51st Annual NCGA Senior Championship
Spyglass Hill GC
April 12-13, 2012
April 13, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – After his first round 72, Michael Brannan talked about how he got away with his mistakes. Well today was as close of a mistake-free day as he could have. Brannan shot an impressive two-under 70 at Spyglass Hill with four birdies and two bogeys.
“If you get ahead of yourself, Spylass will chew you up,” he said. “You know you’re going to make bogeys here you just try to limit them.”
He did exactly that as his back-nine was bogey free and he made birdies down the stretch on the 15th and 18th holes.
“I don’t know if I hit the ball any better today than yesterday,” he said, “but I managed my game well and hit some good shots when I needed to.”
Brannan’s 36-hole total of 142 gave him a two-shot victory over first-round co-leader Herb Jensen, who followed yesterday’s 71 with a 73 for a 144 total. Coming in third was Casey Boyns who posted one of three under-par scores with a 71. His 74-71-145 was good enough to add another NCGA medal to his collection. The other under-par score was a surging Gary Vanier, who played in the fifth to last group. His two-under par 70 put his two-day total at 146 and gave him a solo fourth place finish. Defending champion and first round co-leader Jim Knoll followed his 71 with a 77 to finish in a tie for sixth.
An accomplished golfer, Brannan added a fourth NCGA major to his resume. What makes his case unique though is the last one he won was more than 35 years ago. It was in 1976 when Brannan beat Scott Hoyt 3&1 for the NCGA Amateur Match Play title.
“It’s been a long time,” said Brannan. “Almost 40 years later, it’s very nice to win again.”
Boyns isn’t surprised to see Brannan back in the winner’s circle. He’s been competing with him since the two were in high school at different Monterey county schools. After high school Brannan went on to play golf at BYU and Boyns went on to play his college golf at its rival Utah.
“This is how it’s always been,” said Boyns, who went on to reference one of his first collegiate tournaments where he finished second to Brannan.
Brannan indeed is a well-deserving champion. Besides his 1976 NCGA Amateur win, he won the 1973 NCGA Junior and the 1973 NCGA Four-Ball with Jim Lathum. Furthermore, Brannan won the 1971 U.S. Junior Championship and two California State Amateur titles in 1973 and 1976. A dominant player in the 1970s he won three of the first five NCGA Player of the Year awards (1973, 1974 and 1976) when the program was adopted in 1971.
With the win and a move up near the top of the Senior Player of the Year list, Brannan still says he will pick his spots where he plays, but he’s glad to be out on golf course competing and spending time with fellow senior players.
“I came out here thinking that at least I can be out here in the competition, that’s what it’s all about it, [competing],” he said. “Winning is great, but just being out here and playing [with others] is all I wanted to do.”
TOURNAMENT NOTES: Last year competing in his first NCGA Senior Brannan finished in a tie for second place shooting a 151. This year he beat that score by nine strokes and shattered the previous 36-hole record at Spyglass in the four years it’s been here. Since the move to the Pebble Beach address in 2009 no score had been lower than 146. This year alone four players matched or bettered that. In fact, prior to this year only three scores had been shot in the 140s—all champions—while this year 12 players shot 149 or better.
A reason for that according to Brannan was due to softer conditions because of the rain. Yes, it was a rain-filled Thursday night and Friday morning until there was a break in the action around 9:30. Rain then was scattered through the rest of the morning until noon when finally the sun came out, but the wind picked up.
April 12, 2012
by Spencer Sorensen
PEBBLE BEACH – After the first round of the Senior Championship Dave Baskins, Herb Jensen, Jim Knoll and Rich Morrison lead the field posting one-under 71s. Jensen, Knoll and Morrison were able to take advantage of their opportunities as each of them made five birdies on their rounds, while Baskins made four. Morrison, who was the first to post a 71, took advantage of calm conditions along the opening five seaside holes by making birdies on No. 2 and No. 4.
“There was no wind the first six holes, so that was huge. I had birdie putts on the first five holes,” said Morrison. “If you can play the first five holes at Spy with no wind, it makes a huge difference.”
Knoll had similar thoughts on the weather conditions early in the round, which allowed him to shoot a 33 on the front. “Our first eight to 10 holes it was perfect, there was hardly any wind at all,” said Knoll. However, as the day went on the wind picked up and players like Knoll were happy to just make it through the round. “Conditions were more difficult as the day went on because the wind got stronger and stronger,” he said.
Baskins round was benefited by taking advantage of the four par fives as he birdied each of them. In fact after his birdie at the 14th hole he found himself at three-under par. Unfortunately he got himself in trouble on the long par-4 16th and walked away with a double-bogey.
Jensen’s five birdies came on Nos. 4, 11, 12, 14 and 18. Last year Jensen struggled at this event finishing in a tie for 30th, however it was not too long ago that Jensen found himself in contention for a Senior title. In 2009, Jensen finished alone in third after posting the low-round of the final day. If he can match his final round play like he did that year, he could very well find himself in a favorable spot on the leaderboard.
Morrison doesn’t know what to expect tomorrow as he will be competing in the final group, he knows he has a tough assignment ahead with regular contenders lurking around the corner.
“[My chances] all depend on guys like Burda and Knoll and whoever else is up there on the leaderboard,” he said. “I’m just going to try and play the best as I can.”
Knoll will defend his title and try to become the first back-to-back winner in nearly two decades and is happy to go into tomorrow tied for the lead.
“I feel good about the position I’m in,” he said.
His win last year saw him come from four shots off the first round lead putting him in the third to last group, this year he will be in the last group.
“It will be a different feeling, but I’m sure I will know who I’m playing with,” he said, referring to the relationship he has with other top senior players.
Others right there in the hunt include Michael Brannan and Ken Noonan who shot level-par 72s. Brannan, who finished in a tie for second last year, knows he has given himself a good shot to become the new NCGA Senior champion and feels fortunate to be in contention.
“I got away with my mistakes today and that doesn’t happen a lot out here,” he said. “Tomorrow I’m going to be needing to hit the ball a little bit better and make sure I make short putts.”
Noonan described his round as “steady” as he had three pars and three bogeys and 12 pars on the day.
“I think I need to do just more of the same as I did today,” explained Noonan. “I think if you hit the ball solid you put yourself in good shape to win.”
Still not out of it is two-time winner Jeff Burda, who posted a one-over 73.
“I played pretty steady golf, nothing spectacular,” he said with an exception to the 13th hole, which he scored a double-bogey on. Tied with Burda at 73 is Doug Johnson who tied for 11th at last year’s championship.
Also in the hunt are Casey Boyns, Stephen Hakes and Mark Miller at two-over par. Hakes round included four birdies and six bogeys, with all his birdies coming on the par 5s. Miller matched co-leaders Jensen, Knoll and Morrison with five birdies on the day, but the three-time Senior Player of the Year was hindered by a triple-bogey on the second hole. Boyns explained his game as “in a little bit of a funk right now” and was disappointed to see the way his round ended as he three-putted the 18th hole from seven feet away. He played the last five holes three-over par, but he knows he still has a chance tomorrow.
“It’s hard to say what score will win it, but I think something around even-par will [win it],” he said.
Boyns might be right. Other players like Knoll, Burda and Brannan shared similar thoughts that the winning score would be around 144. However, the winning score at Spyglass the last three years has never been that low as the champion has shot 149, 146 and 146. Tomorrow we’ll find out just what the winning score will be.