Oct. 1, 2015
Nick Moore, Jim Knoll and Herb Jensen Win NCGA Players of the Year
2014-2015 NCGA Player of the Year
Coming off a disappointing 2014 season where he went winless, 33-year-old Monterey resident Nick Moore was eager to see the calendar roll over to a new year.
“I didn’t feel like I played to my potential in 2014,” Moore said. “Taking time off didn’t help, either.”
On the course, Moore had gone through what he calls an “unintentional” swing change that just sort of happened.
“I was at a point where I was unsure where I was going with my swing. I wasn’t hitting where I was aiming,” said Moore, a caddie at Cypress Point Club.
Off the course, it was a night in November that he woke up and had a strange pain in his shoulder. He’d later take himself to the emergency room, where he was told that he had a collapsed lung.
“The collapsed lung actually was harder on me mentally than physically. I was kind of impaired for a bit because of that situation,” said Moore, who picked up golf at the age of 23 following a standout prep and collegiate baseball career.
Upon the arrival of 2015, a refocused Moore embarked on somewhat of a personal redemption tour. The end results would be 2014-2015 NCGA Player of the Year honors.
Moore clinched the title with a dramatic victory at the season-ending NCGA Valley Amateur, where he defeated Fresno’s Blake Hathcoat in a grueling, nine-hole, sudden-death playoff in nearly 100 degree heat. The playoff was one of the longest in NCGA history.
To get to the playoff, Moore had to make up a two-stroke deficit in regulation. He shot a closing 5-under 67 that included eight birdies.
It was the definition of clutch.
“I was happy to be in the position I was heading into the Valley Am. I knew I controlled my own destiny,” said Moore, who also won the Valley Am in 2013. “I was mentally ready for the situation. I knew I had to win it.”
Entering the Valley Am, Moore was at 780 points and needed 440 points to tie then-leader Maverick McNealy.
Three other players – Jason Anthony of Fairfield, Matt Cohn of San Francisco and Jerry Ledzinski of Carmel – also could have earned Player of the Year honors with a victory at the Valley Am.
The hard fought victory over Hathcoat and McNealy’s other pursuers pushed Moore to a total of 1,280 points and Player of the Year honors.
McNealy, winner of the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, finished second with 1,220 points. Robby Salomon, a senior at CSU-Monterey Bay and the winner of the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship, took third with 1,110 points.
“It’s a great honor to be NCGA Player of the Year,” Moore said. “Even though he doesn’t play in a lot of NCGA events, to see Mav’s (McNealy) name under mine is a big confidence booster.”
It was in April that Moore first showed signs that he was back by capturing the NCGA Public Links Championship, his second Public Links title in three years.
A month later, he finished tied for second at the NCGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship while teaming up with Cohn.
At August’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, he faced McNealy, the then-No. 2-ranked amateur in the world, in the Round of 16. Moore lost 6 and 5 after McNealy played the 13 holes of the match in 5 under.
Moore hadn’t played that poorly, going 3 over with a double-bogey.
“There’s a reason why he’s No. 2 in the world,” said Moore at the time of McNealy, who has since assumed the No. 1 spot in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
Considering the way Moore won the Player of the Year title, one can only think that McNealy would tip his cap in return.
2014-2015 NCGA Senior Player of the Year
The start of the 2014-2015 season was business as usual for four-time defending Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll.
In what was his first event, he tied for third in November’s California Senior Amateur Championship.
It was after that, however, that things were anything but normal for the 63-year-old print salesman.
Due to changes at his job, Knoll wasn’t able to play as often. When he competed, the results weren’t anywhere near his norm.
“I probably went through a four to five month stretch where I didn’t play much,” Knoll said. “When I did play, I didn’t play that well, either.”
Knoll turned a corner during the final round of the National Society of Senior Golfers’ Senior Masters in April. Coming off a 78-72 start, Knoll fired a 65 that included 10 birdies.
Just two days after the 65, Knoll played in the annual Alameda Commuters Senior Championship, beating a strong field by three strokes.
In May, Knoll won the Sacramento County Senior, finish second at the NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship and qualified for the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso.
From there on, he was, “back in rhythm.”
“Making the U.S. Senior Open at my age was my highlight of the year,” said Knoll, who was able to stay with his mother, who lives near Del Paso. “It was like a home event for me. I got to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was probably as good as it gets for me.”
Knoll went on to have another terrific summer. In July, he won the Monterey City Senior Amateur and took at the Sacramento City Senior.
Knoll kicked off August with another win at the Santa Cruz City Senior, and follow that up with a 19th hole win over Casey Boyns in the finals of the NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play Championship.
The NCGA Senior Am Match Play win locked up Knoll’s record fifth straight NCGA Senior Player of the Year title. He finished the season with 2,700 points to outdistance Boyns, who had 1,963 points. Third place went to NCGA Senior Amateur Tour rookie Dale Bouguennec at 1,892.
“I don’t set a goal to be Player of the Year. It’s not the target of trying to win, it’s the competition,” Knoll said. “I savor these. I don’t take it for granted. There are a lot of guys who’d like to win it. The competition is just so good.”
As Knoll knows, he’s not getting any younger, either.
“I’m not playing at the same level that I used to. There are six to seven events where I want to be my best.” Knoll said. “Playing with these guys keeps me sharp. If I don’t put in the time and preparation, these guys will pass me. My philosophy is that you’re only as good as your worst score.”
2014-2015 NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year
When 66-year-old Carmichael resident Herb Jensen first found out that the NCGA had started a Super Senior points program for the 2014-2015 season for players age 65 or over, he was thrilled.
“I’ve been playing competitive golf for my entire life,” said Jensen, a dental consultant for Delta Dental. “You don’t hit it as far as a Super Senior. It’s tough to compete against the seniors. There are a lot of great players.”
With a win at the NCGA Super Senior Championship in October, Jensen started the season off with a bang. In the 2015 portion of the season, he tacked on three more wins at the Stockton City Senior Four-Ball Championship, the Antioch City Super Senior and the Merced County Super Senior.
Along the way, he also picked up four runner-up finishes – San Francisco City Super Senior, California State Fair Super Senior, Vintage Super Senior Championship and Manteca City Senior Four-Ball Championship.
Jensen also proved he can still play with the seniors, finishing fourth at the NCGA Senior Championship.
Jensen finished the year with 1,405 points to claim NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year honors. Ron Johnson of Diablo CC was second at 909, with Charles Richesin of Woodbridge G&CC placing third at 632.
“I’m proud to be the first NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year,” Jensen said. “I think it’s fantastic. I’m very pleased.”