September 21, 2018
Rooster Run Golf Club member and record five-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll may now be a Super Senior, but he’s still got it.
The 66-year-old Sunnyvale resident shot a final round 1-over 72 Friday that included clutch birdies on the 16th and closing 18th holes at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course to hold off newly-turned senior Robert Funk and win the annual NCGA Senior Championship.
For Knoll, the win was significant in a number of ways. It marked his ninth career senior NCGA title, tying him with Gary Vanier and Jim McMurtrey for the most all-time. He also joined Cornelius Bertolone and Kai Thomsen (three) and Jim McMurtrey (five) as the only players to have won the event at least three times.
Most importantly though, the victory was proof that Knoll can still win. While he’d capture this year’s NCGA Super Senior Four-Ball crown with partner Kemp Richardson, his last victory as an individual came at the 2017 Sonoma Valley Amateur.
“This one is pretty big,” said Knoll, who finished the championship with a three-day total of 1-over 214. “Earlier this year my game was mediocre. I wasn’t playing much, and I wasn’t playing well. So I didn’t play much. But I get so much constant support from the guys, and that’s so encouraging.”
Entering the championship, and knowing how hard Poppy Hills can play, Knoll’s gameplan was to just try and make pars. He’d execute to perfection, carding 40 pars over his 54 holes. Buoying his chances were seven total birdies, including three in the final round that offset two bogeys and a double-bogey.
“I know how hard this course can be. My focus was realy good this week,” Knoll said. ‘The older I get, the harder it is for me to concentrate all 18 holes. I was able to do that.”
Knoll, who entered the final round holding a one-shot lead, fell a stroke behind Funk when his approach shot to the green on the par-4 3rd took off and scooted through the green. But Knoll kept hanging in there, eventually regaining his one-stroke lead with just four holes to play.
On the par-4 16th, Knoll upped the cushion to two shots when he stiffed his 7-iron approach shot to within inches of the flagstick.
A hole later on the 17th, Funk pulled his drive left into the trees, leading to a double-bogey. While Knoll would make bogey, his lead grew to three. On the closing par-5 18th, Funk, who made the cut at this year’s U.S. Senior Open, made eagle but Knoll got on in two and made birdie to seal the victory.
“I was ill prepared for the wind and fog,” said Funk, who lives in Canyon Lake. “But Jim played great. It was neat to see.”
The championship did have a somber tone due to the recent passing of fellow senior competitor and regular Steve Wilson. In honor of Wilson, photos were placed on both the 1st and 10th tees.
September 20, 2018
Rooster Run GC member Jim Knoll already has his place in the NCGA record books as a record five-time winner of Senior Player of the Year honors.
The now 66-year-old could end up making some more history. Knoll remained atop the leaderboard of this week’s NCGA Senior Championship on Thursday, posting his second straight 71 on a spectacular day at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course.
Currently holding a one-shot lead over Morro Bay GC member Robert Funk, with a win Knoll would join Jim McMurtrey, Cornelius Bertolone and Kai Thomsen as the only players with at least three Senior titles. He’d also become one of the oldest players to win the Senior crown.
“I played okay, I putted great the first 10 holes or so,” said Knoll, who for the second straight day carded two birdies and two bogeys. “Over the first 10 to 11 holes, all the putts went in. They went in dead center.”
Funk, who made the cut at this year’s U.S. Senior Open, also remained in a groove, carding a second round 72 for a two -day total of 143.
Making moves up the leaderboard into third place and fourth place, respectively, were Rich Gleghorn and Jeff Britton, who tied for the day’s low round with 70. Funk is only two behind Knoll, while Britton is just three back.
The cut (low 30 and ties) came at 17-over 159. Among those missing the cut were 2018 NCGA Senior Four-Ball co-champ Steve Donnelly (161) and Bakersfield resident Scott Anderson. Donnelly had opened with a 73.
2017 runner-up and defending NCGA Senior Player of the Year Randy Haag withdrew due to personal reasons.
September 19, 2018
There’s some familiar faces atop the leaderboard following opening day of the 2018 NCGA Senior Championship at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course.
Tied for first place at even-par 71 following Monday’s first round are Morro Bay resident Robert Funk and record five-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll. Funk, who made the cut at this year’s U.S. Senior Open, had a wild day, posting five birdies but also five bogeys. Knoll, who now competes as a Super Senior, posted a pair of birdies to go against two bogeys.
Also coming out strong was the quartet of Steve Donnelly, David Ujihara, Bruce Hanavan and Ken Gosselin, who are all tied for third at 73. Donnelly, who plays out of Bayonet/Black Horse GC in Seaside, earlier this year won the NCGA Senior Four-Ball title with partner James Camaione.
Another five players, including recent NCGA Super Senior Amateur Match Play champ Ron Johnson and defending NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year Gary Vanier, are just three shots back (T-7) after rounds of 74. Randy Haag, who will be inducted into the NCGA Hall of Fame next week and is the defending NCGA Senior Player of the Year, opened with a 75.
Haag entered the 500-point event trailing Senior Player of the Year leader Jeff Wilson by 442 points in this year’s standings.
Defending champion Tony Padilla is not in the field.
Following Thursday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 30 and ties advancing to Friday’s final round.
First played in 1962, the NCGA Senior Championship is the association’s premier event for players aged 55 and over. Hundreds of players at multiple sites around the region attempt to qualify for the championship each year. Traditionally, the final field has played 36 holes of stroke play at a different venue each year; however, beginning in 2009 the tournament has been played annually at Spyglass Hill. In 2016 it moved to Poppy Hills.
The tournament record was set in 2008 by Jeff Burda who beat the previous record by five strokes with a 135 at Saddle Creek GC. The low tournament score at Spyglass Hill GC was Michael Brannan’s 142 in 2012, the only under-par 36-hole total since the tournament has been played there on annual basis. Jim McMurtrey has won the championship a record five times (1990, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 2000). Cornelius Bertolone (1963, 1964 and 1966) and Kai Thomsen (1988, 1989 and 1991) are tied with second most victories, each winning three times apiece.