August 19, 2016
In a span of over a century, only 10 players had ever won the California Amateur Championship and the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship in the same year.
San Jose resident Shintaro Ban is the latest to join the list.
The No.2 seeded UNLV junior came scorching out of the gates and never let up, defeating Bellarmine High senior Eddy Lai, 10 and 9, in Friday’s 36-hole finale at Spyglass Hill. The list of players who’ve bagged both titles in one year includes Jack Neville (1913), Charles Seaver (1933), Michael Brannan (1976) and, most recently, PGA Tour member Spencer Levin (2004).
“It’s unreal. It means a lot,” said Ban, who commuted from his home to Spyglass Hill every day, leaving as early as 4 a.m. “I didn’t expect myself to win.”
In two of his tuneups for the championship–the Pacific Coast Amateur and Trans-Mississippi–Ban didn’t crack the top 20 in the final standings.
“It was a tough stretch. I just kept practicing hard,” Ban said. “As the week progressed here, I felt like I was more and more finding my game.”
He was certainly firing on all cylinders at the end. Through the first 13 holes of the morning portion, the 20-year-old went 6-under. After four straight birdies on holes No.10 through No.13, his lead quickly grew to 6-up. In the final nine holes of the afternoon, Ban went 1-under. Lai, the No.1 seed, wasn’t completely off his game, either. The fellow San Jose resident, who at age 17 was aiming to become the youngest champion ever, played his morning round at 2-over.
“I was just trying to stay within myself,” said Lai of the early onslaught. “I wasn’t executing my shots and he was just on fire. I’ll look back later and see how he played the course differently. It’s disappointing, but I’m proud of the way I played all week. I’ll take this and move on.”
Something had to give. Entering the finale, Lai had never trailed in his previous three matches. Ban came in having never trailed in his quarterfinals and semifinals wins.
The two have been close friends for years, having previously competed together on the Junior Tour of Northern California. Following stroke play qualifying, and after seeing they were in opposite brackets, the two joked about meeting in the final.
“It’s tough. We were trying to have fun, but in the end we also knew that only one of us was going to win,” Ban said.
Playing in his last event of the summer, Ban only trailed on three holes total over the five match play rounds. When he did have a slip, and even when he going good, there to help him was his caddie, friend Sissy Nichols.
“Sissy keeps me in it. Half the credit has to go to her,” Ban said. “She keeps me positive.”
August 18, 2016
Just a few years ago, fellow San Jose residents Eddy Lai and Shintaro Ban were playing together in Junior Tour of Northern California events.
Now, the duo will compete for one of the biggest amateur prizes in the state.
On Thursday, Lai, a 17-year-old senior at Bellarmine High, and Ban, a junior at UNLV, secured their spots in the finals of this week’s 113th annual NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship with another set of wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
The No.1 seeded Lai, who’s already committed to UCLA, moved on with a 4 and 2 win over No.4 Greg Gildea, while Ban, the No.2 seed, advanced following a 2 and 1 victory over No.3 seed Viraat Badhwar. It is believed to be the first time in championship history that all four top seeds made it to the semifinals.
“It’s crazy. I’ve never had to play this many good rounds in a row,” said Lai, who won the 2015 NCGA Junior Championship at Spyglass Hill. “I’m just really happy. I look forward to playing well tomorrow too.”
After knocking out No.25 Jeff Gilchrist, who at 44 was the oldest player in the field, in the quarterfinals, Lai had to get by Gildea. He’d take a 1-up lead with a birdie on the par-5 1st and never looked back.
By the time the two reached 13th, Lai’s lead was 3-up. Gildea, who plays at Fresno State, tried his best to hang in there but never could make a dent in the lead. It didn’t help that Gildea was fatigued from a staph infection he picked up on Monday.
Or that Lai has been on top of his game. In each of his last three matches, Lai has never trailed.
“Having won the NCGA Junior here, I know some of the nuances of Spyglass now. It fits my eye,” said Lai, who with a win in the finals would become the youngest champion in the event’s long history. “I’m also playing more conservatively. The last few tournaments I played in, I was being aggressive. This week, I’m staying within myself more.”
Ban, who in June won this year’s California Amateur Championship, has also been in a groove. In his 1-up win over No.23 Ryan Maund in the quarterfinals, Ban never trailed. He never trailed against Badhwar either after taking a 1-up lead with a birdie on the 1st.
Badhwar, a junior at Stanford, did manage to get the match back to all-square through 11, but Ban sank a 9-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th to re-take a 1-up lead. Another birdie on the 16th gave the 20-year-old Ban a 2-up lead before the duo halved the 17th with pars.
“I’ve struggled a little bit since the California Amateur, so it feels good to have grinded through the bad parts,” said Ban, who is competing in his last event of the summer. “Against Viraat, we kept going back-and-forth. I just told myself to keep things simple. My game would fall apart at times, but that’s just golf.”
Badhwar had been hoping to make it two titles in a row for the Cardinal. World No.1 ranked amateur Maverick McNealy, whom Badhwar paired with at last year’s inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, was both medalist and champion last year.
McNealy, who missed the cut at the U.S. Amateur, and Badhwar exchanged texts during the week. McNealy even gave Badhwar his yardage book from last year to use as a guide.
“I played pretty solid. Shintaro just made more putts than me. He putted very well,” Badhwar said. “Maverick’s yardage notes were handy. I just didn’t execute the shots as well as he did.”
With a win in the final, Ban would join an elite group of 10 players to have won both the California Amateur and NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship in the same year. The list includes Jack Neville (1913), Charles Seaver (1933), Michael Brannan (1976) and the most recent player to accomplish the feat, PGA Tour member Spencer Levin (2004).
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Ban, whose network of friends intertwines with Lai’s friends. “I love Eddy.”
The 36-hole finale will begin at 7 a.m.
August 17, 2016
Each of the top four seeds are alive and kicking. But there’s still a long way to go.
No.1 seed Eddy Lai, No.2 Shintaro Ban, No.3 Viraat Badhwar and No.4 Greg Gildea all got through a busy Wednesday at Spyglass Hill, winning both their Round of 32 and Round of 16 matches.
Lai, a senior at Bellarmine High who’s already committed to UCLA, followed up an opening 4 and 3 win with a 2 and 1 win over No.17 Matt Hedges.
In Thursday morning’s quarterfinals, Lai will face veteran Jeff Gilchrist. The oldest player in the field at age 44, Gilchrist began his day by knocking out No.8 seed and defending NCGA Player of the Year Nick Moore, 3 and 2. In the afternoon, Gilchrist, who won the championship 21 years ago, cruised to a 5 and 3 win over No.24 Max Ting.
In knocking out Moore, Gilchrist was powered in part by a pair of birdies on the 12th and 14th holes.
Ban, the winner of this year’s California Amateur Championship, punched his ticket to the quarterfinals with a 1-up win over No.18 Scott Munger. He’ll next face No.23 Ryan Maund, who following a tight 19th hole in the morning ran away with a 5 and 4 win over No.26 Jeremy Villafuerte in the afternoon.
In one of the other quarterfinals, it’ll be Badhwar versus No.27 Robby Salomon. Badhwar, who’s looking to make it two championship titles in a row for Stanford, showed he could grind, posting a pair of 1-up wins.
In his morning Round of 32 match against No.30 Perry Cohen of St. Mary’s College, Badhwar was two down through 15 holes. He’d answer the bell by winning the final three holes in succession by going par-birdie-par. In his afternoon match against No.19 Luke Vivolo, the two see-sawed to be all-square through 13 holes. Badhwar, who played with 2015 champion Maverick McNealy at the 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, finally grabbed a 1-up lead on the 15th when Vivolo made bogey. The two would halve the final four holes.
Salomon, the former CSU-Monterey Bay standout who defended his title earlier this year at the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship, also had to toil. He’d get by No.6 Walker Huddy in the morning, 1-up, courtesy of a clutch birdie on the 18th. Later, Salomon dispatched No.22 seed and 2015 runner-up Matt Cohn, 3 and 2.
The fourth quarterfinals match will pit No.4 Greg Gildea versus No.5 Matt Robinson. The long-hitting Gildea, who plays at Fresno State, advanced with a 4 and 3 win over 2016 NCGA Mid-Amateur champ Zachary Solomon.
Robinson, who plays out of Del Rio CC, advanced with a 2 and 1 quarterfinals win over No.21 Cole Nygren.
Following Thursday morning’s quarterfinals matches, it’ll be on to the afternoon semifinals, which are slated to begin at 12:30 p.m.
August 16, 2016
Bellarmine High senior Eddy Lai will be the No.1 seed at this year’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship.
Lai, a Youth on Course South Bay member, shot a second round 3-under 69 Tuesday at Spyglass Hill to finish stroke play qualifying with a two-day total of 7-under 137. UNLV junior Shintaro Ban also had a 69 to earn the No.2 seed with a total of 138. Stanford’s Viraat Badhwar, who shared the first round lead with Lai, slipped back to a 73 to come in at 141, earning the No.3 seed.
Winner of the 2015 NCGA Junior Championship at Spyglass Hill, Lai had his second straight solid round, posting five birdies to go against just two bogeys. In his two stroke play qualifying rounds, Lai, who’s already committed to UCLA, only carded a total of four bogeys.
Ban, the winner of this year’s California Amateur Championship, has also looked sharp. Knocked out in the semifinals by eventual champion Maverick McNealy last year, Ban had an eagle on the par-5 11th and four birdies to go with three bogeys. Entering the championship, the former Archbishop Mitty High standout held the No.1 spot in the NCGA Player of the Year points standings.
Trying to make it two wins in a row for the Cardinal, Badhwar wasn’t able to get going. A day after posting an eagle and five birdies, the E-Club South Bay member had only three birdies to go with four bogeys.
The No.4 seed was claimed by Fresno State’s Greg Gildea, who bounced back from a 74 with a 68 to come in at 142.
Also making a big move when it counted was 2016 NCGA Mid-Amateur champion Zachary Solomon. After nearly shooting himself out of the championship with an opening 77, Solomon rebounded with a 68 to finish T-11.
Others securing precious match spots were defending NCGA Player of the Year Nick Moore (T-7), 2016 NCGA Public Links champ Matt Cohn (T-22) and two-time defending NCGA Amateur Stroke Play champion Robby Salomon (T-22).
The cutline for match play(low 32) came at 4-over 148. It marked the third straight year that there has been a clean cut in the championship.
Among those missing the cutline were 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up Jason Anthony (149), former championship winner Jake Yount (151) and 2015 NCGA Four-Ball champion Ben Corfee (149).
Wednesday’s action will feature both the Round of 32 and Round of 16. Lai will take on No.32 seed Hunter Rappleye, while Ban will face No.31 Ben Scribner.
August 15, 2016
The Stanford men’s golf team is again making its presence felt at the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship.
On Monday, Stanford junior Viraat Badhwar grabbed a share of the lead in the first round of stroke play qualifying at this year’s championship, posting a stellar 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill. Also shooting a 68 was Bellarmine High senior Eddy Lai.
At last year’s championship, Stanford star Maverick McNealy was the stroke play medalist thanks in part to an NCGA record low 65 at Spyglass Hill. McNealy, who was dominant all week, went on to win the title.
McNealy’s teammate at 2015’s inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Olympic Club, Badhwar showed that he’s some magic in the bag himself. He’d open his round by holing out for eagle on the par-4 10th, He’d add five birdies to go against three bogeys the rest of the way.
Lai, who’s committed to UCLA, has had his special moments at Spyglass Hill too. In 2015, he’d win the NCGA Junior Championship there. A Youth on Course South Bay member, Lai had an eagle of his own on the par-5 7th to go along with four birdies and just two bogeys.
Also making an early move was recent California Amateur Championship winner and UNLV junior Shintaro Ban. Ban, who fell to McNealy in last year’s semifinals and came into this year’s championship holding the No.1 spot in the NCGA Player of the Year standings, put up a solid 69 that featured an eagle on No.7, three birdies and two bogeys.
Five players, including defending NCGA Player of the Year Nick Moore, are T-4 after coming in with matching rounds of 70.
2016 NCGA Public Links champion Matt Cohn, who lost to McNealy in last year’s final and entered the championship just four points behind Ban in the Player of the Year standings, opened with a 74 and is T-26.
Following Tuesday’s second round, a cut will be made the low 32 advancing to Wednesday’s first round of match play. Wednesday’s play will also see the Round of 16 held. Thursday’s play will consist of the quarterfinals and semifinals, with the 36-hole finale to be held Friday.
With not much wind playing a factor, Spyglass Hill played to a stroke average of 77.166.
August 9, 2016
Last year, all eyes were on Stanford star Maverick McNealy, who turned the annual NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship into a one-man show.
When this year’s 113th NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship gets underway Monday at Spyglass Hill, the players in the field will be focusing on the points standings for 2016 NCGA Player of the Year honors.
Heading into the championship, which awards a whopping 700 points, the points standings is a logjam. Shintaro Ban, a junior at UNLV, leads everyone with 775 points thanks to his victory at June’s California Amateur Championship.
But there are four players right on his heels.
San Francisco’s Matt Cohn, who fell to McNealy in the 2015 finals, is a mere four points behind Ban after having recently advancing—in a sudden-death playoff nonetheless—through a U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier. Back in April, Cohn picked up his first NCGA title at the Public Links Championship.
Defending NCGA Player of the Year Nick Moore, meanwhile, is at 759 points, just 16 behind Ban. Moore, who also recently qualified for the U.S. Mid-Am, finished third at the Public Links Championship and was T-5 at the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
There’s also the Salomon-Solomon crew. A former standout at CSU-Monterey Bay, Robby Salomon is at 755 points after having defended his title at the NCGA Stroke Play Championship. Zachary Solomon, on the other hand, is at 710 points thanks in part to his first NCGA victory at June’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
In a somewhat rare occurrence, all of the Top 5 players in the points standings will be competing in the championship.
Others within easy striking of Ban who’ll be looking for a win include NCGA Four-Ball champion Brett Viboch (641), Ben Corfee (523) and 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up Jason Anthony (486).
Both Monday and Tuesday’s action will consist of stroke play qualifying. Following Tuesday’s play, a cut will be made with the low 32 advancing to match play.
Featured pairings during the stroke play qualifying portion include: Anthony, Viboch and former champion Jake Yount; Ban, Salomon and Solomon; and Cohn, Aaron Beverly and Andrew Morgan. Cohn, Beverly (2014) and Morgan (2013) are all championship runner-ups.
Wednesday’s play will feature both the first and second rounds of match play, while Thursday’s action will consist of the quarterfinals and semifinals. On Friday, it’s the 36-hole championship, set to start at 7 a.m.
In Monday’s stroke play qualifying round last year, McNealy fired a 7-under 65, establishing an NCGA mark for lowest competitive round at Spyglass Hill. The previous low NCGA 18-hole score at Spyglass Hill was 66, shot by Austin Roberts and Jay Myers during the championship.