107th Annual NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship
August 13, 2010
PEBBLE BEACH – John Catlin’s trips to Pebble Beach in August each of the last two years produced wildly different results.
The 19-year-old Carmichael resident last played at Spyglass a year ago in the NCGA Junior, making the cut but then finishing in last place with a final-round 83. A year later, he found himself atop the region with a 3 and 2 victory in Northern California’s most prestigious amateur event, the NCGA Amateur Match Play. In doing so, he defeated one of the top mid-amateurs in the state in St. Mary’s Golf Coach Scott Hardy.
The scheduled 36-hole final got off to a roller-coaster start as there were no halved holes within the opening six. Hardy finally established and held a 1-up lead with a kick-in birdie on the par-5 seventh, a lead he would hold for the next 18 holes.
“I just tried to keep hitting good shots,” the champion said. “He’s (Hardy) got such an incredible short game…I knew I’d start to make some putts.”
If the best coaches and teachers lead by example, then, as demonstrated today, the 34-year-old Hardy ranks with the best of coaches. His almost Houdini-esque ability to escape trouble produced par-saving bunker shots, chips and an array of holed five-footers that maintained a lead that bounced between 1 and 2-up throughout most of the day, though the morning 18 ended all square.
But Catlin possesses a solid, whiplash action that produces a ball flight and straight path that Tiger Woods would kill for right now. And the constant avoidance of the big mistake allowed the 2009 Jesuit High graduate to keep the match close. “I’ve always been a straight driver. I felt solid all week on these fairways,” he said.
That consistency, and the grind of a 36-hole match started to take their toll toward the middle of the final 18 holes. Catlin bombed a 25-footer for birdie on the 27th hole, Spyglass’ 9th, and followed that with another long putt on the 28th hole that sparked some momentum and a 2-up lead. “After I made that putt on 10 I thought I had it,” the New Mexico Lobo said. “But I had to stay present and not think about the trophy. Scott’s too good to let up. He put a lot of pressure on me.”
The 28th hole perhaps best exemplified the spirit of the match. After Catlin nuked a drive practically to the 100-yard marker (like most young players, Catlin possessed an almost preternatural confidence in the driver), Hardy drove it wide left nearly into Spyglass’s parallel 9th fairway. After punching out into the 9th fairway, he then hit his third shot over the trees to within five feet of the cup – an absurdly difficult recovery shot. Catlin then answered with a 25-foot birdie putt, producing what CBS basketball announcer Bill Raftery might have labeled a “dagger” moment.
Catlin played 139 holes over the course of two rounds of stroke-play qualifying and five rounds of match play (with the final accounting for 34 holes). Perhaps the demands the championship places on endurance explains why the North Ridge member’s win extends a nine-year stretch of victories by college golfers (the last mid-amateur to win was PGA Tour champion Matt Bettencourt back in 2001). The win also stopped Hardy’s quest to add a sixth NCGA trophy to his case. The Amateur is the only title to elude him of the events he is eligible.
So how did Catlin dramatically improve from the bottom of the junior leaderboard to the top of the Northern California amateur game in one year at the same venue?
“Playing college golf,” he said. “It made me a better player. After playing against Oklahoma State, TCU and USC this course doesn’t seem nearly as hard.”
Catlin heads back to Albuquerque to begin his sophomore season with a major NCGA feather in his cap.
August 12, 2010
PEBBLE BEACH – Scott Hardy will face John Catlin in the finals of the 107th NCGA Amateur Friday, in the scheduled 36-hole finale to a week of stout competition.
Hardy, 34, has been here before, losing to PGA Tour winner Matt Bettencourt in 2001, and likes how he’s playing after a rough start to the week that saw him earn the 29th seed. “You start playing every day in these kind of events and you get in a groove,” he said. “I started hitting the ball well today.” The two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur semi-finalist defeated U.C. Davis-bound and eighth-seeded Matt Hansen 3 and 2 in an up-and-down match Hardy took control of via a birdie on 13, pars on nos. 14 and 15 and a birdie from out of the bunker on the 16th that closed out his 18-year-old opponent.
“I never feel comfortable even with a 2-up lead,” Hardy said regarding his birdie from out of the sand. “So that was great.. a little fortunate and a little bit of skill.” With wife Lori on the bag, the St. Mary’s golf coach is seeking his sixth NCGA title Friday and perhaps more importantly, looking at the rare distinction of adding the fifth different trophy to his collection having already won the Public Links (which he captured this past April), Stroke Play, Valley Amateur and Four-Ball (with partner Rich Reinsberg) since 2000.
Hardy faces a player he recruited in the form of 19-year-old John Catlin of Sacramento. The rising sophomore at New Mexico was Mountain West Conference freshman of the year and is playing in the NCGA Amateur for the first time. He defeated the Big West Conference freshman of the year Pace Johnson of Cal Poly 3 and 1 after building a 4-up lead via four birdies and then watching that lead get sliced in half.
“I lost some momentum,” 19th-seeded Catlin said. “But hitting a good drive on 17 got me recommitted. I hit my approach to three feet and that was the end of it.” Earlier in the summer, the North Ridge member was runner-up in the Sacramento County Championship. A victory in the NCGA Amateur would rank as his biggest achievement to date.
Two big upsets characterized the quarterfinals. Catlin took out perhaps the hottest golfer in the state, Scott Travers of Trabuco Canyon, in large fashion 5 and 3. The upset denied Travers’ quest to claim the NCGA, SCGA and State Amateur titles in the same season. The Santa Clara golfer and West Coast Conference player of the year had laid claim to the other championships earlier in the summer. Johnson defeated Kevin Wentworth in dramatic fashion with a birdie on the final hole to secure the final margin.
Hanson was responsible for the other upset, taking out #1 seeded and medalist Randy Haag 2 an 1, overcoming a two-hole deficit with 11 holes to go. Haag remains in firm control of the lead in the race for NCGA player of the year; it would be an unprecedented fifth such award for the 51-year0old Olympic Club member. Hardy breezed into the semifinals with a 5 and 4 dusting of Mathew Miller of Castlewood, whose seven bogeys on the day left him unable to generate any heat on Hardy.
First Round/Round of 16
August 11, 2010
PEBBLE BEACH – The field of the 107th playing of the NCGA Amateur has been reduced by half after Wednesday’s first and second round action, from 32 players to 16 set to compete in tomorrow morning’s quarterfinals.
Medalist and #1 seed Randy Haag had to work in his opening round match against four-ball partner Darryl Donovan (Haag and Donovan won the NCGA Four-Ball for the second time earlier this year), coming back from an early 2-down deficit to prevail 1-up. Haag then took out Domingo Jojola of Lake Merced 1-up in the afternoon, going dormie on the 15th hole and holding on to the finish. The NCGA Player of the Year, at age 51, now faces one of the youngest players in the field in Matthew Hansen, an incoming freshman at UC Davis, in the quarterfinals. Hansen defeated Brent Booth in the second round 4 and 3. Haag is the only one of the top six seeds to survive to the second day, an almost annual tradition in the NCGA Amateur.
St. Mary’s Golf Coach Scott Hardy upended 2007 NCGA Amateur champion Ryan Hallisey in the second round 3 and 2 and will face Mathew Miller of Castlewood in the quarterfinals. Hardy, the 2010 NCGA Public Links champion, earlier scored the biggest upset of the morning when he defeated #4-seed Matt Montez. The 34-year-old is seeking his sixth NCGA major title in what may be his last year competing as an amateur. The #12-seeded Miller, a rising junior at USF was the champion of the first two NCGA Junior Tour events in the Tour’s inaugural 2008 season and defeated Chris Ellis of San Jose Muni 4 and 2 in the second round.
Kevin Wentworth, one of three mid-amateurs left in the field at age 26, booked his ticket to the quarters via a 2-up victory over #2-seeded Danny Paniccia of Riverbend. Wentworth, who earlier in the year won the amateurgolf.com com Bay Regional at Tilden Park, will face Pace Johnson Thursday morning. Johnson was freshman of the year in the Big West in 2010 at Cal Poly and defeated the University of California’s Devin Hexner Wednesday afternoon 4 and 3.
A rising sophomore at New Mexico, John Catlin, grabbed a spot in the quarters by squeaking by and upsetting #3-seeded Robert Galletti of Oakhurst. Catlin, a Del Paso member and Sacramento native, takes on Scott Travers, the WCC Player of the Year out of Santa Clara. Travers, who earlier in the summer won the California State Amateur and broke Tiger Woods’ scoring record in winning the SCGA Amateur, routed Scott Olds of Delta View 4 and 3. The association member of the NCGA might be the hottest golfer in the field, having dusted Ryan Carter of Swenson Park 7 and 6 in the morning round.
The quarter and semifinals will be contested Thursday with the scheduled 36-hole final set for Friday at Spyglass Hill.
Photo Gallery – Wednesday
August 10, 2010
PEBBLE BEACH – NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag added to his already extensive legacy in capturing medalist honors of the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill.
The Olympic Club member, 51, is fresh off earning low amateur honors at the British Senior Open in July at Carnousite. His amateur career includes multiple NCGA titles, including the Four-Ball earlier this year with Darryl Donovan as well as two NCGA Amateurs won consecutively in the early 90s. Haag carded an opening-round 70 that left him in good position to qualify but four stokes back of leader Bobby Bucey, a rising senior at Cal State- Chico. “I knew teeing off today that things were going to be difficult,” the Burlingame resident said. “It’s rare to shoot two low rounds consecutively at this course.”
The difficulty had little effect on Haag as he bettered his opening round by a shot to earn the #1 seed in match play by that same margin, carding a two-round total of 5-under-par 139. “To be able to play a venue like this…I love this place,” Haag said. “I’ve been doing this for so long, I figure I’ve played 500 rounds here.” That experience proved the difference Tuesday, as Haag continues a dominant two-year stretch that has him in the driver’s seat to earn an unprecedented fifth NCGA player of the year award. He advanced to the semifinals in the 2009 NCGA Amateur before losing to eventual champion George Gandranata. Haag will play #32 seed and four-ball partner Donovan who survived a six-player-for-two-spot-playoff amongst players carding 6-over-par 150. Nick Schafer earned the other spot and the #31 seed in the playoff.
Danny Paniccia of Riverbend, who played on the Canadian Professional Tour from 2002-2006, and Roberto Galleti of Oakhurst tied for second and secured the second and third seeds.
Bucey and last year’s medalist, Matt Montez of Valley Hi, tied for fourth place, four back of Haag earning the #5 and #4 seeds respectively. Montez faces off against #29 seed Scott Hardy who earlier this season won the NCGA Amateur Public Links at Spyglass. Stephan Stallworth, who recently completed his eligibility at San Jose State, grabbed the #6 seed.
Scott Travers of Trabuco Canyon, the #11 seed, continues his quest to become just the third player ever to win the NCGA, SCGA and State Amateur titles in taking on #22 seed Ryan Carter of Swenson Park. If successful, Travers would be only the second to accomplish the feat in the same year, the first occurring in 1925 (George Von Elm).
Two rounds of match play are set for Wednesday, the quarter and semifinals will be contested Thursday and the scheduled 36-hole final is set for Friday at Spyglass Hill.