in the first round of match play) on the 12th hole I started hitting some crispy shots and got some confidence going. I found my swing. I’ve been experimenting, tinkering. I went back to the swing I’ve been using for a while.”
The momentum waned a little in his quarterfinal match yesterday, but Boyns came out on fire this morning, making birdie on two of the first three holes to build a 3-up lead. He lost only two holes en route to 5 and 3 win. Indeed the match play format agrees with the Nicklaus Club Monterey member: “I tend to have two or three bad holes in a round, and in match play you only lose the hole, or maybe tie it. I think I’m just a better match play player.”
The finals pit the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked players on the NCGA Senior Amateur Tour against each other for the first time. Knoll and Boyns finished in the same position at the end of 2014 and have spent part of this season with a grip on those spots.
Knoll has five victories on the Tour this season, and appears a lock for an unprecedented fifth Player of the Year award. But he has had to find his way in match play events.
“I’ve learned to enjoy match play. I didn’t used to like it. But it’s fun and don’t get to do it very often,” he said. “It takes a different mentality because instead of playing the golf course, you play the guy sometimes. That can hurt you. I try to play the golf course more than play the opponent but it’s hard to do sometimes.”
This is Knoll’s first trip to the finals in perhaps the only senior title to elude him, and he looks forward to the experience.
“It will be fun to play Casey,” Knoll said. “I respect him so much not only as a golfer but as a person. We have a great relationship and it’s just so enjoyable tgo spend four or five hours on a golf course with him. He’s a lot of fun.”
Boyns also has five victories this season, including the NCGA Senior and NCGA Senior Four-Ball (with Terry Foreman).
Photo Gallery – Semifinals
Aug. 12, 2015
PEBBLE BEACH – It wasn’t easy, but the top two seeds survived and moved on to the semifinals of the NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill.
Top-seeded Jim Knoll faced a 2-down deficit through nine holes due to stellar play from opponent Steve Wilson of Roddy Ranch. But the four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year won four straight holes with pars to start the back nine, and never looked back on his way to a 2-up win. Knoll has been the top seed each of the last three years, but had been knocked out before the semifinals.
Knoll faces Kimble Cater of Corral de Tierra, the lone stroke-play qualifier left in the field. Cater defeated Mitch Harrison of Woodbridge GCC 4 and 3. Cater was in control the entire match, building a 2-up lead after four holes, and closing Harrison out with a par on the 15th hole.
Casey Boyns, the No. 2 seed, was all square through 13 in his match against Ken Noonan of Monterey Peninsula CC. But a Boyns birdie on the 14th hole and Noonan bogey on No. 16 propelled Boyns into the semifinals with a 2-and-1 win. The Pebble Beach caddie is a two-time champion in this event (2011 and 2013).
Boyns will play Ralph Costanzo of Mariners Point Linksters. In the most dramatic contest of the afternoon, Costanzo won the 18th hole against Rich Rowley of Almaden to extend the match. A par on the 20th hole, the par-4 second at Spyglass Hill, placed Constanzo into the semifinals.
The semifinals tee off Thursday at 8 a.m. at Spyglass Hill. The winners of the two matches then face off for the title Friday beginning at 7:15 a.m.
Photo Gallery – Quarterfinals
Round of 16
PEBBLE BEACH – No. 1 seed Jim Knoll survived 20 holes at Spyglass Hill to advance to the quarterfinals, beating Dean Prince to keep hopes alive of capturing his first NCGA Senior Match Play Championship.
Kimble Cater is the only Monday qualifier still going, as the No. 21 seed beat No. 5 Dale Bouguennec 1 up.
No. 2 Casey Boyns and No. 9 Steve Wilson both won their matches 7 and 6, while No. 13 Mitch Harrison needed 19 holes to advance. No. 10 Ken Noonan won 2 and 1, No. 14 Ralph Costanzo won 1 up, and No. 11 Rich Rowley won 2 up.
The quarterfinals are Wednesday afternoon, with semifinal matches beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, and the finals taking place Friday at 7:15 a.m.
Aug. 11, 2015
PEBBLE BEACH – The round of 32 kicked off for the NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play Tuesday at Poppy Hills.
The top 16 from the NCGA Amateur Tour Senior Points list faced off against 16 competitors advancing from Monday’s stroke-play qualifying.
Top-seeded Jim Knoll dispatched Michael Wiechers 3 and 2. The Senior Match Play is the one title to elude perhaps the NCGA’s most dominant senior in history. Knoll has won four consecutive Senior Player of the Year titles on the NCGA Amateur Tour. The Rooster Run member already has five Amateur Tour titles in 2015, and a healthy lead in the race for a fifth Player of the Year honor.
No. 2-seeded Casey Boyns also advanced, a 2 and 1 victor over Michael Mitchell. Boyns is the 2013 champion of this event and the current NCGA Senior champion. Another former champion, Terry Foreman, took out Ray Kong 2-up. Foreman is the No. 3 seed.
Two upsets occurred amongst the top seeds. Mark Miller, the No. 4 seeded and a three-time Senior Player of the Year honoree, lost to Frank Pieper, the 29-seed out of Monterey Peninsula CC. Pieper will face Mitch Harrison in Wednesday’s Round of 16. The other big upset was No. 6-seed Randy Haag, who lost to Joe Zanassi of Green Valley CC, 2 and 1. Zanassi faces Rich Rowley of Almaden in the Round of 16.
The Senior Match Play moves to Spyglass Hill for Wednesday’s Round of 16 and quarterfinals. The semifinals are contested Thursday morning with the scheduled 18-hole final set for Friday morning.
Photo Gallery – Round of 32
Aug. 7, 2015
It’s one of the last big NCGA tournaments of the season, and the results will help determine who ends up being the NCGA Senior Player of the Year.
Starting Tuesday, the 9th annual NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play Championship will swing into full gear with the Round of 32 at Poppy Hills Golf Course. From there, the championship moves over to Spyglass Hill, culminating with the 18-hole championship on Friday.
As for favorites, it’s a lineup of the usual suspects.
- Record four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll will enter the championship leading in the points race with a total of 1,961. While he had somewhat of a slow start to the year, Knoll has since gotten back in the groove, picking up wins at the Alameda Commuters Senior and Sacramento City Senior along with making an appearance in the U.S. Senior Open.
- Four-time NCGA Player of the Year Casey Boyns is at 1,472 points thanks in part to a victory at the NCGA Senior Championship in March. The longtime Pebble Beach caddie also got a win at the NCGA Senior Four-Ball and finished T-3 at last year’s California State Senior Championship.
- Roddy Ranch GC member Terry Foreman, who’s at 1,457 points, has had a solid year, winning the NCGA Senior Four-Ball with Boyns and qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open. Foreman also finished second at the NCGA Master Division Championship and was third at the Alameda Commuters Senior. Foreman always seems to be a factor at the Match Play Championship. In 2012 he won the title, while in 2013 and 2014 he was runner-up.
- Three-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Mark Miller (2007, 2009, 2010) comes in with 1,451 points. The good doctor has wins at the Salinas Valley Senior and Sonoma Valley Senior, and was a semi-finalist at this year’s San Francisco City Senior Championship.
- One of the newest members of the Senior circuit, Contra Costa CC member Dale Bouguennec will enter the event with 1,300 points. Bouguennec’s season includes a win at the Marin County Senior and a run to the quarterfinals of the San Francisco City. Bouguennec also has four runner-up finishes this season.
The championship will officially begin on Monday with an 18-hole qualifier to be held at Poppy Hills. The low 16 will earn spots in the 32-man bracket.
Among those not competing in this year’s championship are Gary Vanier, defending champion Dan Bieber and Herb Jensen, who currently leads in the points standings for NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year honors.