August 16, 2019
While progressing through the ranks, including winning Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year honors in 2014, Danville resident Josh McCarthy has always had his eyes on the NCGA’s biggest prize.
It’s now his.
McCarthy, now a 22-year-old senior at Pepperdine University, captured the 116th NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship on a suddenly chilly Friday at par-71 Spyglass Hill after defeating runner-up Toby Briggs, 7 and 5, in the 36-hole finale.
It’s the first NCGA title for McCarthy, who was a mutiple winner on the JTNC. Also a Youth on Course member, McCarthy joins the ranks of Lawson Little Jr., Roger Maltbie and Kevin Sutherland as champions of the prestigious event.
“This win is really important to me, everything this event means” said McCarthy, who closed things out by holing out a pitch shot for birdie on the 31st hole. “I’ve always hoped to win it. Growing up, you see the age groups ahead of you and the guys who’ve won it. It’s something I’ve always aspired to.”
The first medalist to go wire-to-wire since 2015 champ Maverick McNealy, the No.1 seeded McCarthy sewed things up with a solid stretch to kick off the afternoon round. Already holding a 1-up lead, McCarthy would win five of the first six holes to open a commanding 6-up lead through 24 holes.
With wind suddenly a factor, on both the 19th (par-5 1st) and 20th holes McCarthy won with pars. Following another win on No.22 (hole 4), Briggs on the par-3 23rd couldn’t escape the greenside bunker. He’d eventually just concede the hole. On the ensuing 24th hole, Briggs missed a short putt while McCarthy had a great up-and-down for par to increase the lead to 6-up.
“The weather turned bad there. I knew that pars were the goal,” said McCarthy, who called the win his biggest so far. “I went into that grind it out mentality. That’s really when the match went to my favor.”
Briggs, a junior at University of San Francisco and the No.6 seed, was never able to recover. The England native did cut the lead to 4-up with wins on the 26th and 28th holes, but McCarthy bounced back with a birdie on the 29th hole (No.11) to again make it 5-up.
“Josh is a class player,” said Briggs, who had never played Spyglass Hill prior to the championship. “He’s not going to give you any breaks.”
Having been hampered by blisters since Tuesday’s play, Briggs at least had a caddie this time around. His girlfriend’s brother, Colby. And while he came up short, Briggs was nothing but smiles afterwards.
“Can you complain? This week was about getting in some reps before the season,” Briggs said. “I’d wanted to see where my game was.”
McCarthy had help all week on the bag from his father, John.
“He keeps me calm,” McCarthy said. “He usually tells me to lay up when I want to go for it. We’ll also talk about things other than golf.”
Looking ahead, McCarthy still has his senior season left. After that, it’ll be on to turning professional.
“I’m thinking I’ll possibly turn pro next June,” McCarthy said. “It depends on how the year goes.”
So far, it’s going very well.
After Tuesday’s second round of stroke play qualifying, Toby Briggs had a half-joking message for one of his playing partners, eventual No.1 seed-to-be Josh McCarthy.
“I hope I don’t have to face you later,” Briggs told McCarthy.
Itronically, it’s exactly what will happen on Friday at Spyglass Hill. And it will be for all the marbles.
McCarthy, a senior at Pepperdine University, earned his ticket to the 36-hole final via a 2 and 1 semifinals win over No.13 Chase Sienkiewicz. The No.6 seeded Briggs, a junior at University of San Francisco, moved on with a 2 and 1 win over No.26 Nicholas Caputo.
The two will now play for what is considered the NCGA’s biggest prize. Past winners of the Amateur Match Play Championship include Lawson Little Jr., Roger Maltbie and Kevin Sutherland.
“I’m very excited,” said McCarthy, a former Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year and the highest-ranked player in the field (No. 97 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking). “This week is a grind, but it should be a grind. It’s an NCGA major.”
Having had to toil to beat No.9 Ian Dahl in the morning quarterfinals, The 22-year-old McCarthy fell 2-down to Sienkiewicz early on. But he’d never get rattled. Following a win on the 6th hole to cut the deficit to one hole, McCartjhy won both holes 8 and 9 to take a 1-up lead. From there, he never looked back.
Thanks to another par win on No.12 and a birdie win on No.13, his lead grew to 3-up. Sienkiewicz, a freshman at Univerisity of Arizona, did win the 15th with a par to cut into the lead, but the pair went on to halve the final three holes. On the 17th. which is playing as a par-3 due to construction on the regular green, McCarthy sealed the deal with a great up and down from about 20 yards off the putting surface.
“Chase played great. He put a lot of pressure on me early,” said McCarthy, who reached the semis of this year’s California Amateur Championship. “I just tried to stay patient and waited for my own moments to hit great shots.”
Having to be even more patient was Briggs. The 19-year-old native of England, who never had teed off at Spyglass Hill prior to this week, has suffered from blisters since Tuesday’s second round.
Briggs would start his day by arriving at the course just 30 minutes before his tee time. Without much warm up time, he quickly fell 4-down to Brian Ma through the first eight holes in the quarterfinals. Briggs would go on to shoot a back-nine 31,closing with a par on the 18th to a Ma bogey, to move on, 1-up.
Later, in his match versus Caputo, Briggs was able to keep things tied until the 12th hole, when Caputo, who plays out of Chico State, made a bogey. The two would halve the next three holes until another pivotal moment occurred on the par-4 16th. There, Briggs looked to be in trouble near the tree that guards the right portion of the fairway. He’d knock a beautiful approach to within 10 feet of the flagstick, however, to put himself in prime position for a par. Caputo, meanwhile, pulled his second shot into the greenside bunker. On his bunker shot, Caputo skulled it through the green.
Holding a 2-up lead, Briggs would make a sand save on the 17th to match pars with Caputo and close out the match.
“I think we were both starting to tire there at the end,” said Briggs, who was recruited to come to USF. “I just wanted to make sure that my bad shots weren’t dreadful.”
With the potential for another 36 holes on the docket, Briggs had planned to rest his feet. He was also hoping to get some help on the bag from a caddie, perhaps his friend Jalen.
“I’m just taking this one day at a time, one hole at a time,” Briggs said. “Everyone I’ve played has been superb. I just need to get my feet able to handle it.”
August 14, 2019
The match play brackets opened Wednesday for this week’s annual NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill. Some probably wish they hadn’t.
No.1 seed Joshua McCarthy and No.3 seed Brian Ma managed to escape, but a ton of other high seeds weren’t able to.
A senior at Peppedine University, McCarthy eked out a 19th hole win in the Round of 16 to keep his hopes alive. The former Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year will next take on No.9 seed Ian Dahl, who punched his ticket to Thursday’s quarterfinals via a 2 and 1 win over No.8 seed Gabriel Arcoleo. Dahl back in July picked up his first NCGA title at the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Poppy Hills.
For McCarthy, the big difference was a birdie on the first extra hole (the par-5 1st). Earlier in the round, McCarthy had bogeyed the hole.
Ma, who won the 2017 San Francisco City at the age of 16 and now plays at Harvard, cruised into the quarterfinals after dispatching No.19 Bryce Kvick, 6 and 5. In his Round of 32 match in the morning, Ma won 4 and 2 over Christopher Boyns, the son of NCGA Hall of Famer Casey Boyns.
Ma will next take on No.6 Toby Briggs, who advanced into the quarterfinals via a convincing 5 and 4 victory over No.11 Ashkaan Hakim. Originally from England, Briggs, a junior at the University of San Francisco, built a 4-up advantage through the first nine and never looked back.
The biggest Round of 16 win came from one of the youngest players left in the brackets. Ben Soicher, a junior at Tamalpais High, followed up an opening 3 and 2 upset win over No.5 Jason Anthony with a 7 and 6 thrashing of No.12 Drake Mendenhall. In the win over Mendenhall, Soicher was a buzzsaw, going 4-under through the 12 holes with a bogey.
Another JTNC product, Soicher will next take on No.13 Chase Sienkiewicz. A long-hitting freshman at University of Arizona, Sienkiewicz was the grinder of the day, pulling out a pair of 1-up victories.
The other quartersfinals match will see No.31 Kevin Fryer taking on No.26 Nicholas Caputo. Fryer opened play by defeating No.2 seed Matt Cohn, 1-up, thanks to a bogey-win on the 17th. The two would tie the 18th with birdies. In the afternoon, Fryer, cruised past Hayden Hui, 6 and 4.
Caputo, a senior at Chico State, opened with a 3 and 2 upset win over No.7 Nicklaus Rivera. He’d later defeat No.23 Domingo Jojola, 4 and 3.
No.4 seed Bradley Vu also got an early exit, falling in the Round of 32.
Notes: Each of the five past champions of the event have been collegiate players…Entering the event, Anthony led in the NCGA Player of the Year standings (1,581 points), with Cohn in second at 1,079, Christian Banke in third (919) and Dahl in fourth (803). The event is worth 700 points. With Anthony and Cohn out, and Banke not playing, Dahl will have a good shot at making a significant leap in the standings. The Player of the Year race ends at the end of September.
August 13, 2019
Pepperdine University senior Josh McCarthy will be the No.1 seed for the match play at this week’s 116th NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill.
McCarthy, a former Player of the Year on the Junior Tour of Northern California, shot his second straight round under par–a 1-under 70–to earn medalist honors with a two-day, 36-hole total of 5-under 137. Spyglass Hill is playing as a par-71 for the championship due to ongoing renovations of the normally par-4 17th. The hole is playing as a par-3 for the championship to a temporary green.
Playing out of Youth on Course Alameda Junior GC, McCarthy was the lone player to break par each of the two stroke play qualifying rounds. Last year, McCarthy reached the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The No.2 seed will be recent NCGA Public Links champ Matt Cohn. Cohn, who was tied with McCarthy entering the day, followed up an opening 67 with a 73 that included a two-stroke penalty for missing his tee time. The San Francisco resident would arrive at the tee 40 seconds past his designated time.
Nonetheless, Cohn, who reached the finals in 2015, still carded four birdies including three in a row on Spyglass’ scenic holes Nos. 3 through 5.
Four players–Toby Briggs, Daniel Kim, Brian Ma and Jason Anthony–finished T-3 at 142. Ma, who won the 2017 San Francisco City at age 16 and now plays at Harvard, made the biggest move with a 69. Anthony entered the event leading the in race for 2018-2019 NCGA Player of the Year honors.
The cutline for match play came at 5-over 147. There was a seven-for-three playoff for the final seeds. Among those earning a spot in the brackets was Christopher Boyns, the son of NCGA Hall of Famer Casey Boyns. Casey will be playing at Spyglass in the Senior Match Play Championship.
August 12, 2019
Matt Cohn and Josh McCarthy set the early tone as the 116th annual NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship got underway on a sunny Monday at par-71 Spyglass Hill.
Cohn, winner of the recent NCGA Public Links, and McCarthy, a senior at Pepperdine University, both opened stroke play qualifying with matching rounds of 4-under par 67.
The runner-up to Maverick McNealy in 2015 and a semifinalist last year, Cohn posted six birdies overall to go against just two bogeys.
“It was smooth, pretty straightforward,” Cohn said. “I was maybe in trouble twice all day and made a few putts. There was nothing too crazy.”
McCarthy, a former Junior Tour of Northern Califonia Player of the Year who competed in last year’s U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links, also had six birdies and two bogeys. The left-hander would card three straight birdies on holes Nos. 2 through 4.
Berk Harvey, a junior at Santa Clara, is alone in third place at 68. Bryce Kvick, a sophomore at Long Beach State, is in a tie for fourth with Domingo Jojola after the pair opened with scores of 69.
The course is playing as a par-71 due to the 17th (normally a par-4) playing as a par-3 due to the construction of a new green. The hole is playing as a par-3 to a temporary green, which didn’t seem to affect Cohn, who chipped in on the hole.
Following Tuesday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 32 advancing to match play.
Jason Anthony, who entered the event leading in the standings for NCGA Player of the Year honors (he led Cohn by 455 points), opened with a 71 and is T-9.
The last medalist to win the title was McNealy in 2015.
August 9, 2019
The oldest of the NCGA’s major events, the Amateur Match Play Championship, dates back to 1903 when it was first played at San Rafael GC.
The antique sterling silver trophy reveals a who’s who of historical Northern California amateur golfers including Pebble Beach course designer Douglas Grant, Charlie Seaver, Lawson Little Jr., as well as current and past PGA Tour players Kevin Sutherland, Arron Olberholser, Spencer Levin, Matt Bettencourt, Roger Maltbie and Ray Leach.
Varying formats have been used over the 106 years of competition but today the tournament is 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, followed by a 32-person seeded match play bracket. The one-day final match is a 36-hole test of stamina and concentration after a week of golf at Spyglass Hill. The match play event has been played at Spyglass Hill every year since 1966, with the exception of 1996 when the course was closed due to renovations.
The largest winning margin was in 1930 when Herbert Schultz beat Hugh Ditzler by 11 & 10 at Castlewood GC, this was equaled in 2004 when Spencer Levin claimed the title. The longest final match was seen in 2007 when Ryan Hallisey triumphed on the 39th hole over Jeremy Gearhart, equaling the record set in 1947. Notable runner-up finishers include Ken Venturi and Johnny Miller, with Jack Neville having finished runner-up more than any other player, five times.
At the 2015 championship, Stanford junior and No.2 world-ranked amateur Maverick McNealy set a championship record for low round during stroke play qualifying with a 7-under 65. The 65 was a low for any NCGA event held at Spyglass Hill. Blake Hathcoat matched the 65 in 2018.The two-day, 36-hole scoring record for stroke play qualifying is 10-under 134, set by Finigan Tilly in 2017. Tilly’s stroke play total of 10-under 134 is the low 36-hole total for any NCGA event that’s been held at Spyglass Hill.
The event often determines the NCGA’s Player of the Year award with 700 points awarded to the winner.