August 13, 2021
When the last putt fell in, Sam Sommerhauser and his caddie, his dad Dave, exchanged a high-five and a long hug. A marathon week had ended in victory.
Sommerhauser, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Arizona, got his first amateur win in a big way, capturing the 118th NCGA Amateur Championship at Spyglass Hill after defeating runner-up Michael Slesinski, 3 and 2, in Friday’s 36-hole final. Having learned the game while growing up near Catta Verdera CC in Lincoln, Sommerhauser joins a list of NCGA Amateur winners that includes Lawson Little, Kevin Sutherland and John Catlin.
“It feels good. I know there are a lot of great players who have their name on the trophy,” Sommerhauser said. “It feels great knowing my name will be on there with them.”
A past winner of the NCGA Junior and the Pro-Junior champ at 2019 First Tee Open with pro partner Kirk Triplett, the No.6 seeded Sommerhauser took a 1-up lead with a birdie on No.4 and never let go. By the time he and Slesinski, a grad student at St, Mary’s, reached the break, the lead had grown to 3-up thanks to a pair of late wins on the 17th and 18th holes.
Following the break, Slesinski, who reached the semifinals at last week’s SCGA Amateur, closed the gap to 2-up with a quick win on the 19th hole and later made it 1-up with another win on the 23rd hole. On the ensuing 24th hole (No.9), however, Sommerhauser made birdie to re-up the lead to two. Slesinski never got closer than 2-up the rest of the way.
“It’s by far the longest event I have ever played,” said Sommerhauser, who also honed his game as a youth playing on the Junior Tour of Northern California. “My game wasn’t that great today. But I stuck to the process and kept hitting good shots when I needed to.”
In getting to the finals, Slesinski, the No.9 seed, had routinely climbed his way back from early deficits. Against Sommerhauser, it didn’t happen.
“I just made too many bogeys. I was playing behind all day and tried to force it in some areas. That’s not how you win match play,” said Slesinski, also a JTNC product. “I had opportunities and just didn’t convert, and you have to do that against a good player. I just didn’t do it.”
Sommerhauser’s dad, Dave, worked the bag all week. Considering how things turned out, it may happen again in the future.
“It meant a lot to me to have him out there with me,” the younger Sommerhauser said. “It’s nice to get a win with him watching me.”
Congrats to 2021 NCGA Amateur champion Sam Sommerhauser, who defeated Michael Slesinski 3 and 2 pic.twitter.com/bEtVfxmtwD
— NCGA (@ncga1901) August 13, 2021
August 12, 2021
It’ll be St. Mary’s vs. the University of Arizona in Friday’s 36-hole final of this week’s NCGA Amateur Championship at Spyglass Hill.
Michael Slesinski, a grad student at St. Mary’s and the No.9 seed, and Sam Sommerhauser, a sophomore at UofA and the No.6 seed, punched their tickets to the final after advancing through yet another grueling day that consisted of the quarterfinals and semifinals.
After getting by No.17 Michael Jura in the morning quarterfinals, Slesinski, 23 and a grad student, defeated No.12 Max Holm, 5 and 4. Unlike any of his previous matches, Slesinksi finally got to enjoy an early lead. He’d birdie holes Nos. 2 and 3 and made par on No.4 to take a quick 3-up lead. Holm, a Walnut Creek resident who plays at Princeton, managed to later cut the gap to 1-up with a win on the 7th hole. But Slesinksi responded with a par win on No.8 to again go 2-up.
“Each of my previous three matches had gone to the 17th or 18th holes. I started strong this match (vs. Holm). I wanted a hot start, and that’s what I got,” said Slesinski, who received an encouraging text from Gaels head coach Scott Hardy on Thursday night. “It feels great to be in the final.”
Reaching the final was the primary goal for Slesinski. Just last week, he’d reach the semifinals of the SCGA Amateur. In his semifinals match, he’d hold a 1-up lead through 17 holes. He’d go on to lose the 18th hole and ensuring first extra hole.
“After last week, I wanted to reach the finals here,” said Slesinski, who finished third at this year’s NCGA Four-Ball Championship at Spyglass playing with Gaels teammate Blake Hathcoat. “I’m glad to be in the final, but it’s not over. I’ve still got to get it done tomorrow.”
Sommerhauser, 19 and like Slesinski a former member of the Junior Tour of Northern California, opened his day with a 3 and 1 win over Fresno State’s Kevin Huff. In the semis, he knocked off Jack Avrit, who plays at Santa Clara, 2 and 1. Sommerhauser had a 3-up lead after nearly acing the par-3 15th. But Avrit won No.16 after sinking a clutch par putt after Sommerhauser missed the green right. But on the par-4 17th, Sommerhauser returned the favor, draining a clutch birdie putt of his own to seal the victory.
“It feels great to be in the final,” said Sommerhauser, who already has one NCGA title, having won the 2019 NCGA Junior. “I’ve been playing great all week. I’m just trying to limit mistakes.”
A resident of Rocklin, Sommerhauser has had some extra encouragement on his bag. His dad, Dave, has been his caddie all week.
“It’ll be a long day out there in the final,” Sommerhauser said. “I’ll just try to do the same. Limit my mistakes. It’s hard to make birdies out here.”
Whoever wins will join an illustrious list of past winners including Lawson Little Jr. (1928, 1931), Kevin Sutherland (1986) and Maverick McNealy (2015).
Michael Slesinski of St. Mary’s golf is 4-up with 5 to play in his semifinals match vs Max Holm pic.twitter.com/YmZhVukUMg
— NCGA (@ncga1901) August 12, 2021
Sam Sommerhauser has a 2-up lead with 2 to play over Jack Avrit in the other NCGA Amateur semifinal pic.twitter.com/PGE3V2lZ7K
— NCGA (@ncga1901) August 12, 2021
August 11, 2021
And then there were eight.
On a day where 32 hopeful players began match play, the brackets got whittled down as both the Round of 32 and Round of 16 of this week’s NCGA Amateur Championship were held on a foggy Wednesday at Spyglass Hill.
By the time things ended, the highest seed left in the brackets was No.6 Sam Sommerhauser. Sommerhauser, who plays at the University of Arizona and is a former Junior Tour of Northern California standout, began the day with a 2-up win over Nate Jetter. He’d later earn a spot in the quarterfinals with a 2 and 1 win over No.11 Ethan Davidson. In both matches, Sommerhauser never trailed.
No.17 seed Michael Jura, who won the 2018 NCGA Four-Ball Championship at Spyglass Hill with partner Jeffrey Yamaguchi, moved on to the quarterfinals with a commanding 5 and 4 win over No.32 seed Ryan Thornberry. Earlier in the morning, Thornberry, a reinstated amateur and winner of the event in 2006, knocked out No.1 seed and medalist Ian Dahl with a win on the 20th hole. Jura will next take on No.9 seed Michael Slesinski. Slesinski, a grad student who plays at St.Mary’s, got by No.25 Casey Leebrick with a tight 1-up win. Slesinski took a 1-up lead on the par-5 11th thanks to an eagle. From there, he and Leebrick exchanged pars over the next seven holes.
In another quarterfinals match, it’ll be No.18 Jack Avrit, who plays at Santa Clara, versus No.23 AJ Fitzgerald. Avrit, the winner of the Pro-Junior at the 2015 First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, eliminated No.2 seed Jacob Westberg, 2 and 1. Trailing by a hole, Avrit went birdie-par-birdie over holes Nos. 15-17 to secure the victory. Fitzgerald, meanwhile, is the highest seed remaining at No.23. His day included an upset Round of 32 win over No.10 Benjamin Harrison.
Sommerhauser will face No. 19 Kevin Huff. Huff, coming off a recent runner-up finish at the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Poppy Hills, had one of the big upsets of the day, knocking out No.3 seed Owen Avrit on the 19th hole in the Round of 16. Huff would show grit, coming back after he was down four holes through the first four holes.
The other quarterfinals match will see No.20 Finigan Tilly taking on No.12 Maxwell Holm. Tilly, who played at Cal, knocked out No.4 seed Wanxi Sun, 1-up, in the Round of 16 thanks in part to a birdie on the par-4 17th. Holm, who hails from Walnut Creek but plays at Princeton, moved on with a 21st hole win over Brett Viboch in the Round of 16. Viboch entered the championship holding the No.1 spot in the points race for NCGA Player of the Year honors.
Thursday’s action will consist of both the quarterfinals and afternoon semifinals. The 36-hole final will be held Friday.
August 10, 2021
Call him the Inside Man.
Ian Dahl, who works at the NCGA, will be the No.1 seed when match play begins Wednesday at this week’s annual NCGA Amateur Championship at Spyglass Hill. Dahl, who formerly played at Cal, posted a 2-under 70 Tuesday to earn medalist honors with a two-day score of 1-over 145. The 70 was the lowest round during the two days of stroke play qualifying.
“The course is playing tough,” said Dahl, who became an NCGA champion in 2019 when he won the Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Poppy Hills. “I think it’s playing a little firmer and the rough is long. You’ve got to keep it in play.”
A resident of nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea, Dahl had nine pars on the front nine before posting a 34 on the back thanks to three birdies. His lone hiccup was a bogey on the par-3 12th after his tee shot found the greenside-protecting pond.
“I just hit a lot of greens,” said Dahl of his round. “I had a lot of birdie looks inside 20 feet. I was just trying to avoid bogeys.”
The No.2 seed for match play will be Jacob Westberg. A junior at UC Davis, Westberg tied Dahl with a total of 1-over par after holing out for eagle on the par-4 6th. Two holes later on the uphill par-4 8th, however, he made bogey to fall back to 2-over. A second round put him at 146.
Three players—Owen Avrit, Wanxi Sun and Matt Cohn—finished stroke play qualifying tied for third at 147. Cohn, who made a move with a 71, has made noise at the Amateur before. In 2015, he reached the finals before falling to then No.1 world ranked amateur Maverick McNealy. McNealy now competes on the PGA Tour.
Wes Payne, like Dahl a Cal product and the runner-up at last year’s Amateur, moved on to match play after coming in T-7 at 150 following a 73.
Other notables moving on to match play were recent NCGA Amateur Stroke Play winner Daniel Connolly (T-18), 10-time NCGA champion Nick Moore (T-18) and Junior Tour of Northern California standout Zachery Pollo (T-7).
The brackets for match play will not be completed until Wednesday morning. A total of 10 players came in tied at T-24 at the cutline, resulting in a playoff for the final nine spots.
Both the Round of 32 and Round of 16 will be contested on Wednesday. Thursday’s action will see the quarterfinals and semifinals, with the 36-hole final set for Friday.
August 9, 2021
Getting to match play. That was the primary goal as stroke play qualifying for this week’s annual NCGA Amateur Championship got underway on Monday at par-72 Spyglass Hill.
Leading the way early on is Fresno State senior Kevin Huff. Huff, the runner-up at the recent NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship, was the only player to break par on a tough day for the field, posting a 71. Last year, Huff reached the semifinals of the championship.
Just a shot back is Owen Avrit, a junior at the University of Oregon, and Curtis DaSilva, a regular on the Junior Tour of Northern California who is a high school junior.
A group of six players, including University of Arizona’s Sam Sommerhauser, AJ Fitzgerald and another JTNC standout, Zachery Pollo, are at 73.
Defending champion Lucas Carper opened with an 81 and will need to go low tomorrow to make the cut for match play. Wes Payne, the runner-up at last year’s Amateur and this year’s California Amateur, opened with a 77. Brett Viboch, who entered the event leading in the race for NCGA Player of the Year honors, shot 76.
The Round of 32 of match play will be held Wednesday morning, followed by the Round of 16. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be held Thursday, with the 36-hole final set for Friday.
The oldest of the NCGA’s major events, the Amateur 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, Maverick McNealy, 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 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.