March 14, 2016
Fittingly, the final rounds of the 100th San Francisco City Golf Championship featured heavy rain, wind and cold.
In the Men’s Championship, it could’ve been described as Irish weather.
Daniel Connolly, a senior at Stuart Hall High in San Francisco and a former member of the Junior Tour of Northern California, overcame the conditions and a tough foe in long-hitting Noah Sheikh, claiming via a 3 and 1 victory at TPC Harding Park.
It was so wet that a greenside pitch shot from Connolly on the 20th hole (No.2) sounded and played more like a bunker shot.
“It was pretty brutal out there,” said Connolly, who had his father John, owner of the popular Johnny Foley’s Irish House on O’Farrell Street, on the bag as caddie. “It was a grind.”
Headed to Southern Methodist University this fall, Connolly’s big run came during the afternoon portion of the 36-hole finale. Down three through 21 holes, he’d follow up a birdie on the 22nd hole (No.4) by knocking a 4-iron approach shot from the goopy rough on the 24th hole to within 6 feet of the flagstick for another birdie. Two more birdies on the 26th and 27th holes and Connolly suddenly held a 1-up lead.
Despite the slog, and repeated comeback attempts by the powerful 6-foot-6 Sheikh, who formerly played at the University of Oregon, Connolly would hold on from there.
His name joins the likes of Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward as winners of ‘The City.’
“To win the 100th is special. Ray Pellegrini (whom the 100th championship was dedicated to) was kind of a mentor to me,” Connolly said. “It’s incredible to have my name on the trophy with those guys.”
Throughout the match, Connolly had a cheering section of nearly 100 patrons and friends of his father.
“They really spurned me on. Coming down the stretch it was a little intimidating, but I knew they were pulling for me,” Connolly said. “I had to stay focused and not think about winning.”
Prior to the final round, Connolly also got an encouraging text from Padraig Harrington. Kitt Flood, the brother of Harrington’s longtime caddie Ronan Flood, used to work for John at the Irish House.
Apparently, Kitt let Ronan and Paddy know that Connolly, the No.13 seed, was making a run through the brackets.
“I played with Paddy out here on a day like this when I was around 10. He’s my role model,” said Connolly, who plays out of the Olympic Club. “This Irish weather. It brings out the best in us.”
Sabrina Iqbal’s rise through the ranks of Northern California women’s amateur golf continues.
Still just a sophomore at Pioneer High in San Jose, the No.1 seeded Iqbal cruised to the women’s title, defeating No.10 Sagee Palavivatana, 11 and 9.
The two-time defending JTNC Girls’ Player of the Year, Iqbal had no problems with the horrible conditions. She’d play the opening 18 holes of the match at even-par. On the second 18, she’d play the front-nine at 2-under.
“I’m used to playing in hot weather, so this was a nice contrast. It was hard to judge the speed of the greens but overall it was fun,” Iqbal said.
With the win, Iqbal joined an illustrious list of former champions including former Curtis Cup captains Juli Inkster and Pat Cornett.
“It’s cool to be a part of that club of champions,” Iqbal said. “I just didn’t make any big mistakes.”
Iqbal also earned an automatic spot in the Monday qualifier for the upcoming Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, which will tee off April 21-24 at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City.
Senior and Super Senior Championships
Olympic Club member Randy Haag joined Gary Vanier and Tom Culligan as players who have won both the Men’s Championship and Senior Championship.
The 57-year-old Haag, who was making his Senior Championship debut, held off Dean Prince, 3 and 1 to take the title.
“I’m still trying to adjust to senior golf,” said the No.4 seeded Haag, whose resume includes a record six NCGA Player of the Year crowns. “I’ve been waiting for something to put my heart into it. These senior guys are great players too.”
The difference for Haag was a two-hole spurt to start the back-nine. On No.11 he chipped in for birdie from 60 feet. A hole later on the par-5 12th, he knocked his second shot—a 3-wood from 240 yards out—to within 8 feet of the flagstick, leading to an eagle.
In the Super Senior Championship, No.11 seed David Bosley held on to upset No.1 Jay Guerin, 2 and 1.