November 11, 2020
Canyon Lake resident Robert Funk may want to start playing in as many events at Poppy Hills Golf Course as possible.
In what’s been a year of resurgence, just two months after winning the NCGA Senior Championship at Poppy Hills the 57-year-old Bear Creek Golf Club member added a major title to his belt, capturing the 29th California Senior Amateur on the NCGA’s home course via a sudden-death playoff victory over runner-up Greg Cesario. On the first playoff hole (par-5 18th), Funk drained a 4-foot birdie putt just moments after Cesario’s 21-foot bid for birdie came up short.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Funk, who prior to his win at the NCGA Senior hadn’t experienced a victory in over two years. “It feels outstanding to win again. I’m very grateful and I’m also very excited.”
A recovering alcoholic who turned his life completely around after once reaching rock bottom, Funk used some of his knowledge from the NCGA Senior in capturing his first California Amateur crown. He’d also win in extra holes at the NCGA Senior, defeating Jeff Wilson.
“Playing in and winning that event certainly helped,” said Funk, who finished regulation tied with Cesario at 2-under 211. “The course is in just great condition. It really fits my ball flight.”
Having entered the final round holding a comfy five-shot lead, Funk would find himself having to dig deep to hold off a hard-charging Cesario. While Funk slogged his way through a front-nine 36, Cesario got off to a blistering start, going 5-under through his first seven holes thanks in part to three straight birdies to open his day. By the time Funk stepped on the tee at the par-4 10th, his lead had been cut to one.
“I finally looked at the leaderboard on No.10, and told myself I better get more aggressive,” said Funk, who’d card a final round 72. “I could see that Greg was coming.”
From there, the two see-sawed back-and-forth until the end. Cesario, a 57-year-old who works in player development and sports marketing for TaylorMade, took a one-shot lead into the clubhouse when—following back-to-back Funk bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes—he’d make a birdie for a final round 65. Funk, however, bounced back with a clutch closing birdie on the 18th of his own to get back into a tie.
“I wouldn’t have done anything different out there,” said Cesario, who played collegiately at Arizona State and spent one year (1993) competing on the PGA Tour. “On the front-nine, I was in the zone. My mentality to start the day was to just let things happen. I didn’t go out there trying to force anything.”
For Funk, the event had started as a test of his stamina. On Sunday, a day before play began, he competed in the East-West Matches in Dallas. Due to a two-hour flight delay, he’d arrive at LAX Sunday evening at 11:15 p.m.. He then hopped in a car, arriving at his hotel on the Monterey Peninsula at 4 a.m. A few hours later, he was out on the course on his way to a first-round 70 that gave him a share of the lead.
“That first day, I was really just out there trying to play smart,” Funk said.
Third place went to 2020 NCGA Senior Player of the Year Mark Morgan at 216 following a final round 71.
Robert Funk sank this birdie putt to hold off Greg Cesario in a playoff and win the California Senior Amateur at Poppy Hills pic.twitter.com/7zvP8AQvfu
— NCGA (@ncga1901) November 11, 2020
November 10, 2020
When Bear Creek Golf Club member Robert Funk won the NCGA Senior Championship at Poppy Hills Golf Course in September, it was the first time Funk had tasted victory in two years.
Now, the 57-year-old Canyon Lake resident is primed to make it a double-double at Poppy Hills.
On Tuesday, Funk shot a second-round 2-under 69 to get to a two-day total of 3-under 139, giving himself a five-shot lead at this week’s California Senior Amateur with one round to go. The lone player in the field to shoot under par both the first and second round, Funk would card four birdies to go against just two bogeys. He had entered the day tied for the lead with former winner Jim Knoll and Greg Cesario. Knoll, a record five-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year, and Cesario, who works for TaylorMade, both slipped to rounds of 76, leaving them tied for fifth at 146.
The closest player to Funk is San Jose resident Greg Galasso, who’s at 144 after a 71. Scott Anderson and Mark Morgan are tied for third at 145 after rounds of 70 and 73, respectively.
A multiple SCGA champion, Funk was the low amateur at the 2017 U.S. Senior Open.
The cutline (low 30 and ties) came at 10-over 152. The stroke average for the second round was 78.27, with the par-4 3rd playing as the toughest hole (stroke average of 4.79).
In the annual North/South Challenge, which pits three NorCal players competing as a team against three SoCal players (best two scores out of three), the NCGA (below) emerged victorious, 293-296. In Tuesday’s final round, the NCGA had the better hands, carding 147 to 150. Team NCGA was comprised of captain Bob Goldstein, Casey Boyns, Jeff Wilson and Mark Morgan. The SCGA was comprised of captain Bob Livingstone, Craig Davis, Don DuBois and Jeff Burda.
November 9, 2020
It’s a three-way tie at the top as this week’s 29th California Amateur Championship got underway on a chilly Monday at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach.
Greg Cesario, who works for TaylorMade, 2020 NCGA Senior champion Robert Funk and Jim Knoll, who won the title in 2013, all were the only players to shoot red figures, finishing opening day with scores of 1-under 70. Knoll, a Super Senior, was steady, posting two birdies, a bogey and 15 pars. The Sunnyvale resident is a record five-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year.
Funk, a member at SoCal-based Bear Creek Golf Club but also an NCGA member through AmateurGolf.com, is going for a double-double. Only two months ago, he won the NCGA Senior Championship at Poppy Hills with a 54-hole total of 1-under 212.
Three other players–Todd Barsotti, Mike Rowley and Craig Davis–are just one shot back after matching rounds of 71. The CEO of San Luis Obispo-based Straight Down Clothing, Rowley also is no stranger to winning at Poppy Hills, having captured the 2019 NCGA Senior Championship there.
Another two players, 2017 champion Mark Morgan and Todd Palmaer, are two behind at 72. Morgan was the 2019-2020 NCGA Senior Player of the Year.
Defending champion Casey Boyns opened with a 74.
In the annual North/South Challenge, which pits three NorCal players competing as a team against three SoCal players (best two scores out of three), the two squads emerged tied after the first round with scores of 4-over 146. Team NCGIA is Mark Morgan (72) and Casey Boyns and Jeff Wilson (both 74). The SCGA is comprised of Craig Davis (71), Don DuBois (75) and Jeff Burda (76).
The stroke average for the first round was 76.97. The toughest hole was the scenic par-4 3rd, which played to an average of 4.61.
— NCGA (@ncga1901) November 9, 2020
First played in 1992, the California Senior Amateur Championship is the state’s premier event for players aged 55 and over. For most of the event’s history, Poppy Hills was the host venue (1994-2009), although the initial contests were held at Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. In 2010 the tournament began a rotation between north and south courses, with north courses hosting in even years and south courses hosting in odd years. Jim McMurtey, Jeff Burda and John Pate are the only multiple winners of the event. McMurtrey and Burda both having won three times each: McMurtrey (’94, ’95 and ’98); Burda (’08-’10) and Pate twice (2014, 2016). Burda also holds the record for lowest 54-hole score, posting a 209 (seven-under par) in 2008, which included a final round 65. Mark Harding, who won in 2015, matched Burda’s 54-hole record with a winning score of 209. In 2007 Gary Vanier made history by becoming the only player to win both the Cal Amateur title and Cal Senior title in a career, until Casey Boyns matched the feat in 2012.
The championship also includes a team event during the first two rounds comprising four selected golfers from the NCGA and SCGA. The NCGA leads 14-7 in the series, which began in 1995.