February 14, 2016
NCGA’s John Ronca has President’s Day Weekend to Remember at AT&T Pro-Am
It didn’t take very long for NCGA President John Ronca to realize that this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was going to be extra special.
In Thursday’s first round on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, his professional partner, Hiroshi Iwata of Japan, opened with a birdie on the par-5 10th after reaching the green in two en route to a 66.
Just a day later, Iwata, who earned his 2016 PGA Tour card after a T-4 finish at last year’s Web.com tour Finals, posted a 66 at Pebble Beach Golf Links to grab a share of the lead.
“It really hit me at the end of the second round,” said Ronca, who joined the NCGA Board of Directors in 2007. “I knew then that we were on to something.”
For Ronca, it all turned out be a President’s Day weekend he’ll never forget.
Upon returning to Pebble Beach on Sunday, Iwata had a shot at winning the professional title and the two were in the running for the Pro-Am title.
The only NCGA President to win the Pro-Am is the late Charles Seaver in 1964. Seaver, however, would not become NCGA President until 1980, meaning that Ronca had a chance to become the first active President to win the title.
To up the ante, joining them in the final foursome on Sunday at Pebble Beach was four-time AT&T Pro-Am winner Phil Mickelson and his amateur partner.
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“This has been so amazing. I’ve been so lucky to draw Hiroshi and to play in the final round,” Ronca said. “Hiroshi is such an outstanding young man. I just wanted to hit my chips straight.”
While Iwata lost to winner Vaughn Taylor and the Iwata/Ronca team came up short in their bid to win the Pro-Am, the duo did place T-5 in the team event at 26-under, earning a crystal trophy.
Ronca also closed his unforgettable weekend by sinking his par putt on the 18th. All of it occurring with the CBS cameras rolling.
“You couldn’t buy this stuff,” said Ronca, who during the round found out that he and Mickelson have a lot of friends in common. “Phil was great. We talked about a lot of things. You wouldn’t have read this book if I wrote it. You don’t get this opportunity but one time in your life.”
To make things even better, Ronca had longtime friend Jon Hastings on the bag all week as caddie. He was also followed by his wife Tracy and daughters Stephanie and Rachel. “I knew John had the game to make the cut,” said Hastings of Ronca, who played at an 11 index.
Afterwards, Iwata also tipped his cap to Ronca. While Iwata, who burst onto the scene after firing a 63 at last year’s PGA Championship, does not speak English the two communicated during each round via hand signals.
“Playing with John was a lot of fun. He’s such a very nice guy,” said iwata through a translator. “Without John, I’m maybe not on top of the leaderboard. He was the best partner.”
Other NCGA Presidents to make the cut are Lon Haskew (2002), Kerry Gordon (2007) and Vaughn Kezirian (2009).