Poppy Hills Golf Course
Pebble Beach CA
July 16 – 18, 2021
July 18, 2021
Daniel Connolly returned to the last place where he tasted victory and got to experience it all over again.
Connolly, a 24-year-old resident of San Francisco, shot a final-round 4-under 67 Sunday at Poppy Hills to come in at 9-under 204 and win the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship by four shots over runner-up Kevin Huff. For Connolly, the win is his first since the Southern Methodist University standout has won the 2017 Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
“It feels really good to get another win. It’s been a while,” said Connolly, who won his hometown event, the San Francisco City, in 2016. “I felt the competitive juices going again over the last few holes.”
Having entered the final round tied with mid-amateur Marc Engellenner, Connolly for the third straight day was solid. He’d post a back-nine 32 to break away from both Huff and Engellenner. Huff finished at 208 after a final round 69, while Engellenner had a 72 to come in at 209.
On the par-5 holes Nos. 4, 9 and 18, Connolly would go 9-under over his three rounds. The par-5 10th was the holdout. There, he’d go two-over thanks to a first-round double-bogey. He also bogeyed No.11 in the first round, making him 3-over through two to start the 54-hole event.
“Other than that two-hole start, I played really solid each day,” said Connolly, who at least for now plans to keep his amateur status. “On my approach shots, I was really dialed in. Overall, I just played some really good golf through and through.”
As was the case in 2017, Connolly also had some good company with him. His father, Martin, who owns and runs Johnny Foley’s Irish House pub in The City, was again on the bag as caddie.
“It’s so awesome having him with me,” the younger Connolly said. “It’s just special. We have so many great memories over the years. Having him on the bag just makes it that much more extra special.”
July 17, 2021
Former champion Daniel Connolly and Marc Engellenner are in prime position, but there’s still another day left at Poppy Hills.
On Saturday, Connolly, who won in 2017, and Engellenner, the winner of this year’s Sacramento City, got to a total of 5-under 137 at this weekend’s NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship after posting rounds of 69 and 68, respectively. Connolly, a former San Francisco City champion, could’ve gone lower. He’d open with a front-nine 33 thanks to a flurry of birdies on holes Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 9 but slowed down a bit with a back-nine 36. Engellenner also posted a 33 on the front-nin before settling for a 35 on the back.
Sitting two shots off the lead at 3-under is the tandem of Zachary Solomon and Kevin Huff. Both Solomon, who won the 2016 NCGA Mid-Amateur at Poppy Hills, and Huff carded second round scores of 70.
In fifth place at 140 is Michael Slesinksi of St. Mary’s following a second round 72. AJ Fitzgerald, the only other player under par, is alone in sixth place at 141 after a 71.
The cutline came at 7-over 149.
July 16, 2021
It’s a packed leaderboard after opening day of this weekend’s NCGA Stroke Play Championship at Poppy Hills. Four players—Michael Slesinski, Brett Viboch, Nikolai Friedman and Daniel Connolly—are tied at the top after matching rounds of 3-under 68.
Slesinksi, a grad student at St. Mary’s, made his big move in part due to an eagle on the par-5 18th. Viboch, a former winner of the NCGA Four-Ball Championship, posted five birdies to go against two bogeys. Connolly, who won the event in 2017, had a wild day, carding five birdies and an eagle on 18 to go against a pair of bogeys and a double-bogey. Friedman, who played last season at Sonoma State, penciled in five birdies and two bogeys.
Another trio—2016 NCGA Mid-Amateur champion Zachary Solomon, Marc Engellenner and Kevin Huff–are only a stroke behind after opening rounds of 69.
Bobby Bucey, who won the event in 2014, is just two behind at 70. Defending champion Nick Moore, and 2019 winner Ian Dahl, are still in the hunt after opening rounds of 73.
Following Saturday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 30 players and advancing to the final round.
First played in 1944, the NCGA Stroke Play Championship has a special history, as the tournament has been won by the likes of Ken Venturi and Johnny Miller. But the event was canceled in 1966 when the NCGA decided to add the now-popular Four-Ball Championship.
The original championship was played over 72 holes, while the renewed format which began in 2004, is a 54-hole event staged at Poppy Hills every year. During the Poppy Hills renovation in 2013, the championship was held at Bayonet/Black Horse GC in neighboring Seaside.
Kevin Lucas, Nick Moore and Ben Geyer share the 54-hole tournament record with total scores of 205. Lucas posted his 54-hole winning score in 2010 at Poppy Hills GC, while Geyer fired his 205 total in 2013 at Bayonet GC. The two were 11-under par. Moore shot 8-under 205 at Poppy Hills in 2020. Talbert Smith has won the championship more than any other player, four times, in 1946, ’48, ’56 and ’57. Other multiple winners include Ken Venturi (’51 and ’52), Verne Callison (’58 and ’59), Scott Hardy (’04, ’11), Ben Geyer (’12 and ’13) and Robby Salomon (’15 and ’16).
Kevin Lucas and Jonathan De Los Reyes share the record for low round since the tournament was re-established in 2004 with 65’s. De Los Reyes’ 65, shot in 2015, set a course record at the time at Poppy Hills.
The sterling silver perpetual trophy was donated by the San Francisco Examiner in 1944.