June 26, 2021
Throughout the week, 22-year-old Pleasanton resident Noah Woolsey kept telling himself to believe. By the time it was over, it happened.
A senior at the University of Washington, the No.2 seed Woolsey erased an early three-hole deficit and came storming back to win the 110th California Amateur Championship over No.4 Wes Payne, 2 and 1, on a hot Saturday at The Preserve Golf Club in Carmel Valley.
Woolsey, who joins a list of California Amateur champions that includes Johnny Miller, Mark O’Meara and two-time winner Bobby Clampett, hadn’t won an event since 2019. Clampett, who grew up in Carmel Valley, was among the spectators taking in the action.
“The whole week, I was just walking down the fairway telling myself, ‘You can do this’, over and over and over. It kind of calmed me down.” said Woolsey, who was rooted on by among others his mom, Miegen, and dad, Phil. “It’s pretty crazy. I had a former California Amateur champ walking down the fairway with me. Just an incredible week.”
A day after earning a spot in the 36-final via a gritty semifinals win on the 21st hole, Woolsey would quickly find himself down three holes after he opened the morning 18 holes with three consecutive bogeys. He’d twice cut the lead back to 1-up, but entered the break down three when Payne responded with a pair of birdies of his own on holes Nos. 16 and 17.
It was time again to just believe.
“My parents and others gave me a lot of encouragement, and I knew there was still a lot of golf left,” said Woolsey, a former member of the Junior Tour of Northern California. “I reminded myself that I had come back in the semifinals and won. So why couldn’t I do that again?”
Through the first four holes of the second 18, Payne, a 31-year-old real estate agent from San Francisco, held firm. But then on both holes Nos. 5 and 6, Payne made bogey after coming up short of the green with his approach and three-putting, respectively. The lead was suddenly just 1-up.
A hole later on the par-4 7th, Woolsey kept the pedal to the metal by holing our from 106 yards for an eagle to tie the match. “When I holed out that flipped things around for sure,” Woolsey said.”It was like all the holes before didn’t matter.”
Still riding the momentum, Woolsey would go on to take his first lead of the match on the 28th) hole (par-4 10th) when Payne’s second shot bounded into the thick rough to the right of the green, leading to another bogey. Suddenly holding his first lead of the match, Woolsey kept it going with a birdie win on the 11th and a par win on the 14th to take a commanding 3-up lead.
Payne, the runner-up at last year’s NCGA Amateur Championship at Spyglass Hill, did cut the deficit back to 1-up with a par win on the 15th and a birdie win on the par-3 16th. But Woolsey yet again refused to give in. On the par-5 17th, still holding a 1-up lead, Woolsey hit a terrific pitch shot from just below the green to within a few feet of the flagstick to save par. Payne, meanwhile, could only watch as his own pitch attempt landed short, rolling back off the green and eventually leading to a bogey.
“I just played bad in the afternoon. There’s no other way around it,” said a dejected Payne afterwards. “I putted awful, and I hit some shots that I didn’t hit all week.”
Woolsey, meanwhile, will head to among other events such as the Pacific Coast Amateur with some extra confidence. And belief in himself. Earlier in the week, he was as member of Team NCGA Pacific Coast Amateur,
“I’m exhausted but also so excited,” he said. “I didn’t ever get fazed, even when I was down three through three. I just kept believing in myself.”
Congrats to 2021 California Amateur champion Noah Woolsey, a 2 and 1 winner over Wes Payne pic.twitter.com/E2sZlIfpvE
— NCGA (@ncga1901) June 27, 2021
June 25, 2021
Perhaps Noah Woolsey had the best summary of what was a busy day at this week’s California Amateur Championship at The Preserve Golf Club in Carmel Valley.
“Oh my gosh,” Woolsey said.
On a day featuring both the quarterfinals and semifinals where the field was whittled from eight to two, the two guys left standing are No. 2 seed Noah Woolsey (pictured, below) and No.4 seed Wes Payne (above). Both felt the toll of playing 36 holes of pressure golf. Woolsey emerged victorious in an epic duel with good friend and No.27 seed Thomas Hutchison via a semifinals win on the 21st hole. Payne, meanwhile, finally got past No.32 seed Tommy Stephenson with a tight 1-up victory.
“That was incredible,” said a smiling but exhausted Woolsey. Down two through 13 holes, Woolsey, a 22-year-old senior at the University of Washington, birdied the 14th hole and later hit his approach shot to within 3 feet of the flagstick for birdie to force extra holes. On the third extra hole (the par-4 3rd), Hutchison pushed his drive so far to the right that he had to take a drop. Woolsey got on in two, and calmly sank his par putt after Hutchison missed his par try from 30 feet.
For Woolsey, who was just named to Team NCGA for the upcoming Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, it capped a remarkable comeback and somewhat of a Houdini act. Hutchison had occasions where he could’ve ended the match, but his putter didn’t cooperate. Woolsey and Hutchison have competed against each other since they were both playing in U.S. Kids Junior events. Later, they’d face off in Junior Tour of Northern California championships.
“It was a tough match for me,” said Woolsey, who earlier in the day advanced with a 3 and 2 quarterfinals win. “Thomas was hitting first so many tines off the tee, and he’s such a great ball-striker and player. I constantly felt like I had to keep up. But I kept reminding myself that I was playing well too.”
Like Woolsey, Payne also had to grind, The 31-year-old real estate agent from San Francisco was down a hole to Stephenson through 16. On the par-5 17th, Payne got one hole back with a birdie win. On the closing par-418th, with both players tied, Stephenson’s second shot landed in the rough just off the green to the left. He’d try a flop shot, but the ball never rolled after landing in the fringe, leading to a bogey. Payne had earlier had reached the green in regulation.
The last time Payne played in the California Amateur was back in 2009. He spent some time as a professional, even competing on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica circuit, but eventually regained his amateur status. Last year, he announced his return to amateur play by finishing runner-up at the NCGA Amateur at Spyglass Hill. Since then, he’s picked up wins at the Palo Alto City and Silicon Valley Amateur.
“It feels great to have reached the finals. I’ve played very consistently all week, and I’ve putted well,” Payne said. “Every round, I’ve been able to get to 2 or 3 under.”
Helping Payne along has been some recent local knowledge–and some people close to his heart. About a month ago, he advanced through a U.S.Open local qualifier at The Preserve. During the week, either his dad, Reed, or girlfriend, Kelsey, has carried his bag.
“Over the last year, I’ve played here a bunch of times, so I feel like I know the course well. You can make a lot of birdies out here, but you can also make a lot of bogeys,” said Payne, who defeated Kevin Sze 3 and 2 in the morning quarterfinals. “With my dad and Kelsey, it’s comforting having them by my side. I have my moments on the course, and they know how to help me work through it.”
Woolsey, who is making just his third California Amateur appearance, said his plan for Saturday’s finale was to just keep doing what he’s been doing—which includes not having his dad on the bag as caddie.
“I just need to keep reminding myself that I’ve played as well as anyone this week,” Woolsey said. “Just keep making birdies and do not let up.”
June 24, 2021
There were a few blowouts and a Cinderalla story in the works as the Round of 16 of this week’s California Amateur Championship concluded Thursday at The Preserve GC in Carmel Valley.
In the big win department, No.24 seed Youssef Guezzale knocked out No.8 Evan Chien via a 7 and 5 victory. A junior at San Diego State, Guezzale rolled to a quick 6-up lead through nine holes thanks in part to a front nine 31. It didnt’ hurt that Guezzale won holes 5 through 9 in succession. Also making statements were No.2 seed Noah Woolsey, who defeated Matt Cohn, 5 and 3, and No.4 seed Wes Payne, who moved on with a 5 and 3 win over Domingo Jojola.
Woolsey, a senior at the University of Washington, went 6-under through the first 10 holes to build a 5-up lead. On the 11th, Cohn, who at age 40 was the oldest player left in the field, made bogey, bumping Woolsey’s lead to 6-up. Payne, the runner-up at last year’s NCGA Amateur Championship, birdied the opening 1st and 8th holes to eventually build a 3-up lead over Jojola. Two more birdies on the 12th and 13th holes, and Payne had taken a commanding 5-up lead.
Also advancing to the quarterfinals was No.32 seed Tommy Stephenson. Stephenson, a junior at Fresno State who hails from Carlsbad, came back from an early 2-hole deficit to eventually tie No.16 seed Alexander Chin. The two eventually went to the 19th hole (par-4 1st), where Stephenson won with a birdie. Chin, who plays at the University of San Francisco, won NCGA Player of the Year honors in 2020.
Two matches that went to the wire were No.3 Connor Nolan defeating Devon Bling, 1-up and No.27 Thomas Hutchison knocking out No.11 Bobby Bucey on the 19th hole. Bucey won the title in 2018. Hutchison, a former NCGA Amateur champ who plays at UC Davis, won with a birdie on the first extra hole. Bling, a standout at UCLA, had trailed by three holes through 13 but managed to cut the gap back to 1-up with wins on the 16th and 17th holes. The two tied the 18th pars, giving Nolan the win.
Also getting Round of 16 wins were No.28 Kevin Sze of Saratoga (1-up) and No.10 Charlie Reiter of Palm Desert (4 and 2). A sophomore at University of San Diego, Reiter will next face Woolsey in Friday morning’s quarterfinals. Other quarterfinals matches will see Stephenson vs. Guezzale, Payne vs. Sze and Nolan vs. Hutchison.
One of the scenes from Thursday’s Round of 16 at the California Amateur at The Preserve pic.twitter.com/2mnITMg08N
— NCGA (@ncga1901) June 24, 2021
June 23, 2021
It didn’t take long for the brackets to get broken at this week’s annual California Amateur Championship at The Preserve Golf Club in Carmel Valley.
In Wednesday’s opening Round of 32, it ironically was No.32 seed Tommy Stephenson who pulled off the big upset, sending medalist and No.1 seed Christian Banke home via a convincing 5 and 4 win. Banke, who was coming off back-to-back course record rounds (64, then a 63) during stroke play qualifying, got a dose of his own medicine. Stephenson, a junior at Fresno State who hails from Carlsbad, jumped out to a quick 4-up lead through nine thanks to a front nine score of 30 that included six birdies. After losing the 10th hole to a Stephenson par to fall 5-down, Banke briefly recovered with a win on the 11th to cut the lead back to 4-up. Following two tied holes (Nos. 12 and 13), Stephenson closed things out, posting yet another birdie on the 14th to seal the win.
Each of the other top 4 seeds got through to the Round of 16, which will be held on Thursday. No.2 seed Noah Woolsey, who played at the University of Washington last season, moved on with a 3 and 2 win over No.31 Finigan Tilly. Tilly, like Woolsey a former member of the Junior Tour of Northern California, took an early 1-up lead with a win on the 4th hole. But Woolsey shook that off, winning holes 6 through 8 in succession to take a 2-up lead. After making the turn, Woolsey won No.10 with a birdie and No.11 with par to give himself a commanding 5-up lead.
Connor Nolan, the No.3 seed, moved on with a 2 and 1 win, as did No.4 seed Wes Payne, the runner-up at last year’s NCGA Amateur Championship.
Concord resident Bobby Bucey, the No.11 seed and winner of the event in 2018, got a first-round win, knocking off No.22 Michael Slesinski.
Thursday’s Round of 16 action will see a number of interesting matches including Stephenson taking on Alexander Chin. Chin, who plays at the University of San Francisco, was the NCGA’s Player of the Year in 2020. Woolsey will face Matt Cohn, a multiple NCGA champion whose resume includes wins at the 2016 and 2019 Public Links Championships. Bucey will face Thomas Hutchison, winner of the 2018 NCGA Amateur.
Friday’s play will see the quarterfinals and semifinals. Saturday’s play will be the 36-hole finale.
June 22, 2021
A day after setting a course record at The Preserve Golf Club with a much talked about 8-under 64, Christian Banke decided to up the ante’. On Tuesday, Banke earned the No.1 seed at this week’s California Amateur after carding a record 63 to finish the 36-hole stroke play qualifying portion of the event at 17-under 127. His score was six shots better than anyone else in the field.
The No.2 seed for match play, which begins with the Round of 32 on Wednesday, will be Junior Tour of Northern California alum Noah Woolsey. Woolsey finished second in stroke play qualifying at 11-under after rounds of 67-66.
The last medalist to go on and win the title was Geoff Gonzalez in 2009. Overall, only 12 players have ever been medalist-champion.
The cutline for match play came at 3-under 141. Nine players will compete for eight spots in a playoff to fill out the brackets on Wednesday morning.
Thursday’s action will consist of the Round of 16. Friday’s play will see the quarterfinals and semifinals. The 36-hole final will be contested on Saturday.
In the North-South Challenge, which annually pits six NCGA players versus six players from the SCGA (best five-of-six scores), the NCGA and captain Gary Fox won the Roger Lapham Trophy over the SCGA by two strokes (702-704). Representing the NCGA were Noah Woolsey (66), Finigan Tilly (72), Thomas Hutchison (72), Lucas Carper (71), Drake Mendenhall (70) and 10-time NCGA champ Nick Moore (76). Team SCGA was represented by Devon Bling, Tommy Stephenson, Charlie Reiter, Steve Sugimoto, Caden Fioroni and Luke Potter.
First round California Amateur leader Christian Banke talks about his record score of 8-under 64 on Monday at The Preserve pic.twitter.com/sCmPWEcxRw
— NCGA (@ncga1901) June 22, 2021
June 21, 2021
A 30-minute fog delay may have cooled the start of this week’s annual California Amateur at The Preserve Golf Club in Carmel Valley. But it didn’t faze a red-hot Danville resident Christian Banke.
Banke, a grad student who plays at the University of Arizona, came out blazing, posting a course record 8-under 64 that included an eagle (par-5 4th) and seven birdies to go against a lone bogey. A co-runner-up at the 2019 NCGA Stroke Play Championship, Banke would post an eye-popping front nine 29. Due to the fog delay, the first round of play was unable to be completed.
Also coming out strong were Parker Sisk and Jacob Westberg, who each shot 66. Sisk, a native of El Cajon near San Diego, will be a junior at San Jose State. Westberg is a sophomore at UC Davis just outside his hometown of Sacramento.
Three players—Junior Tour of Northern California alum Noah Woolsey, Connor Nolan and Satchel Herrmann–also started strong, opening with scores of 67. Woolsey played at the University of Washington, while Nolan is a senior at Chattanooga. Hermann, a former standout at Cal State Northridge, was medalist at the 2015 Cal Am at Lake Merced GC.
In the annual North/South Challenge, which annually pits six NCGA players versus six players from the SCGA (best five-of-six scores), the NCGA leads the SCGA by a stroke (351-352). Representing the NCGA are Noah Woolsey (67), Finigan Tilly (69), Thomas Hutchison (69), Lucas Carper (72), Drake Mendenhall (72) and 10-time NCGA champ Nick Moore (74). Team SCGA is Devon Bling, Tommy Stephenson, Charlie Reiter, Steve Sugimoto, Caden Fioroni and Luke Potter.
Following Tuesday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 32 advancing to match play.
The winner of the Challenge receives the Roger Lapham Cup.
There is no live scoring due to limited cell phone service.
One of the scenes from today’s first round of stroke play qualifying at this week’s California Amateur at The Preserve pic.twitter.com/oVxTTJ94OC
— NCGA (@ncga1901) June 21, 2021
The California Amateur Championship is one of the nation’s oldest state amateur golf championships and dates back to 1912 when the California Golf Association was founded. The California Amateur Championship was originally held at Del Monte GC but shifted to Pebble Beach Golf Links when it was built in 1919. The championship remained at Pebble Beach through 2006, with the exception of 2000 when it was played at Bayonet and Blackhorse GCs due to the U.S. Open being hosted at Pebble Beach. In 2006, the championship began a new tradition of rotating to courses around the state, alternating between Northern California and Southern California. The tournament has seen many top names including Ken Venturi in 1951, Johnny Miller in 1968, Bobby Clampett in 1978/1980, Duffy Waldorf in 1984 and Mark O’Meara in 1979. Standout golfers who have tried to win the title and failed, include Craig Stadler, Corey Pavin, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Woods reached the semifinals in 1994 before falling to Ed Cuff. The oldest champion remains Vern Callison, who won in 1967 at the age of 47. Mac Hunter is the youngest champion, having won in 1972 at the age of 16.