August 24, 2018
Tony Padilla is comfortable staying calm in high pressure situations, he does it everyday in his job as a college basketball referee.
So when it came time to tee it up in the final match of the NCGA Senior Match Play Championship against two-time defending champ Randy Haag, Padilla was ready for the challenge.
“Randy is one of the most accomplished players in the country, so you gotta make sure you don’t make mistakes, or he’ll take advantage of them,” said Padilla of his final opponent.
In his round Friday, Padilla was nearly mistake free, making just a single bogey in a 4 and 2 victory over Haag to earn his name on the championship trophy. Padilla held the lead for every hole in the match, starting with a birdie on the par-5 first hole at Spyglass Hill to take a 1-up advantage.
“Today again, I was just trying to hit fairways and greens, and I pretty much accomplished what I was after,” said Padilla.
Padilla rattled off nine pars in a row on holes 2 through 10 to take a 2-up advantage into the back nine. He then knocked his second shot on the par-5 eleventh hole to ten feet, making the putt for eagle to go 3-up. But it wasn’t until thirteen green when he really felt comfortable with the match.
“When I made birdie on thirteen, that was huge. Randy was in there about eight feet. I made a thirty footer and he ended up just missing his putt. That swung the tide in my direction.”
For Haag, the runner-up finish was bittersweet, as he was hoping to complete the rare NCGA Championship “three-peat” by winning the Senior Match Play for a third consecutive year. Haag nearly accomplished that same feat in the NCGA Match Play Championship winning in 1992 and 1993, before losing in match play in 1994. Haag will now head directly to the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship in Eugene, Oregon, where he has an early first round tee-time Saturday.
“I think playing Spyglass will prepare you to play anywhere in the world, especially with the way the rough is right now. So I figured this would be a hell of a warm-up,” said Haag about his preparations for this weeks USGA event.
Meanwhile, Padilla will look to leave similar marks on the NCGA record books, but defense of his 2017 Senior Stroke Play Championship will have to wait. The dates this year conflict with his referee schedule. If his performance this week is any indication, he will be a force in many more NCGA Championships in the future.
Super Senior Championship
For the first time in its three-year existence, there’s a new winner in the Super Senior Match Play Championship.
Ron Johnson defeated two-time defending champ Frank Pieper 1-up on the final hole at Spyglass Hill. But Pieper did not go down without a fight.
Johnson built up an early lead in the round, making birdie on the first hole to set the tone. When he walked to the ninth tee, he was 1-over on the card with a 5-up advantage in the match. But that’s where things got interesting.
“My putter got a little balky starting at the ninth, I three putted from about eight feet to lose the hole. If I had made it I’m 6-up, or even if I two putt I’m 5-up at the turn. And that just gave him a little bit of momentum,” said Johnson.
Pieper snuck another one back on the par-5 eleventh hole with a birdie to get the match to 3-up, and then bogeys from Johnson on holes 15 and 16 had Pieper back in the match.
“He made birdie on 11, and then I made bogey on 15 and 16, and all of the sudden I’m only 1-up,” said Johnson of his back nine slide.
But when it mattered down the stretch, Johnson stood up and executed with the championship on the line, getting up and down from a precarious position over the green on seventeen to maintain the 1-up lead and move the match to dormie.
Needing to win the final hole to force a playoff, Pieper missed the fairway by just two yards to the left side. The ball settled down into thick rough in a lie so bad that it took several minutes to locate.
With Pieper only able to advance the ball seventy yards up the fairway, Johnson stuck his final approach shot to ten feet. Pieper followed with a pitch shot to three feet for a conceded par, but it was too late. Johnson only need a two-putt for the win.
“I was just thinking don’t hit it too far past the hole, because I know how quick that putt can be. A little bit of nerves, a little bit of excitement, all of that was churning around in my head,” said Johnson.
For Johnson, it was just another day at the office. When he retired nine years ago, he told his wife he wasn’t actually retiring, “just starting a new job.”
“Having my name on any NCGA tournament is always a thrill. I’ve got one for the Senior-Four Ball, one in the Super Senior Championship, and now the Super Senior Match Play,” said Johnson.
When asked about the keys to his recent success, Johnson said, “Hard work and practice. It helps to have a very supportive wife.”
August 23, 2018
The final match is set and it looks to be a doozy.
“No.1 seed plays the 2 seed for the championship, it’s interesting how that works out sometimes,” said Randy Haag after his Semifinal match.
Interesting indeed for fans of amateur golf in Northern California, as the two-time defending champ and top seed will take on No.2 seed Tony Padilla Friday morning at Spyglass Hill.
Haag advanced by way of a 3 and 2 victory over No.28 seed John Watson. Haag built a 4-up lead through ten holes, but admitted he couldn’t quite close the match.
“It wasn’t my best golf, but that’s going to happen. Everyday you’re not going to play your best, so you find a way to win, and that’s kind of what I did today,” said Haag.
Despite the slow start, Watson continued to make it tough on Haag throughout the match, highlighted by a 100-foot eagle putt on the 491-yard par-5 eleventh hole.
“I don’t recall meeting (Watson) before, but we grew up in the same town, and went to the same grammar school, both caddied at Orinda Country Club. So I really enjoyed playing with him today,” Haag said of his Semifinal opponent.
Haag will see another familiar face on the first tee tomorrow in Padilla, who advanced in his Semifinal match against No.14 seed John Mack by a 4 and 3 margin. Padilla last faced off against Haag in the 2017 NCGA Senior Amateur Championship, where Padilla earned a one-stroke victory by draining a 70-foot eagle putt on the final green.
“Ever since I turned 55 I’ve played quite a bit with Randy. It’s always fun to compete against him,” said Padilla.
In today’s Semifinal, Padilla came out firing with a birdie on the first hole. He’d continue to hold the lead for the remainder of the day, making three birdies over the fifteen hole match.
“I’m just trying to keep it out of the rough as much as I can. The rough is penal and the pins were very difficult, so it was hard to fire at pins. I just tried to hit fairways and aim for the middle of the green, trying to make a lot of pars and not make any mistakes,” said Padilla of his strategy Thursday.
Friday’s final match will take place at Spyglass Hill, where play begins at 7:15 AM.
Super Senior Championship
There’s a familiar face in the final match of the NCGA Super Senior Championship.
Frank Pieper, the No.4 seed this week, will seek his third consecutive title Friday morning at Spyglass Hill, when he faces off against No. 2 seed Ron Johnson.
In his Semifinal match, Pieper went 19 holes against No.9 seed Rick Doebler, before finally earning the win with a par on the 529-yard par-5 first hole.
Reflecting on his round Pieper said, “It was tough, I made a couple of good up and downs down the stretch, but other than that I didn’t play very well, but somehow got away with it.”
Pieper attributed his past success in this event to being comfortable playing Spyglass Hill in tournament conditions, a skill particularly useful this week with the event taking place right after last week’s U.S. Amateur, where the course was co-host for stroke play qualifying.
“Playing Spyglass competitively, I’ve been doing it for a long time and I love this golf course. It’s probably my favorite course to play in tournament golf and the NCGA sets it up really well,” said Pieper.
Although many might consider Pieper the favorite in tomorrow’s championship match, his opponent, Ron Johnson, is the higher seed by way of the Player of the Year points list. Johnson cruised into the championship match with a 3 and 2 victory over No.3 seed Herb Jensen.
“I struck it really well today. I think I only missed one fairway, hit a lot of greens, and today for a change I made some putts,” said Johnson after the round.
Johnson got off to a hot start with a 3-up lead after six holes, which he would maintain for the rest of the round.
“I’ve been coming down here for fifty years approximately playing Spyglass in tournaments, and this is the first time I’ve ever had four threes in a row,” said Johnson of his start, which included a par-birdie-par-birdie stretch on holes three through six.
The past experience both players have at Spyglass Hill will be put to the test tomorrow with the championship on the line. Play begins at 7:30 AM.
August 22, 2018
Only four players remain at the Senior Match Play Championship, after both the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals were completed Wednesday at Spyglass Hill in a long day of golf for competitors.
Two-time defending champ and top seed Randy Haag remains the favorite, after he won two matches to advance to the Semifinals. Haag cruised through the morning round, defeating No.27 seed Dean Prince by a 4 and 3 margin. In the fifteen holes completed, Haag was 3-under par, carding five birdies along with a double-bogey. In the afternoon Quarterfinal match, Haag trailed for the majority of the round against No.8 seed Corey West. West held the lead for the first ten holes and was 3-up on two occasions. But Haag turned it on for the back nine, opening with two birdies to square up the match, and cruised to the clubhouse with six consecutive pars to win 2 and 1.
Haag will face an underdog on a hot streak in the semifinal match, after No.28 seed John Watson of San Francisco GC soundly defeated No.12 seed Rick Sepp in the morning 9 and 7, and then beat fellow underdog No.29 seed David Halvorson 4 and 3 in the afternoon. Watson, who made it through qualifying Monday at Poppy Hills shooting a 7-over 78, played his twenty-six holes Wednesday in level par, making just three bogeys and three birdies.
On the bottom half of the bracket, No.2 seed Tony Padilla remains unscathed after winning his morning match against No.18 seed Steve Wilson 3 and 2, and then beating the No.10 seed Jeff Britton in 19 holes in the Quartefinal match. In the afternoon grudge match against Britton, Padilla did not hold the lead for a single hole on the back nine, squaring up the match on eighteen with a par, and then taking the win with a birdie on the extra hole.
The last player advancing to the Semifinals is No.14 seed John Mack, another player who advanced from the stroke play qualifying on Monday. Mack upset No.2 seed Casey Boyns in the morning round, winning 2 and 1. In the afternoon match against No.27 seed Bobby Davis, Mack sailed into the clubhouse by a 5 and 4 margin. Mack made eight birdies in the thirty-two holes he played Wednesday, including an impressive six birdies in his morning match against Boyns.
Play continues Thursday at Spyglass Hill, with Semifinal matches beginning at 7:44 AM.
Super Senior Championship
The top seed fell in the Quarterfinals of the NCGA Super Senior Match Play Championship Wednesday at Spyglass Hill.
Rick Doebler, a member of AmateurGolf.com and the No.9 seed this week, defeated the No.1 seed and current Player of the Year points leader, Mark Miller, by a 2-up advantage. Doebler, the second place finisher in Monday’s stroke play qualifying with a 3-over 74 at Poppy Hills, was 4-down after five holes in his match today. He battled back to All Square through thirteen, and then made birdies on both fourteen and fifteen to rally a 2-up lead. Despite losing the fifteenth hole with a bogey, he held on for the win.
The No.2 seed Ron Johnson, from Diablo Country Club, narrowly avoided an upset against No.9 seed Neil Duffy of Salinas Fairways GC. Johnson needed 20 holes to advance to the Semifinals. Duffy was 3-up heading to fifteenth tee, but Johnson rallied late winning three of the last four to force extra holes. Johnson, winner of the 2013 NCGA Super Senior Championship, closed the match out with a par on the twentieth hole.
Also advancing to the Semifinals tomorrow are two-time defending champion Frank Pieper, who won his match today 8 and 6, and Herb Jensen, who won 3 and 2. Thursday’s Semifinal matches begin at 8:06 AM at Spyglass Hill.
August 21, 2018
The top three seeds advanced, but Tuesday’s first round of matches at the NCGA Senior Match Play Championship was not without some upset drama.
Playing at par-71 Poppy Hills, No.1 seed Randy Haag from Olympic Club defeated No.32 seed Ron Collet by a 7 and 6 margin. Haag, who is a two-time defending champ after winning the Senior Match Play in 2016 and 2017, halved the opening hole with a par. He then went on to win six of the next eight holes to make the turn with a 6-up lead. His opening nine included three birdies and one bogey.
Also advancing is No.2 seed Tony Padilla of Winchester CC, after he beat No.28 seed Mike Staskus 4 and 3. Padilla set the tone for the match with a birdie on the first hole to take a 1-up lead. Staskus bounced back with a par winner on two, but Padilla won the next two holes to take a 2-up lead. After making the turn at 1-up, Padilla won holes twelve, thirteen and fourteen to take a 4-up lead, and then closed out the match with a halve on fifteen.
The upsets began in the No.4 versus No. 29 match, when David Halvorson from Del Rio G&CC overcame Scott Anderson in 20 holes. Halvorson came out with an opening birdie to take a 1-up lead, and would maintain a lead through the 15th hole. Anderson rallied late on sixteen with a birdie to square up the match. They then halved the next three holes before Halvorson closed out the match on the Par-3 second hole with a birdie.
No.28 seed John Watson also advanced over No.5 seed Jim Knoll with a 2 and 1 victory. Knoll had an early lead after a birdie on the first; however, that would be his only lead of the day after Watson came back with a win on the second to square up the match. Watson took a 2-up lead through thirteen with a birdie on the par-5, and then halved the next four to take the win.
The upsets continued when No.27 seed Bobby Davis defeated No.6 seed Steve Donnelly 5 and 3. After initially playing the first two holes in all square, Donnelly discovered he had fifteen clubs in his bag and had to take losses on the opening holes. Davis would hold onto the lead for the rest of the match, closing out with a birdie on the par-3 fifteenth to go 5-up with three holes remaining.
Wednesday will see play move over to Spyglass Hill, with the round of 16 matches beginning at 9:40 AM, followed by the quarterfinal matches in the afternoon at 2:28 PM.
Super Senior Championship
The top seeds went unscathed in Tuesday’s opening round of 16 at the NCGA Super Senior Match Play Championship.
No.1 seed Mark Miller, the current Player of the Year points list leader, advanced with a 4 and 3 victory over Tom Lyons. Miller took the early lead with a birdie on the first, but Lyons would battle back to all square on four separate occasions on the front nine. Miller then took a 1-up lead on the ninth with a birdie and would not look back, maintaining a lead through the rest of the match.
Also advancing were the No.2 seed Ron Johnson, No.3 seed Herb Jensen and No.4 seed Frank Pieper.
In the only upsets of the day, No.11 seed Bob Cayton and No.12 seed Rob Adolph both will move on to the quarterfinals.
Wednesday’s quarterfinal matches will move over to Spyglass Hill where play will begin at 11:00 AM.
August 20, 2018
Mark Morgan, from Serrano CC, took first place in stroke play qualifying for this year’s NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play Championship, posting a 1-over 72 at Poppy Hills. A total of 20 players earned spots in the championship bracket where they will join 12 players who were exempt from qualifying by being in the top 16 of the NCGA Senior Player of the Year points standings.
Morgan, who is a two-time NCGA Valley Amateur champion and won the 2017 California Senior Amateur, promises to be a formidable opponent at the No.13 seed in the match play bracket. Starting on the back nine, his qualifying round included two birdies and three bogeys in the first eight holes, along with ten consecutive pars to close out the round.
John Mack and Steve Lico tied for second place with rounds of 73 to take the No.14 and No.15 seeds. Finishing in fourth after a 3-over 74, Todd Palmaer is the No.16 seed.
A five-person playoff was needed to determine the final seeding after 23 players shot 81 or better. Mike Staskus and Ron Collet advanced from the playoff to take the final two spots in the bracket.
Defending champion and six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag is the No.1 seed. Tony Padilla, the 2017 NCGA Senior Amateur Championship winner, is the No.2 seed. The first round of match play begins Tuesday morning at Poppy Hills, with first matches starting at 7:30 AM.
Super Senior Championship
De Laveaga GC member Rich Gleghorn shot a 1-under par 70 to earn the No.8 seed and finish first in Monday’s stroke play qualifier at Poppy Hills.
Glegorn and eight others advanced to the match play bracket, where they will meet 7 players who were exempt from qualifying by being in the top 8 of the NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year points standings.
Rick Doebler finished second in the qualifier after a 3-over 74, which gave him the No.9 seed in the match play bracket.
The cut line to make match play was 78. A four-person playoff was needed to determine the final two seeding positions, with Mike Watney and Tom Lyons advancing.
The 2018 San Francisco Super Senior Champion, Mark Miller, is the No.1 seed. Ron Johnson is the No.2 seed. The first round of match play begins Tuesday morning at Poppy Hills, with first matches starting at 8:50 AM.
August 15, 2018
The NCGA Senior Match Play Championship was historically an invite-only event in which the top 16 players on the NCGA Senior points list were invited to participate in the Senior Match Play Championship, held concurrently with the NCGA Amateur Match Play at Spyglass Hill, over a three-day period. However, beginning in 2012 the event was modified to a 32-player match play field, still allotting 16 spots to the top 16 of the NCGA Senior points list, while allowing the other half of the field to qualify.
This change made the championship into a week-long event with the 18-hole stroke-play qualifying and the opening round of 32 taking place at a designated Monterey-area course Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday the tournament moves over to its traditional spot at Spyglass Hill with rounds of 16 and quarterfinals taking place that day. The semifinal round takes place Thursday morning with the 18-hole final concluding the event on Friday.
In 2016, a Super Senior division was added to the championship.